Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Balumbu-Bennett.
Hi Karen, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I am the product of immigrant parents who migrated from Kinshasa, Congo in the 1980’s. I was born and raised in the Bay Area and at 18 moved to Southern California to attend college. Although I had many interests, I knew that I wanted to be a social worker/psychotherapist probably since the age of 14.
The importance of community care was instilled in me from a really young age. My dad had a nonprofit organization in the Bay Area that focused on raising money to provide computers and other technological devices to school children in Congo. The foundation hosted fundraising events, where ticket holders were entertained with traditional Congolese dance performances, music, art, drum classes and experienced authentic Congolese food. This early childhood experience of working collaboratively to support those less fortunate was indirectly my first introduction into social work and the importance of supporting people in need.
Fast forward to the present. I still value community care and I primarily offer care in the form of psychotherapy. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. My career experience includes working in community mental health agencies, mental health emergency response teams, victims of crime agencies, school systems, and more recently my own private practice specializing in maternal mental health.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. The field of Mental Health is broad, and when you step out to start your own practice, you really have to do some “soul searching” and find your niche. That was hard for me! I had some great experiences working with various populations; however, I couldn’t hone in on what I wanted to specialize in. It wasn’t until I dealt with my own unexpected challenges that I began to narrow in on my calling. For years, I struggled to get pregnant. When I did finally conceive, with the help of IVF, I had a very difficult pregnancy and also had a hard time adjusting to life as a first-time mom (during a pandemic). I found myself struggling to balance working from home, building my practice, caring for my toddler, and trying my best to manage my own wellness. It was tough! But now, I realize that through my pain, I discovered my passion and purpose.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a psychotherapist, I support people presenting with various mental health and/or interpersonal challenges. I do however specialize in Maternal Mental Health and also in supporting people struggling with Fertility Challenges. Part of my role as a therapist is to help my clients understand the importance of prioritizing their mental wellness. I do this by offering trainings, consulting, speaking, as well as individual and group therapy. Some of my group therapy topics include: mom support groups, infertility support groups, work/life balance groups, and more. I emphasize self-care and encourage everyone to incorporate self-care practices into their daily routine. Some of my personal favorite self-care activities include: hiking, yoga, dancing, journaling, resting, volunteering, meditating, praying, singing to late 90’s RnB, and spending time with my family and friends. I live by the motto, “balance over everything”, which is a reminder that when aspects of life are in the correct proportion, overall wellness is more achievable.
Another way that I am trying to support others is by creating ‘self-help’ tools to help educate and promote wellness. For instance, I am currently producing a guided journal intended to support people struggling with Fertility Challenges. I like to think that I didn’t only birth my daughter, but that I also birth focus, purpose, and my guided journal. Some of the topics covered in the journal include: grief associated with fertility challenges, establishing boundaries, receiving support, identifying and processing hard feelings, taking breaks when overwhelmed with trying to conceive, the importance of self-care while trying to conceive, and more. I am really proud of this journal and how it will assist people with processing their emotions while dealing with the ebbs and flows of trying to conceive. This journal is unique, such that, along with incorporating my firsthand-lived experience with fertility challenges and pregnancy loss, I am also a psychotherapist providing psychoeducation, therapeutic tips, and wellness strategies. I truly believe in it and I’m hopeful that the journal will help people create balance in the midst of what can seem to be a lonely chaotic journey.
Stepping into my purpose and building my practice reminds me of my initial introduction to community care. It reminds me of being a young girl dancing to the beat of traditional Congolese drums while raising money for children and families in Congo. I’m reminded that helping just one person allows for that person to be in a position to heal and gain resources. Though my form of community care may be different than that of my late father’s, I’m proud that I carry his passion to do for others.
Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
Yes, there are a few podcasts that I listen to that fill my cup and/or challenge me to be and do better. I enjoy ‘Therapy for Black Girls’ Podcast, ‘The Art of Letting Go’, and ‘Love is JustUs’. In general, I like to read, listen to, or watch anything that has to do with wellness, justice, healing, and growth.
- Individual Therapy $120-$150
- Group Therapy $40 – $60
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.KarenTheTherapist.com
- Instagram: @Karenthetherapist