Jessica M. Smedley, Psy.D., L.C.P.

9: Jessica M. Smedley, Psy.D., L.C.P. – Blending Faith and Psychology to her Holistic and Social-Justice Oriented Approach to Mental Health Services

Dr. “Jess”, as her clients know her, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, speaker, writer, and community leader. In this podcast interview, she shares how and why she entered the field of psychology and how her choices of graduate schools and degrees helped shape her approach to life and her approach to her clients in her private practice. She discusses her experiences in undergraduate and graduate schools which shed light on how her academic career evolved from majoring in Biology to showing an interest in Neuroscience and studying the brain to changing her major to Psychology. Dr. Smedley attended the University of San Francisco where she received her M.A. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. She received multiple degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary and shares why she received her Psy.D. instead of a Ph.D.

Dr. Smedley provides additional information regarding the jobs she’s held while working on her graduate degrees and reveals the important experiences that helped shaped so much of her career. She also recalls her experiences with the Ohio Psychological Association as well as her leadership roles within the APA and admits that these experiences, along with her seminary training as a clinical psychologist, have influenced her approach to mental health services. Dr. Smedley incorporates faith into her practice as she believes it impacts our value systems, relationship styles, and decision-making. Her private practice “Smedley Psychological Services, LLC” provides therapeutic, educational, and consultative services to the community and other providers. Dr. “Jess” reminisces about when she knew she was going to start her practice and shares some of the crucial questions to consider when opening your own private practice.

Dr. Smedley shares advice for those interested in psychology and offers additional thoughts for those Black students interested in entering the field. She helped to co-launch an initiative with other licensed healers of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) and is currently finishing her 3-year term on the APA Membership Board serving in the Diversity Slate. Dr. “Jess” is also a speaker and writer. She has held many talks and trainings on mental health education and wellness, racial trauma, and offers general self-care advice. She recently published “Dear Black Girl: Essential Guided Reflections to Celebrate You!” which is a workbook specifically designed as a guide to journaling for Black Girls throughout their various stages of life and development.

Connect with Dr. Jessica M. Smedley: Twitter | Linkedin
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Interests and Specializations

Dr. Smedley has a passion for diversity and advocacy and prioritizes the mental health for people of color. Much of her clinical training was in community mental health settings (e.g., outpatient, residential, community-based) as well as private practice settings. Dr. Smedley treats adults and children who have experienced trauma, co-morbid diagnoses, chronic and severe mental illness, and various family and environmental issues and disparities.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Psychology (2004); University of California, Riverside.

Master of Arts (M.A.), Counseling Psychology (2007); University of San Francisco.

Master of Arts (M.A.), Clinical Psychology (2011); Fuller Theological Seminary.

Master of Arts (M.A.), Christian Leadership (2012); Fuller Theological Seminary.

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), Clinical Psychology (2015); Fuller Theological Seminary.

Other Sources and Links of Interest

Dr. Jess on Black Stress
Coping With COVID-19: Counselors, Educators, Faith Leader Speak Out

Podcast Transcription

00:00:14 BradleyWelcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Jessica Smedley to the show. Dr. Smedley is a licensed clinical psychologist and has her own practice, Smedley Psychological Services, where she is known as “Dr. Jess”. She received her BA in Psychology from UC Riverside and her MA in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Francisco. She received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, where she also completed two additional master’s degrees, one in Christian Leadership and another in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Smedley has served as the Ohio Psychological Association Diversity Committee chair and as a past Diversity Liaison Diversity Subcommittee Chair for the 2020 APA Practice Leadership Conference. Dr. Smedley also was elected to the APA Membership Board to serve in the Diversity slate for a three-year term. Finally, we’ll highlight one other aspect, she helped to co-launch an initiative with other licensed healers of the Association of Black Psychologists, which we will discuss later in this interview. Dr. Smedley, welcome to our podcast.
00:01:46 JessicaThank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m excited.
00:01:49 BradleyWell, I appreciate you taking the time. I know that a lot of our audience members are going to really enjoy hearing about your academic journey as well as what you did after you left the seminary. But to start off, just kind of give us a high-level view, tell us a little bit more about yourself.
00:02:08 JessicaSure, so I am currently in the DC area. I am a California Bay area native. Decided to branch off and continue my education. We’ll talk about, you know, those things later. But I was also an athlete, so I ran track in college. That was great. Pledged a great sorority, Delta Sigma Theta incorporated. And enjoy working out. Enjoy cooking. Have a Beagle, you might, hopefully not, might not hear. But, uh, that’s a little bit about me.
00:02:47 BradleyI also read someplace that you were a dancer.
00:02:51 JessicaYes, how could I forget? Yes, I love her ballet, hence, the Judith Jamison background.
00:02:57 BradleyI was, I was noticing that in the in the background as well. So yeah, I haven’t met a dancer, teacher, psychologist before, so you’re my first today. So, usually, we go in and kind of chronological order for our audience and it’s nice to talk about your undergraduate experiences first. So, I did look at your Vita and I looked at where you went. At what point did you know that you really wanted to go the psychology route or go for your psychology degree?
