“I went through [college] on autopilot,” Raquele shared, “with no direct focus.”
Raquele was required to complete an internship toward her major but she had no idea what to do. Sounds like so many of us, thrust into a position of needing to know answers to questions that feel like they may determine the rest of our lives, but not necessarily being equipped with the information or guidance to make an informed choice.
Raquele sought more support by visiting the career services office, where she saw a flyer about mentoring adolescents and South American immigrants, which lured her in. She guided adolescents on trips and received supervision from a social work student studying at Columbia.
"Until then, I didn’t know what a social worker was,” she said. “I thought [a social worker] was a matronly-dressed woman who would come and take away kids. But [the social worker] was affecting change in this program. And she said I had a natural ability to listen and to help; she said it was innate in me.”
Throughout the semester, Raquele learned more about the work of that social worker, and the following semester, decided to apply for graduate school.
“I felt good helping people,” she shared, “and if that’s what social workers do, I wanted in on it.”
“My style is truly eclectic,” Raquele shared. “[It’s] shaped by where the client is taking me on the journey.... I work with the [individual] to slow down the autopilot the brain is often on. We do things so fast. We slow that stuff down so they can feel their bodies to see how they’re thinking and then how they’re behaving. We’re making it palatable -- when it’s slowed down, they can break off parts and work on them with me.”
Raquele includes traditional components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) -- a goal-oriented, direct, actionable therapeutic approach -- in her work, like homework and journaling. She also weaves practices like meditation and mindfulness into her time with those she works with.
She emphasizes, “It’s the connection between the mind and the body that matters most.”
“I have a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder [(GAD)], and I seek treatment and am in therapy for that,” Raquele shared. “The therapist I work with with started doing more meditation with me in the last year...I intimately know how [it feels]. If I slow down, I feel better, and when I incorporate these practices in my life, I feel better.”
Raquele sees a therapist every week. She also engages in supervision every week to work through case material and to make sure she is clear and focused as a clinician.
“I get a lot of massages, I travel…” she says when thinking about her own self-care. “Doing things that make me feel good.” She advises to others, as well, “Do what makes you feel good. Do what feels right--do more of that.”
“When the [person] first comes into the room, I become the listener,” Raquele said. “It just started with the conversation. I’ll ask, ‘Tell me how you come to be here, how are you showing up today?’ and then it starts.”
She continued, “[People usually come in to talk about] discomfort, agitation, worry, stress, tension. In their work life and in their personal life. I just get where they are. If [someone] wants to dig in to childhood trauma, I listen to them there. If they want to talk about their frustrating ride to my office or frustrations with their boss, I meet them there.”
“It’s normal to be worried and think in negative ways,” Raquele shared, “because we have learned to do that since we were little kids.”
By normalizing the negative thinking patterns, and reminding those she works with that it’s okay, Raquele and her clients can get to the bottom of the pattern, shed light on it, “break it down, and then come back up in a growth way.”
Raquele believes strongly that her identity as a black woman impacts the way she shows up as a therapist. On Yelp, one reviewer wrote, “Being a woman of color comes with its own unique life experiences. As a result, finding a therapist who could ‘get me’ had seemed nearly impossible until now. Raquele gives me a safe space to talk about and work through whatever is at the forefront of my mind.”
“I know hurt intimately,” Raquele said. "People close to me have been abused - physically, sexually, emotionally. In the black and Hispanic cultures I [work most often with], [there are a disproportionate number of] these types of families who are poor, underprivileged, undereducated, and underserved. Family hurt, coming out of broken homes, coming out of families with alcoholism, substance use.”
“[Being] the first person in my family to go to college shapes my identity as a Black American woman and also as a clinician. I know what it’s like to be marginalized. I know what it’s like to be a professional, and a woman, and to be second guessed, picked over. I understand it and have a natural empathy about it.” It’s this natural empathy that grounds Raquele’s work and makes her so relatable as a therapist.
In a few weeks, Raquele is taking a course on mindfulness and CBT. This summer, she is completing a training in anxiety and mindfulness at Princeton’s Hakomi institute. She'll be honing in on the power of being grounded and stable with a still mind and learning how to facilitate that in others. Recently, she completed a training on deconstructing anxiety, or breaking down the anxious mind, and how emotional regulation works in the brain.
"There’s a lot of learning going on!” she reflected.
“Give it a chance,” Raquele suggests. “It’s a great way to get to know yourself better, and to grow. It saved my life...I’ve done it and seen results.”
Raquele didn’t hesitate: The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. His focus on self-care, breaking down emotional wounds, trauma, and harmful patterns of thinking, motivate Raquele. His writing about living in angst, anxiety, self-doubt, shame, and how to move into a place of self-love and acceptance helps Raquele conceptualize her personal and professional goals.
“I give it to all of my clients, and they love it it,” she said with a smile.
Raquele looks up to her godmother, Louise Robinson, for her strength and her kindness. “Her ability to love beyond herself,” Raquele said.
She also looks up to Margaret Mead, one of the pioneers of the profession of psychotherapy. “She got where the clients were, heard them, saw them, and helped them be better. I have one of her quotes hanging on my wall. It reads, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only things that ever had.’”
Learn more about Raquele through her website and reach out for a consultation or to learn more about her work and journey.
Thank you, Raquele, for a thought-provoking conversation, and for sharing so authentically about your work and your intentions. We are grateful to have you in our community and admire the many lives you are able to nurture and help grow.
Until next time, MyWellbeing team. Stay tuned for more Q&As with our therapist community and other therapy-positive tips, happenings and learnings. If you'd like to learn more about joining the MyWellbeing community, click here.
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We had the privilege of sitting down with Raquele Williams, one of the therapists in our MyWellbeing community, to learn more about her own journey and her work as a therapist.
Today we are sharing the highlights. Read on to learn more about Raquele and the meaningful work she does. Schedule a consultation call or appointment with Raquele through her website here.