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Stories from Backstage

On the Blog Provider spotlight Q&A with Q&A with Eboni Hamilton, M.S., LPC, NCC

Provider Spotlight: Eboni Hamilton


Q. Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a counselor?

A. My path to counseling is somewhat practical. I’ve always been empathetic, sensitive, and an attentive listener (and talker). Growing up, my friends always came to me for advice and I often found myself being the voice of reason in teenage drama. My early work experience was as a hostess and waitress while I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. After graduation I continued to work in the restaurant and special event industry, which afforded me many opportunities to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Although I enjoyed the experiences, I reached a point where I desired to have a more secure and professional career. I had been encouraged to pursue my Masters in Counseling years prior by an undergraduate professor but was tired of being a student by the time I was done. I believe I told her I was “ready to be a civilian”. Anyway, when considering more professional careers, counseling was a natural fit; like something I was always meant to do. I applied to SMU and being accepted to that awesome program was one of the happiest days of my life.


Q. Were there any specific cultural influences or role models that guided you in your career path?

A. My initial answer was no, but after some thought I had a memory surface. I enjoy good television, I always have. In 2008 HBO released a show called ‘In Treatment’ and I was fascinated with it. I think they even aired the episodes at the time and day a particular character client had a session with the therapist. The actors were great and I just thought the work was so deep and interesting. I also thought it was so cool the therapist worked out of his home. I’d consider that a cultural influence, sorry it’s not something deeper!


Q. How do you incorporate cultural competence into your counseling practice, especially when working with diverse clients?

A. I prefer to strive for cultural proficiency versus competence. That’s not to say that I know everything about everyone but I approach my cultural learning with an open intellectual curiosity and am not satisfied with simply being aware; I want to know! I never position myself to be the expert in the room, my clients are the experts of their experience. When I am with them I remain aware that a cultural norm does not always translate to it being a norm in their experience. So, I usually offer what (I think) I know or do not know in question form and allow my client to confirm or deny that knowledge as it relates to their life. I find that it is well-received and appreciated because it is a genuine approach that recognizes their culture yet upholds their individuality.


Q. Have you faced any unique challenges as a Black counselor, and how have you navigated them?

A. Yes, I have. Early in my career, I found it difficult to be a good “counselor” for other black women. I often felt too close to their experiences to remain in my place as an outside support. I purposely avoided advertising on platforms tailored for black women seeking counselors and felt guilty about it. Guilty because I knew they were looking for someone like me to support them and guilty because I felt I could not support them in the best way. Thanks to my LPC supervisor, I was able to identify the root of this feeling and work through that perspective. Now I’m confident I can support any client and get excited to help other black women improve their lives with mental health.

Another experience (not a challenge per se’) that comes to mind is clients seeking me out and sometimes offering me compliments because of my race. This may sound like “I’m so glad I have a black counselor” or potential clients stating that they only chose to consult with me because “I’ve been looking for a black counselor”. I understand the importance of representation and the intuitive connection that clients are in search of, but I did not choose my race. I know the intention is good and pure but it sometimes feels dismissive of all that I have chosen to do, to learn, and to apply that make me a good counselor. It always feels better to hear how much my words, my presence, or my support is valued. I doubt that white counselors have those types of experiences.


Q. How do you encourage resilience and self-care, both for yourself and for your clients?

A. I stress the fact that our relationship with ourselves is the only one that is guaranteed to us. I encourage them to support themselves and put the same (if not more) effort into that relationship as they would another relationship with a person who they love. For my clients who feel disconnected from themselves, I encourage them to date and be curious about themselves as if they were getting to know someone they were interested in. Learn their likes and dislikes, apply their love languages to themselves, etc. and I take my own advice in that area.


Q. How do you address intersectionality in your counseling practice, considering factors such as race, gender, and socio-economic background?

A. I address it with the same curiosity that I do when addressing cultural factors. Sometimes clients are not aware or do not even consider how some of those intersectionalities affect their experience and so I offer that observation and process it with them. I find CBT to be helpful in these situations because our beliefs around our identity influence our experience.


Q. Can you share insights into how these intersecting identities may impact mental health experiences?

A. It can impact mental health experiences in many ways. Depending on a client’s gender or sexual identity, race, background, geographical location, etc.,  they may or may not have access to the support they need. Or they may not feel safe to be vulnerable and explore their mental health issues in places they do have access to. A lack of representation, love and acceptance, and support can really impact people’s mental health, especially in their developing years.


Q. Are there specific cultural or community healing practices that you incorporate into your counseling approach?

A. Not really, I usually lead with the client’s own interests or practices and discuss how they can incorporate that practice to give themselves more support. For instance, if a client has crystals in their home, I may encourage them to charge them under the moonlight, set an intention for them, and keep them close to their person.


Q. What advice do you have for aspiring Black counselors who are navigating their way through the field?

A. Don’t feel the need to constantly educate colleagues of another race about racial issues. Although we want to do our part to ensure that clients (and us) don’t fall into harmful spaces, it is not our responsibility to take on the burden. Check in with yourself before offering that energy to ensure you have the bandwidth.

Also, do work with different types of clients to strengthen your skills and abilities. Even if you desire for the majority of your clients to be black, you never want to limit yourself or your options by boxing yourself in.


Q. How do you think representation matters in the field of counseling, especially for individuals from underrepresented communities?

A. External representation sends an internal message that “I can do it too”. This applies to seeing representation in counselors or clients. I think either representation could inspire someone to become a counselor or seek counseling for themselves. Representation matters at every level across industries and fields.


Q. Have you seen a positive impact on your clients due to the shared cultural background?

A. Oh yea, they love it! It removes many invisible layers and allows them to come to session more relaxed and feeling more understood and seen.


Q. Why are you a SIMS provider and why is serving the music industry so important?

A. As an LPC Associate I was introduced to SIMS by my supervisor, Patty Evers, and I was excited from the very beginning. Artists, musicians, creators, and all the roles that support them literally contribute to the soundtracks and visuals of our lives! We have lost many great artists for decades (known and unknown) because they had mental health struggles without adequate support. I am passionate about these people because life would be so dry without music and art and we need to take care of them the way they take care of us. Additionally, the majority of artists aren’t famous celebrities with access to the best doctors, therapists, etc. SIMS offers local artists support and honors their contributions to the arts wherever they are in their career. I have gotten giant hugs and thank you’s from clients who see me around Austin and reports of how much their lives have improved from working with me. If it were not for SIMS, neither of us might’ve had the opportunity to cooperate in their journey. I hope to see SIMS continue to expand their services, it is changing lives; mine included.

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