00:03:26 JessicaSure, so I started off as a Biology major at UCR. Was really interested in the Medical Sciences and thinking premed, premed, um, then Organic Chemistry happened and then Physics happened. Sort of a challenged my direction, but then I also started taking Neuroscience electives and studying the brain and so around, ironically beginning mid of my third year, it was when I switched majors. And just really got delved into the psychology world that way.
00:04:06 BradleyOK, and you already mentioned you went to UC Riverside, so after two or three years you, you kind of realized, well you know this brain stuff is kind of interesting and it’s a little bit more interesting than this other stuff that I find a little bit more difficult. I don’t want to speak for you, but that’s what I’m hearing you say.
00:04:23 JessicaYes, that is exactly which part.
00:04:27 BradleySo that’s always fun. And, and I noticed that you stayed in that same area or relatively in that same area when you went on to receive your Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and I, I mentioned that you emphasized in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of San Francisco. What made you choose USF?
00:04:47 JessicaSure, so I knew that I wanted to get my masters in a Counseling Program. I also knew that I wanted to go back home for a little while, ’cause I’m from the Bay Area. So, it was a combination of location, having more financial support at home, that’s a reality of education. Ah, and uh, just being closer to family and having that support. And it was a really great program too.
00:05:16 BradleyI believe USF is a private Jesuit University. Is that right? So, I hear you saying, yes, it was nice to get back home close to the family, have that financial support…what came into play in your decision of going to that particular university versus other universities in the same area.
00:05:22 JessicaSure, uhm. I honestly think it was the schedule that they offered. I, I can’t say it was because of it being a specifically private institution or their value system per say, but it was a really unique opportunity to maintain the job that I already had in the mental health field. And to be able to still take those evening and weekend courses to fulfill the, the commitment. So, it was a matter of flexibility and being able to get my hours. It worked out really well logistically.
00:06:08 BradleySure, and what job that was actually one of my next questions is what did you do while you were attending? So what job were you performing and what your role was there?
00:06:18 JessicaSure, so I worked for a Seneca Center which is still in the Bay Area, and they offer lots of mental health and supportive services to youth and families, predominantly youth who have difficulties with behavior problems, trauma histories, complex trauma backgrounds. And so, I worked, at the time, at their residential treatment facility, I’m forgetting the acronym because they’ve since closed due to structural and financial changes, but it was for kids who really had those significant traumatic backgrounds.
00:06:58 BradleySure, and I noticed, and we’ll talk a little later, that you kept looking into that topic, in that area, even afterwards. Thinking back when you were that age and you were in that position, what were some of the most challenging items that you had to deal with in that role. A lot of, a lot of audience members think, oh, you’re a psychologist, OK, great. But they don’t really understand some of the challenges and some of the things that you really loved and some of the things that, boy, I wish this wasn’t here, you know, and I didn’t have to deal with it. So, speak a little bit about that.
00:07:32 JessicaAbsolutely, I honestly think that that experience shaped so much of my career. Uh, some of those foundational understandings of, of psychology of what mental health can look like, what trauma looks like for certain communities or for certain, you know, children and certain backgrounds. Uhm, it was eye opening to experience how behaviors can manifest and how emotions manifest to the point to where they need additional supports because they’re not safe in their homes or their communities or the home is not the optimal place for the child to be, and so being exposed to what state care looks like and, and being more educated about the foster care system or the adoptive system that was just really, really enlightening. Uhm, and I think, when I think about advocacy as well, which maybe we’ll talk about later, I think that’s where some of those foundational interests begin to, because I think that there are a lot of vulnerable populations where advocacy is so important, whether it’s in the local community level or the policy level. So, I don’t know if that answers your question as there was a variety.
00:08:56 BradleyIt does, it does, and it you know it gives me a better idea of what you were dealing with and I was going to add one other thing, if you don’t mind it, it really depends on the region and the area that you’re in whether or not your clients, in this case, some of the traumatized kids or, or adolescents have a support outside of you. You know, their family, friends, and if they don’t, then you’re really the only person that they can really go to, to release and discuss some of these things.
00:09:25 JessicaAbsolutely, uhm, that was profound because outside of the staff members, a lot of them were extremely isolated. And of course, that exacerbates symptoms because social support is one of the primary factors of resilience.
00:09:41 BradleyAnd then you actually attended…from the University of San Francisco…you attended Fuller Theological Seminary and, tell us how you ended up there.
00:09:52 JessicaSure. So interestingly, when I was in my master’s program, I was sort of ambivalent. I was thinking, oh I’ll get a master’s degree, become a therapist, this would be great. And then as my network continued to broaden, it’s like, oh, there’s so much more out there. What if I keep doing this? Um, also, I have always had an affinity for my own faith background for church background. So, what does this look like for there could be a program out there where I can potentially integrate these two things. I met a friend who told me about the program and said, oh, you know you should look at this…apply. Literally, that’s what I did. And it just seemed like it fell in my lap. And so, there’s no competitive GRE crazy story. It was just something that was a sequence of interests and events that seemed to align.
