Patrice Shavone Brown
Shares Her Secrets
By Carin Chea
It is not necessarily her effortless confidence that makes Patrice Shavone Brown irresistible, nor is it her impressive list of achievements.
As an accomplished mental health professional, thriving business owner, published author, and mother of two, Ms. Brown's most alluring quality is one that not too many people possess these days - an uplifting and bold transparency.
In fact, it is her positive openness that has helped her writing career flourish.
Her latest book, Secrets of a Crazy Mental Health Counselor, chronicles her journey as a young woman forging a career in one of the most challenging helping professions in existence.
Tell me about your journey and what led you to become a mental health counselor.
It started in 2003. My family had a family care group home for adults. I was involved, helping out when I could. I would visit the group home and I would ask my family questions like, "Why do you want to do this?" From that, I learned that in order to be in the mental health profession you have to have a genuine love for people.
Also, my sister was born with a brain tumor which resulted in the left part of her face being deformed. Just being immersed in the healthcare arena and (because of my sister) being at the hospital all the time, I naturally started out working with adults and children.
I began with an Associate's degree. I wasn't too fond of college. But, with that being said, I continued on and questioned my supervisors. I always asked a lot of questions. I wanted to be them one day. So, I continued on with my education. I completed my graduate studies online, which was perfect because it gave me the opportunity to become an entrepreneur during that time.
When I started my education, I was confused. I went through the nursing courses, and I knew this wasn't my future. I couldn't see myself being a nurse. I wanted to problem-solve and help people figure out how to live better lives. I wanted to understand people's mindsets.
As a mental health professional, you change the lives of your clients. How have your clients impacted your life?
My mom died last year in June from cancer. My best friend also died last year of cancer in May. Then, I had a director who died last November, also from cancer. The year before, in December, my grandmother died of cancer. Watching them go away was hard, but I learned that there was a beginning and an end to everything. It helped me understand death better.
My clients have helped me change from being the mouthy young girl I used to be. By working with other people and hearing their stories, I had to have a grasp of what they were sharing with me. I had to truly see them. I knew that if I was going to have any type of impact in them, I had to show them that God is real.
I'm not the same girl I used to be back then. I wanted to change so much so that I could be a role model for adults. Because I knew what I was called to do, I had to change. I couldn't be irresponsible anymore. I had to pick and choose what I could say. I am younger than most of the people I serve, but they've inspired me so much.
I love the fact that you are a girl boss and that you own and operate a mental health facility. What is a typical day like for you at your facility?
As women, we're natural nurturers. Many days are filled with love, tears, compassion, more tears, and pain. In mental health, we are faced with different challenges. That's how people are able to relate to me: I share my stuff with the world. That's what I do in my books. I share my culture, my journey, my tribulations.
Each day for me is not only filled with a challenge, but with problem solving, compassion, empathizing with other people, and helping people navigate through life so they can live their best lives.
You are very open and transparent in your book Secrets of a Crazy Mental Health Counselor. Have you always been an open book (pun intended)?
I have. It depends on the people around me. Some people will judge me. But, once people get to know me, they know I'm authentic. I'm proof that people can change. If I can do it, I know others can.
With Secrets of a Crazy Mental Health Counselor, I wanted to share my story with the world. I have had to learn to balance my personal life with my professional life. With me writing that book, I wanted to share my journey and all the adversities that I had to go through. I don't want any person thinking life would be easy.
What precipitated the transition from mental health worker to author?
I've always been a writer. I've always admired poets like Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. And, I've always listened to the different tones that people have in their writing. Writing has been a form of therapy for me, and also for the people I serve. Sharing my secrets and trials was a relief for me. My hope is that (for anyone who reads my books) that they would see themselves in it.
What inspires you as an author?
I'm going to say looking at different authors and the ways they express themselves. I also get inspired by seeing different people and understanding their cases. I might be inspired to write a book based on one particular client and their issues. I use writing as therapy for me, and I encourage others to do that as well.
Your book, The Day Momma Made Me Dance, presents such a unique and imaginative way of parenting. How did it come about?
When I think of that book, I think about my sister, my daughter, and myself - all of us being so oppositional and defiant, not listening to any rules at home or anywhere else. I decided to write about this little girl who has messed-up concepts.
