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2019 Change Maker: NaKaisha Tolbert-Banks

2019 Change Maker: NaKaisha Tolbert-Banks

Taking the step to start therapy isn’t an easy decision. There are barriers such as cost, access, and unfamiliarity with the process. This can be particularly daunting if you are a person of color, a group that has been chronically underserved by the therapy community.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, while Black Americans are 20% more likely than the general population to develop mental health problems (and Black women are more likely to experience and mention physical symptoms related to mental health problems), only a quarter of Black Americans seek care, compared to 40% of white people.

Diversity matters  when it comes the therapy community, just ask Nakaisha Tolbert-Banks.

NaKaisha is a Certified Licensed Social Worker and a Certified Life Coach, owning her own practice, D.U.O. Empowerment Services. She is a natural at lifting spirits and believes wholesome communities start with an individual’s health.

With a lifelong passion for working with and socializing with people, NaKaisha stayed involved in her community growing up. At age 15, she volunteered at a local nursing home. This served as pivotal point in her life, and was just the beginning of a lifestyle and career that she values endlessly. NaKaisha started D.U.O. Empowerment Services in 2008, where she focuses on life coaching and wellness.

Through her business, she serves ages 13+ and specializes in mood disorders. NaKaisha works with individuals who may have depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, while also having experience working with pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and postpartum fathers. Individuals, families, and couples are all welcome to the safe space she has created.

In the black community specifically, NaKaisha explains that because there is such a large stigma attached to counseling, people don’t seek it out. This is a narrative she is working toward changing. It is important for her to leave a legacy for her clients–that they know they are able to get the help that they need. Breaking down the stigmas of seeking help and becoming better is much of what her role is about.“When clients are better, their families are better and when the families are better, the community is better. Communities are made up individuals,” NaKaisha clarifies.

She is also adamant about helping her own children understand the importance of being mentally healthy.  She sees in minorities specifically, that mental health often circles back to that stigma. She proudly serves as a trusted individual in both her family and community.

This realm of wellness is receiving more recognition in her eyes, but she assures that we can always do better. NaKaisha adds, “The messages are getting out there. People are understanding that we can’t live under the stigma that counseling or seeking a therapist is bad. The message is out there–the education and training piece is vital.”

NaKaisha is determined in continuing the message with education. She explains that mental illness and mental health are not the same, and these terms commonly get mixed up. For NaKaisha, the education piece is truly key in getting people to understand the realm. She sits on the board for several organizations and is often looking to partner with other agencies and projects to continue to spread the message. “I’m being the voice for the voiceless,” she explains.

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For someone to stay as grounded as NaKaisha does, self care is a common practice for her. “I’m big on self care as a mental health initiative. It keeps me motivated to do the work that I do,” she admits. One of the offerings of her business is a laughter coach–centering on how laughter is truly healing to the soul. She will hold laughter workshops and attend laughter yoga to keep her spirits high. This is a highly recommended practice of hers, as she notes that people do not realize how closely smiling is related to mental health.

NaKaisha’s space is a safe space. When new clients enter the door, she keeps it light. An office filled with colors that have to do with vibrancy and life, it’s simply a place that invites people to be themselves. It sets a different mindset for people once they have experienced it.

It is honorable for her to have this role as a black wellness leader in her community. She loves that she never has the same day twice, and gives people 150 percent of what she has to offer when they come in. Along with her faith and religion, this is her purpose. It’s how she operates every day. “This is not work, it’s a calling. I’m very connected to it,” NaKaisha states with joy. “If we don’t have a voice out there, a lot of people suffer,” she continues. NaKaisha is serving as that voice.

To learn more about D.U.O. Empowerment Services, please visit here.

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