00:10:50 BradleyI was going to say it was meant to be, you know, so it sounds like it was meant to be. Now one thing I wanted to point out is I mentioned that you have your doctoral degree. You actually have a PsyD not a PhD. Does Fuller Seminary, I didn’t get enough time to look into it, do they offer both and, if so, why did you choose this PsyD route versus the PhD route?
00:11:11 JessicaAbsolutely, they do offer both, um, so generally I usually tell people that the PhD route is more heavily emphasized on research and academia focus, whereas the PsyD route is now differentiated as it’s more clinically focused. So, people who want to spend their time with the practitioner route. And so, my therapy background and knowing that I wanted to continue in that way and really hone in on diagnosis and testing skills and broaden my therapy background is why I continue to choose that route. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t do a dissertation or the research and all those things.
00:11:55 BradleyRight, right?
00:11:57 JessicaBut the emphasis is different.
00:11:57 BradleyYeah. Yes, yes, definitely. And before we started talking today, we kind of talked about this briefly and it is changing. I mean, it used to be if you’re going to go into psychology and you want to go into the academic field or become a psychologist almost always, PhD. And so, the PsyD is relatively new, but it is more focused on that practical, you know application clinical aspect versus the academic research route. So, I also noticed that you received two additional master’s degrees while you were at Fuller. You were very busy, obviously while you were there. But one of them, as I mentioned in the introduction, you received a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and then another in Christian Leadership. What made you go that those extra steps you already had your master’s in Counseling Psychology? So why? Why did you feel the need to add more? You just wanted to impress me for this interview, I think.
00:12:56 JessicaNo question did not want any additional debts.
00:12:59 BradleyRight.
00:13:01 JessicaSome programs are set up to be joint degree programs, and so that’s where the additional master’s came in. The Christian Leadership Masters was essentially some additional electives outside of their required theological courses that were required of the program. Uh, in general, and so I thought, well, you know that could be something that maybe I’ll use later or be able to integrate into practice at a later time.
00:13:29 BradleyYeah, and based on what my research on you it, it definitely has come into play that Christian Leadership background as well as aligning well with your faith and, and helping in your community as well, so, very good fit, both of them. As I said, very busy while you were at the seminary, tell us some of your fondest experiences or memories while attending the Fuller Seminary.
00:13:53 JessicaSure, so the first thing that pops in my mind is probably community building friendships with now colleagues or professors then, still in touch with my advisor, she’s wonderful. Some leadership experiences early on there, so getting on board with student governments or creating, maintaining community for some of the black students that were there. Uhm, I think the emphasis is, is a combination of community and leadership. Having an opportunity to TA, that was pretty cool to try to sort of build, and tap into, early teaching experience. Yeah, I think those are the ones that stand out the most.
00:14:43 BradleyOK, and, I wasn’t planning to ask this question, but now that you brought it up, the TA, do you, do you find that you love teaching as well as the practical side of psychology? Tell me about if I put you on the spot right now, which one would you prefer and, and tell me why?
00:15:02 JessicaAt this phase in my career, it’s still the practical, but I’m becoming more open to teaching again ’cause I’m not currently, but I am thinking of an adjunct in my future.
00:15:15 BradleyOK, well good. I don’t know if that’s the secret that you’re letting out live first here, but. You know a lot of our audience members ask, hey, what was important to you when selecting a graduate psychology program?
00:15:33 JessicaI think for me it was a little bit different just because of the way it, it happened and because of the unique interest that I had. But if I were to look back, I would say to consider what it is that you might be interested in and see if those sort of options are available based on what faculty are doing at the program. Make sure it’s APA accredited for licensing purposes. Uhm, if you are a person of color, whatever color and that sort of need, community, identity factors are important to you, seek out professors or current students who might be there and talk to them about their experiences. Uhm, and the other thing that comes to mind is the internship piece. So just ask questions about the programs match rate so that you have an idea of how well their students are prepared for the internship process.
00:16:43 BradleyYeah, and the graduation rate as well as finding, if they offer something like this, finding new jobs afterwards is also beneficial. You know I talked about hey what’s important about the psychology program? I’ve talked to some individuals, and they look at the program and they also look at the school and so. Even though you might look at the program and you said you know, you could look at other people of color within that program or that support staff or the academic professors, but if they’re not there, look elsewhere and you might find some other supporting groups at the school, so I guess I’m going to ask you, you know you’ve been 3-4 different universities now, what were some of the important factors when you were selecting the school other than the fact that it kind of fell in your lap, it was a good fit, it was kind of meant to be, any other things come to mind when you think about when selecting a school, what are some important factors to consider?
00:17:46 JessicaHmm, you know some people, for some people, that’s really important because of a name or because of reputation or because of all of the great factors that we can all think of. Uhm, I think in my case, that wasn’t as important to me as was, OK, the outcome, does it fit? Also, in my life, location, all schools are expensive, but are there potential for scholarships? Do I know other people that have gone here? So, I think in my case it was more personal reasons balanced with some of the obvious academic things.