And one day, her mom has had enough. The whole point of this story was to share not only my childhood, but other little girls' childhoods with the world. I'm hoping other little girls and their families can connect with the story.
It's also controversial, though. Depending on one's culture, background and upbringing, you may or may not enjoy it. The things that I've gone through and all the different ways I've learned to problem-solve are reflected in this book.
How has being a mother influenced your career as a mental health specialist, as well as an author?
They've changed me a whole lot. I see things completely different from when I was a young careless girl. I've had to restrict myself a great deal, like some of the things I do and say, because I know that I'm being a role model for these children.
The moment you have your child, you see the world differently. You become a role model the moment you become a parent. I want my children to look up to me and know that they can do anything they put your minds to. I strive to be a positive role model for them.
Tell us about We Blend Well Together. What was the impetus to write that?
I came from a single parent home. We Blend Well Together centers around a 9-year boy who's confused because he's entered a new family dynamic. He doesn't understand the whole step-mom and step-dad thing. He inquires with his mom about all these new people in his life. His mother sits him down and says, "You have extra support now. You not only have me, but an extended family."
This book focuses heavily on families accepting one another and learning to accept new family dynamics.
I love the title of your newest book A Fat Girl's Confidence. What was the motivation behind this book?
I have truly gone through a journey with my weight. I've developed this confidence in myself and I've managed to work with what I have. In this book, I address all the women who have ever suffered with any type of self-esteem issue. I talk about relaxing and taking a day off. I discuss different self-esteem boosters, different things to do that make us feel beautiful, like the queens we are.
People can give us so much negativity that we actually begin to believe them. We feel like we are nothing, like we're sad and ugly and not worthy. In my book, I discuss various relaxation techniques. I also talk about how important it is to relate to and affirm one another. It's really important to engage in activities that boost self-esteem.
That sounds great! When can we get our hands on your newest book?
I'm thinking of releasing it in January 2019 because people are going to be wanting to lose that holiday weight. But, sadly, what happens when people don't lose that weight? Self-esteem will lower. Self-confidence will go down. That season will be the perfect time for me to promote positive self-talk.
My other project is ready, and it's a book called Mental Health Jungle. It's geared towards anybody who wants to enter into the helping profession. This book will give you an insight into the reality of the mental health field. I talk about my journey and all the struggles I've encountered.
That's why I call it a jungle: It is not an easy job. We are out there in the field dealing with people and their crises, and it's not a simple 9 to 5 profession. We need to take it seriously and get good insight into what mental health is. Mental Health Jungle will address all these things.
If someone were to write a children's book based on your life, what would it be called?
[Laughing] It would be colorful. It would probably be called something like, Oh, Patrice!, or It's Patrice Again! or Why Is She Doing That Again?
When I was a girl, I constantly did anything and everything I wanted to do. Have you ever noticed how children are freer than anyone else in the world? My character would be like Woody the Woodpecker.
[Laughing] Really? Why Woody the Woodpecker?
He was always doing something. He was sneaky, he was always agitating someone. Dennis the Menace, too. I am confident my principal still remembers me to this day. My parents were tired. They felt like they mastered something if I managed to walk across the street.
But, see, that's when I realized I had to show people that I am not who they think I am. That has been what has lifted me up. I've always strived to be different from what others think of me.
I have changed so much. I lead with positivity these days. I love to look at aspects in people lives that aren't perfect because unfortunately, that's what people are striving for: Perfection. But, that's just not attainable. We all have flaws. When I serve people, I say to them, "Don't look to me like I'm a perfect role model. Look at me like someone who has imperfections and challenges too."
That was the whole point of Secrets of a Crazy Mental Health Counselor. So many people hold back their true thoughts and feelings because of fear. I wanted to take off my mask. I was happy to share my personal experiences. I feel like people can relate to you better if you are your true self. I've had the chance to not only grow and change, but build a positive rapport with clients based on the disclosures I've made about my own life.
Patrice Shavone Brown's unabashed authenticity has allowed her to become a successful entrepreneur and author. She has published several books, all flavored with her distinct sense of boldness and poise.
To follow Patrice on her ever-evolving journey, please visit her website at http://BooksByPatrice.com/books.html.
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