“I am known for being an empathetic listener with a good sense of humor and someone who is always willing to engage in self-exploration.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
Social work was not my first choice; I remember working with a career counselor after being a postgraduate for about six years. Although my background was business administration and I always had the privilege of working in the family business, I knew that this was not my calling. After doing an assessment, my counselor suggested a career in social work. I held a stereotypical view of the profession, thinking that I would need a bulletproof vest and have to prepare for combat. After interviewing three black male therapists, I was pleasantly surprised to learn these men were making a difference in the lives of others while being nicely compensated. I am known for being an empathetic listener with a good sense of humor and someone who is always willing to engage in self-exploration. I am a student of self-development work through landmark education, participating in various workshops addressing depression, trauma, eating disorders, racism, and other behavioral issues.
What should someone know about working with you?
Working with me is like being with your favorite talk show host; we will laugh, cry, and more importantly, stay thoroughly engaged. I want you to know that this is your world. Our intake session is an opportunity to learn about my services and to determine if we are a good fit. I’m also interested in the reason(s) you’re considering therapy. Progress looks different for everyone. I will hold your hand when necessary, but I will definitely challenge you to live your best life. In order to determine progress, periodic assignments will be given as a means to help you grow and put certain concepts into practice (without practice, we are just shadowboxing). My ideal client is the individual who can acknowledge that they need help and is willing to challenge themselves. I am not a magician; I am just a therapist who is willing to go as far as you can. If I am unable to assist you, I will not hesitate to make a necessary referral. Either way, I strive to be judgment-free.
How do your own core values shape your approach to therapy?
At this stage in my life, I’m realizing that I’m actually living the purpose of my name. Atiba derives from the West African Yoruba culture and means “understanding” while Okera means “likeness to God”. I have always shared these meanings but now I’m realizing that my career path is a reflection of my namesake. Although I’m not religious, I do consider myself a humanist or spiritual and I have always been interested in understanding human behavior and had a desire to make a strong impact. I didn’t quite know the vehicle but as a result of being exposed to a strong understanding of my cultural identity, new age philosophy, comedy, music, critical thinking, and varied work experiences, I have gained awareness as a well-balanced clinician.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
Therapy today seems to be both accessible and easily embraced. I think that this is extremely crucial given our current society and as an African American. Historically, my community was not considered within the realm of mental health. We have been misused by science and the medical community, which contributed to our distrust of seeking help. In recent years, there has been a shift in the acceptance of mental health services. Jeffrey Gadere, a psychologist and assistant professor in behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, has said that he’s seen a 20-25% rise in African Americans seeking therapy in the past 10 years, stating, “I’ve seen an increasing number of African Americans who feel increasingly less stigmatized about coming in and seeking therapy and who also recognizing the healing power of therapy.” Overall, humanity is acknowledging the need for mental health services and the mixed blessing of the pandemic has been the advent of telehealth.
“Working with me is like being with your favorite talk show host; we will laugh, cry, and more importantly, stay thoroughly engaged.”