00:18:35 BradleySome of the other things that I’d add based on my discussions with other people would be some, you know I, I met with somebody and, and discussed they were just in one state their entire life. Up until that point they wanted to get out and, sure, they were accepted to three or four different schools, but this one was the farthest away and they wanted to kind of expand their horizons so that’s another reason why you might do that. Housing, or guaranteed housing, might come into play. Another one is scholarships, grants, anything like that. And since we, you brought that up, one of the questions that I had was, you know, when you’re talking about any of these scholarships, grants, fellowships, do you have any other advice regarding funding or other alternatives for, you know, those prospective students who are going out there saying I don’t come from a rich family, I don’t have all this money, what are my options available?
00:19:31 JessicaYou know, I don’t really have a good answer for that, but what does come to mind is seek out a financial advisor earlier than later. Because just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about money yet and they can at least tell you, OK, if you’re going to borrow, if you’re going to do these, here is something to think about for the future when you think about pay offs. So I think I would emphasize seeking education earlier.
00:19:56 BradleyYeah, no, that’s
00:19:56 JessicaThen yeah.
00:19:58 BradleyYep, good advice. Finding people who know more about it than you do is good. Finding people who have received fellowships or grants. One other thing that I would add is if you are going to go the grant route, you’re going to have to put in the due diligence and the time to do the research to find the appropriate grant because it is very competitive, even more so nowadays than in the past. And then the other quick one is look at a school or program that offers a TA, or a teaching assistantship, or a fellowship or you could help out in the lab and get a reduction or get a stipend or anything like that. I think I’d add that as well. When I went through my graduate and master’s and, and worked on the doctorate, I received a stipend when I was doing that. It wasn’t a, it wasn’t a free ride, but it was, you know, a stipend that helped. So, anything and everything could, could be beneficial there so.
00:20:56 JessicaYeah, I would absolutely agree.
00:20:58 BradleyBefore we talk about your practice, I see that you’ve been very active, and continue to be very active, in the APA and other associations. I, I mentioned that you served as the Ohio Psychological Association Diversity Committee chair in 2017. How did you find yourself in that role and, kind of, give advice on, to others who want to be more involved in the APA, tell us how you found yourself in that role and then provide some advice.
00:21:25 JessicaSure, so, at the time, I was completing my postdoc and, uh, my supervisor was the president of the OPA at that time, the Ohio Psychological Association, and so they were starting a leadership development Academy, um, which was wonderful. I still am very close with some of the people that did that program now. Uhm, and that is where they created a space for early career psychologists to learn about leadership skills and get involved in the Association. And after the completion of that program is when one of them said, hey, this role is coming open and what do you think?
00:22:10 BradleyRight.
00:22:12 JessicaMe? So, that’s how that happened. And I held that for about a year until I moved to the DC area. So, leadership in general, I think starting off at your local state Association is a great way to begin. Um, and then keeping an eye out on the APA website for opportunities whether it’s conferences, now, things are virtual, but conferences or other leadership courses that are available. Networking opportunities, they’re out there but it’s a matter of being intentional and seeking them out and your state is a great place to start.
00:22:54 BradleyYep, yep starting local, great advice and going there. I’d also add that don’t be afraid to reach out to the current chair and just say hey, what do you? What do you do? I’m, I’m interested and, you know, what’s your daily activities look like and, and what’s, what are some of the challenges? And I’m really interested. They might be able to give you even better, you know, advice than we are giving right now so. Really depends on the role. You mentioned the leadership and a few years after you served with the Ohio Psychological Association on the Diversity Committee Chair, you also became the Liaison for Diversity Subcommittee Chair for the 2020 APA Practice Leadership Conference. I looked at the history and I could speak to it, but I want you from, from your point of view, tell us more about this and more about your experience.
00:23:52 JessicaSure, so Practice Leadership Conference is, in my opinion, one of the best things that APA does. It’s an opportunity for states to come together. Presidents, early career delegates, diversity delegates, executive directors, leadership, essentially, of the associations to come together and strengthen leadership skills and advocacy skills so we also spend time looking at policy practice related needs and our conference ends with the day on the Hill. Uhm, so for that this particular conference I had been a few times and that second time, I got elected to be the Diversity Liaison Elect for the next cycle, so it’s a two-year commitment ’cause you’re the elect one year and then you’re served the role of the second year.
00:24:42 BradleyOK.
00:24:43 JessicaAnd so that role entails sort of working with the committee creating programming for diversity delegates that are going to be coming to the conference and really trying to also advocate for, yes, here are things that we are doing with diversity, EDI now is one of the hot terms, but how can we also integrate that into practice related needs or advocacy needs at the Hill? How can we broaden our social justice framework in psychology?
00:25:16 BradleyAnd what was the challenge, most challenging part while you were serving in that role?
00:25:26 JessicaUhm, I think we always want to do more than what sometimes time or resources allows. There are so many wonderful psychologists that come from all over the country, and there are so many ideas that we have and energy that we come with but there isn’t time to do all of the things or we’re not there yet in terms of you know, whoever is whatever agenda item it might be. So, it’s, it’s tempering expectations.
00:26:01 BradleyRight. You’re going in there with all these nice new bright ideas and, and then you realize, oh, there’s some limitations here that I have to consider. So, I, I also saw that you are active with the DCPA, and for those of you on the call or listening or, or watching on our website, District of Columbia Psychological Association, and you started in co-led the COVID-19 Task Force to provide some advocacy and services to members in the community. Tell us more about this ’cause this is really interesting. I, I, I even found an article that kind of highlighted you and your, your work on this and so while you’re talking about it, I’m going to bring that up real quick.
00:26:42 JessicaOK sure, so obviously last year we, the world shut down and we were trying to figure out, as psychologists, how can we show up for our community. And so, a group of us, mostly members of the board, came together and recruited fellow peers within DCPA and, um, I remember that article, yeah, and um, created virtual support groups, virtual educational townhalls, things that would help feel people, help people feel connected and like they essentially, were not alone or going crazy. Some of the virtual supportive groups that we did were for people who lived alone or for parents who were trying to handle working from home while homeschooling. Uhm, we did one for clergy members who were trying to support their congregations, and a few other very specific groups who we thought might benefit from additional support. There are articles on the DCPA website just start tips about self-care. Uhm, and, uh, one of the bigger ones was our Juneteenth event. So, the, the black mental health that was a really popular one because that happened, of course, after the George Floyd incident last year. So just a variety of things that we thought could impact our members, our community, and whoever else was interested because we were virtual.
00:28:35 BradleyYep and…
00:28:35 JessicaSo, at last we have people from out of the area as well.
00:28:38 BradleyRight, I, I read this article a few times and the one that still sticks, you know sticks out to me is your statement here “Parents are starting to hit the wall…” and I, I think, uh, being a parent myself I, I can relate to that and a lot of parents, especially during that time period, so many constraints on them, so many demands and it’s nice to have that outlet and have that available to them to provide that support. So, I applaud you on, on being involved in that.
00:29:10 JessicaThank you.
00:29:12 BradleyYou are also serving, and I still believe, still serving on the APA membership board. You had a three-year term for the diversity slate, and it was for the past three years through 2021. So, tell us how you got involved in that and elected to that position.
00:29:30 JessicaSure, so um, with APA you can obviously nominate a peer, or you can self-nominate. And so that’s actually the route that I did. I think that a lot of times we take for granted if we want to start something, we have to wait for someone else to see us or to recognize us to put our name in the hat. But if there is a option, and if you’re interested, especially as a early career person, to experience leadership to continue growing those skills, throw your name in the hat. And, in my case, it worked so, so that’s been a really interesting experience. Yes, this is the last year of my term. But that is a great way to again strengthen knowledge and awareness of the organization. Meet, uh, peers, develop more mentorship relationships. Uhm? And, and contribute, of course.
00:30:37 BradleyRight, right.
00:30:37 JessicaIn so much as you can.
00:30:40 BradleyDefinitely. So, I, I’m sharing that on the screen right now, Membership Board and I notice that they do this on purpose, they straggle, you know, membership terms, so not everybody is going out or coming in at the same time. And when does it actually end? It shows ‘21. So, when is your actual stop date or end date when you end that three-year term?
00:31:01 JessicaAt the end of the, the calendar year, so December.
00:31:04 BradleyOh, it is OK, all right. So, in retrospect, and you know your it’s going to be here before you know it. I can’t believe it’s already May, it just seems it seems like we just got started this year, but any experiences or thoughts you can share as you near the end of your term for this position?
00:31:24 JessicaInteresting, I think it’s been a good experience. I think there’s a lot of insight that you gain, especially from the membership perspective. I think other boards and committees are unique in that they’re focused on a specific niche within the field, but membership, we’re focused on the people, our members. So, are there diversity needs? Is there language that we need to address? Are there gaps in who we’re attracting? Uhm, are there diversity gaps that we’re missing in terms of even the profession? So, a lot of us are practitioners or in academia or researchers? But, what about the applied folks? Or what about the science people? So just thinking about what we want to be, our identity as an Association and all the things that go into the measuring and putting together what that looks like.
00:32:26 BradleyAnd of course, the contacts, networking, friends that you, you know established during your role come into, and it gives you a different perspective. I, you know I, I presented at the APA a number of times as well. I never served on any Council or any initiative or any board, but as soon as you do that you get a different view of how to run that organization, and that’s huge.
00:32:51 JessicaYes, I was recently elected to Council as well, so. Now it’s, I’m really getting that birds-eye top view…oh, ok.
00:33:01 BradleyLook on the bright side, look on the bright side. Yeah, it’s going to help. I see that you helped co-launch, uh, an initiative with some fellow licensed healers with the Association of Black Psychologists tell us a little bit more about that and why you got involved.
00:33:17 JessicaSure, so uhm, Dr. Jackson is a wonderful psychologist in person, the current, or outgoing president now of ABPsi, and she was looking for additional support from members to engage in opportunities. I think, as we know, the black community was really, you know, stressed in the past year because of additional traumas that were happening and so the ABPsi was receiving a lot of requests for supports so the, uhm, healing, the Licensed Healers Initiative was a way, is a way, to start organizing more intentionally. All right, who are our licensed members because our membership structure is very different from other associations. So, organizing our licensed members in an intentional way, gaining insight into who might be interested in supporting some of the asks that we were getting, and beginning to organize supportive spaces and events for both members and for people that were outside in the community that might be asking.
00:34:35 BradleySo, you mentioned that it’s structured a little differently. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
00:34:41 JessicaSure, the membership requirements are far more flexible. You don’t necessarily have to be a psychologist. You don’t necessarily have to be a mental health professional really. So, in, in that way the people who are involved is a more broad community, mostly psychologists or therapists, of course. Uh, but more of a uhm, I would say community, um, approach or broadening, you know, what healing looks like isn’t really important in the Association.
00:35:18 BradleySo, anybody who’s really interested in doing that, don’t hesitate just because you, you’re not a licensed psychologist or, or anything like that. If you want to help, reach out and see if you can help.
00:35:31 JessicaHmm, mmm…sure.
00:35:32 BradleyNow, as you mentioned, you know we, we talked about your route going the PsyD route because you wanted to go on the clinical, more practical side and that led us to your private practice called “Smedley Psychological Services LLC”. So, when did you know that you wanted to start your own practice?
00:35:54 JessicaI knew a long time ago it was just a matter of the energy and resources, and time to actually do it, and finding the education that I needed in order to do that. Because yes, I think we all have that one- or two-unit marketing business class elective, uhm, but it’s, it’s not and not the fault of the instructor at all, but it’s, it’s just not what you need to get a business started, right? So, it’s a combination of learning, time to actually do it, but I, I knew fairly early on.
00:36:33 BradleyI’m going to go ahead and share the screen just to give you a little promo here and let everybody see. I, I like the website, you had a lot of information on here. You have a welcome page right here…kind of talks about your approach and then it talks about you know these different areas that we can help, or you can help listen to me speaking as if I’m, I’m with you and the areas that, that you can help and then a little history as well. Good picture of you. You have…all the pictures I found on the web are, are good of you, by the way. Great smile, gotta say that, and then you have a page on here, well who are you? And it gives you a lot of information on you know your history, your background, your areas of interest, some of your roles. And this is where I got most of this information as well. And then really what’s important to you? And then here, yeah, this is where I saw the dancer part. Yeah, there you go. So yeah, good, good website and what’s also nice is it kind of brings us to this portion where you have Dr. Jess and then you have, it just flows, “Dr. Jess on Black Stress” and then you, you give a little bit more information here and you have all these posts that are very, very wonderful because they’re short little snippets where you can kind of look at them and look at certain areas, so I, I really love the website, that’s what I’m leading up to, if you can tell, so I, easy to, easy to navigate and easy to go through as well. So, I, I wanted to highlight that for everybody.
00:38:05 JessicaThank you and thanks for the feedback. That’s always good to know how people appreciate the navigation, that’s good.
00:38:12 BradleyNow the other thing that I wanted to bring up, I’m talking about your, you know you said nothing against the teachers back then for the one or two units, but it doesn’t prepare you for, you know, starting your own business, basically, your own practice. What were some of the biggest challenges you mentioned a couple, or alluded to a few but, looking back, and even now through COVID and kind of coming out of COVID, if we’re, if we’re safe to say that, what were some of the biggest challenges?
00:38:42 JessicaSure, I think it depends on how you want to structure your business, so that’s probably the biggest question. How do you want to find your clients, how do you want them to be able to pay you? Do you want to take insurance? Do you want to be cash only? Um, I take insurance and so that was a learning curve and figuring out. How to get paid? And how to bill appropriately, how to submit claims. Luckily in 2021 there are electronic health records systems that do all that for you, but you still need to understand what it is that the system is doing so that if a claim doesn’t go through, or if the client’s insurance changes or something you need to be able to understand how to navigate that? Uhm, so I think I’m still learning.
00:39:38 BradleyHow to fix it? Yep.
00:39:40 JessicaYeah.
00:39:41 JessicaI think learning that new language in itself is a learning curve. Uhm, other things I think are just figuring out, you know, your schedule, the administrative things. When do you want to do your billing or when do you want to set up with your accountant and figure out taxes and all of those fun things? So, it’s, it’s really putting those things in place that we may have paid someone else to do in the past.
00:40:10 BradleyI was going to add you’re also your own PR manager and so you have to decide if, and when, and how you’re going to get your word out. Was that challenging at first? How did you decide to come up with the website and go that route? And we’re going to talk about, you know, your Journal and, and the Dear Black Girl Project, if I can call it the project, as well in a second but tell me a little bit more about the PR piece ’cause I know a lot of our audience are going to ask. OK, I can go to other people that are experts and setting up a business and everything else but the PR piece, tell me more about that.
00:40:45 JessicaThat’s interesting, it’s funny because when I first moved to DC is when I started the LLC. I did it within 30 days. And then I think I did the website within that same, maybe 60 days. But I didn’t branch off independently for a while. I used the website as sort of a foundational hey, I’m this licensed person in DC now, but I’m still going to work for this job and see clients have this group practice for a little while. And, I think, as I built Community here as I networked, that was helpful. I did start advertising on Psychology Today and Therapy for Black Girls for the first year, year and a half, I’m still on Therapy for Black Girls. Uhm, and then when you take insurance, that’s free marketing because they list you on their find a provider page. Uhm, and then when I eventually did leave the group practice, most of my clients stayed with me. So now it’s managing. OK, if I have a wait list, how do I manage that? How do I sort of figure out how long the wait list is? How do I keep in touch with those folks? Or do I close it, refer out? Uhm, still get some trickling in people requesting services? So, it’s figuring out the balance of time now.
00:42:20 BradleyOK.
00:42:21 JessicaBut it’s a combination of your insurance panel, if you’re going to take insurance, whoever you choose to list with online. And social media is a good one too? I think Instagram. Uhm? I’ve maybe gotten one or two from Twitter. And I will throw out the caveat that I don’t, I just redirect people to my email address when I get DMs, so I don’t really do the whole DM messaging thing. So my email address is on my social media or my website.
00:43:01 BradleyYou also have and I’m sharing the screen on the Twitter you mentioned Twitter, so I have that and then you’re also on LinkedIn as well. I’ve seen multiple pictures where you have different hair color, and every color looks good on you and you. You have a good description. I like the I like the tweets that you have as well. I’m not going to highlight all of them. But just, if you want to search for her, go ahead and search. But yeah, you’re exactly right. The PR piece, more on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, more and more of my guests are, are mentioning that that does help round out the PR piece. Don’t, don’t rely on that solely but you know it, it, it definitely helps round it out a little bit. How long after you finished your doctorate degree did you start up your practice?
00:43:52 JessicaUhm? Five years, almost six. Yes. Licensing was a, um, that’s another thing to think about too after internship and passing the E Triple P (EPPP) and being aware of license requirements for whatever state you might practice in.
00:44:19 BradleyRight. And, and every state may be different, I should point that out as well. So, one final question about the practice before we start talking about some, some of your other projects here. How did COVID impact your practice? And I’m, what I’m, asking here is, obviously it might have changed how you met people you know in person versus virtually. Did the topics discussed change, did the presenting problems change? Was there a change, I guess, and did it impact your practice, and in what way?
00:44:54 JessicaSure, so, uh, logistically we obviously went to virtual. Uhm, that was an adjustment, but fairly straightforward. Most of my clientele are within a comfortable, uh, age or use of technology. And yes, I would say presenting problems, uh, I think I joked and kind of said one day COVID is, COVID for therapist is having the same conversation all day over and over again because it’s anxiety, it’s grief, it’s trauma, it’s the unexpected, it’s the unknown, it’s the isolation. This person doesn’t agree with this person about safety protocols in the same house or it, it was a little bit of all of that, um, all valid, of course, because even we, as therapists, are human too, and we’re experiencing it right along with them. So, I think there was quite a bit to navigate, uh, during that time. And it continues to adjust because now people are talking about the anxiety of whoa, the world’s opening, but are we ready?
00:46:09 BradleyRight, right? And I was going to say it might be adjusting now or, or changing now as we get over it, or through it, and coming out of it. And then, of course, those periods where we did have some of the injustice and people would come out and, and you know, speak about that. And what I find interesting with friends and family and colleagues is, you know, some of the people that were pretty quiet all of a sudden, something happens, they just open up and you have to do your due diligence and listen and, and then give your opinion and be transparent and honest with them.
For your own self, one challenging I, I didn’t mention this but my mother, my mom is a licensed psychologist as well, so I grew up with that. She was also an English teacher, so she was correcting me left and right on my grammar and everything, but I appreciate it now, I’m, I, I am attuned to that, but one thing that I always found interesting is if you if you just…there’s your dog, yes? Your Beagle, right?
00:47:13 JessicaYes.
00:47:16 BradleyNo, that’s good. He wanted to chime in or she…one thing that I found interesting is it must be challenging as a provider if you disagree with some of the views that your, your clients are, are, you know, portraying? How do you deal with that? You have to stay professional. But how else would you guide them or, or help them through that, that presenting problem?
00:47:43 JessicaYeah, you’re right it, it certainly can be challenging. When there are differing things, or opposing views, but I think the key is to do our own grounding, as therapists, and so being mindful of how we’re reacting, finding our own breath and staying centered, and really staying focused on guiding, exploring, staying open with the client to understand, uh, what their ultimate goal or objective is for whatever given topic or issue in that moment. Uh, without it becoming hijacked by our own humanity and imperfection.
00:48:30 BradleyRight, I had another guest on a previous podcast where she did focus on that primarily and she said, hey, we’re all human and you have to realize and allow yourself as the therapist and the psychologist to go ahead and let yourself feel that, not necessarily in front of the client, but afterwards, you know, feel that and then come to terms with that as well, so it’s always interesting getting that, that viewpoint. I’d like to bring up a topic that’s of interest to me in researching you and some other recent guests, I found that the vast majority of psychology faculty and psychologists are white, the, the numbers are out there (between 70 and 88%). Why do you think there is such a disproportionate number?
00:49:14 JessicaSure, so I think that there are disproportionate numbers in the education system, especially the higher that we go. I think that psychology is a topic or field of study that has a lot of stigma in communities of color and so access to a professional, but then also to psychology being an available topic, even in the high school setting is rare, it’s growing, but it’s rare. And so, I think those two things combined create for significant disparities in what we see, as you just said, within the field, especially at the doctorate level.
00:49:58 BradleyAnd you know that leads me to my next question of, you know, I consider myself an advocate and I want to help anybody, you know, enter, get more people to enter the psychology field. But what can be done to help increase these numbers? I’ll ask you, and then I’ll give you my viewpoint as well.
00:50:17 JessicaSure, I think that’s where a lot of us really take that representation and advocacy piece seriously, because we want the future generations to see, hey, I am black and female and a psychologist, and I have a cool career. And this is an option for you, and we also need you because our community needs you. So, I think in that regard, it’s a very intentionally community driven or value driven approach. I also think that’s where some of the deeper level work within associations within institutions can happen with some of these new EDI lens work that everyone really focused on now and so, yep, hire a diversity officer, but also let that person do the work and help you create policy changes and look at how you’re recruiting people and, and what language are you using to attract people and what are the people look like that you’re trying to attract and who are you using to attract? You know there’s just so many deeper level things that can be addressed other than some of the sort of surface things that we have seen in the past.
00:51:45 BradleyYeah, no, some good advice. The other thing that I’d add would be, you know, just increasing exposure, as you said, you know. And that’s part of our reason why we, we like interviewing both academics and outside of academics of all races, colors, creeds, viewpoints and, and that’s our goal is to, to help those who are interested in psychology. And give them some of that information and advice. I had a couple of my guests say hey, if any of your reading or, or listening or, or viewing this, feel free to reach out to me personally and so they offered their own email. I’m not saying that you should, I’m just saying that, that’s one way, that’s one way of, of helping increase the numbers and awareness. I also think that there’s you know a particular part of the stigma, as you said, where people think oh, there’s no way I could become that they, they view you so high up on that pedestal, when in actuality, if you’re really passionate about what you do, then seek out those individuals that can help you and give you a little bit more information and then help you along with that. And then with the internet, lot of resources out there, some are good, some are not so good, but you know, that’s, that’s another way to help increase the numbers as well. So, one of my previous podcast guests was Native American and offered specific advice proactively to Native American students. May I ask you if you have any specific advice for black students interested in psychology?
00:53:18 JessicaAbsolutely, so I think to echo what I said earlier about seeking out what representation looks like on the campus that you might be shopping or already at and be intentional about creating community, asking for what you need, asking what resources might already be present. As well as your community off campus. So, if you are going someplace that is new or not near your, whatever your home base is, what other resources can you tap into? Is it a community organization? Is it a church? Is it a, uhm, sports League? Just somewhere where you can feel safe at home, you know that your social and identity needs are being met. Uhm, and, and to not hesitate to advocate for yourself to as needed because challenges happen, people make mistakes, but to, to not allow that to dim your, your voice or what your beliefs are.
00:54:25 BradleyAnd as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t find who you’re looking for within the program, go outside of that program as well. Doesn’t mean that other people in you know. History, or you know in any other field they can still be an advocate and help guide you through that school and that process. The other thing that we’re working on as an organization behind the scenes is we’re we have a scholarship page that’s dedicated to graduate schools and different types of schools as well. But currently we’re working on and will be including a list of all the HBCUs out there as well, and for those of you who haven’t heard of that term before, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, because some people would rather go there than go to another University or institution just for the support group and, and know that they’re surrounded by like-minded people as well so just wanted to put that out there ’cause that that is beneficial to, to find some resources along those lines.
00:55:24 JessicaYeah, absolutely.
00:55:25 BradleyI mentioned earlier about your project about Dear Black Girl, so I’m just going to ask you, what prompted that? I have a feeling, now that I’ve talked to you what prompted it, but I want you to tell us a little bit more about this project and, and what led up to this. And then while you’re doing that, I’m going to share my screen.
00:55:44 JessicaSure, so it is a guided Journal that is created for black women to process and explore who they are. I think a lot of times journaling is a great tool for processing emotions and difficult experiences and maybe even some traumas or relationship issues, but a lot of times people don’t know what to write or they overthink it or it becomes a big deal. So, I thought OK, what if it’s a guided process that just offers prompts and questions to help the, the reader think about who they are and think about things to write about and so that is essentially what it is. And it’s specific to common themes in the Black experience so it may be stereotypes, or specific things about body image issues, or past traumas, experiences of racism. So just a very intentionally created tool for Black women.
00:56:55 BradleyOK, one last thing that I put on the screen. I know that we have to get going here. What’s the local time at where you are right now?
00:57:02 JessicaIt is 2:06.
00:57:04 BradleyOh, I’m sorry. I’m running over then, I’m 1:06 here. So, one last thing that I wanted to bring up on the screen is, of course, your book and this kind of came out of that Dear Black Experience and I wanted to just share that and then we can say thank you and go our ways, but again, while I have this on here, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I know that you and I have a hard stop here and I’m glad that you were looking at the time here. So, I appreciate the time. I wish we had more ’cause I had some more questions for you but I, I do appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk about this. I look forward to putting this up on the website and helping those who are interested in, you know, getting into the psychology field. Jessica, thanks again for your time.
00:57:55 JessicaAbsolutely, thank you again for having me.
00:57:57 BradleyAppreciate it, thanks.
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