Meet Chevonna Gaylor who as a therapist supports the healing of broken hearts and spirits. Focusing on specialist areas of trauma, at-risk youths, those who are victims of human trafficking and have relationship concerns and others that are seeking personal growth. As a profound licensed therapist, awe-inspiring speaker and witty author runs her private practice in California and is well known by her moniker ‘Not Your Average Therapist’ for her undeniable loving presence. We chat to the highly sought after speaker about how she strives to change to face the power in mental health and eliminate the stigma associated with seeking therapy.
Hey Chevonna, can you introduce yourself to us and tell us your story?
I’m Chevonna Gaylor, a Christian, wife, mother, Mental Health expert, and advocate. Therapy is my gift and I love sharing it with the world. I grew up in California to teen parents. They were both grappling for their own identities while struggling to navigate parenthood and a budding romance. I was loved, protected and viewed in high regard, which developed me into the ambitious, strong and loving woman that I am today. More of my parent’s story and how it impacted my own journey, can be found in my published book, The Emerging Healer, which has been favorably reviewed by The Therapist magazine and receives significant notoriety. As an Emerging Healer, I partner with individuals towards their emotional healing and progressively emerge in every area of my life, reveling in the journey, not the destination. My life has been filled with significant blessings and achievements, coupled with mistakes and disappointments, yet I feel like my true story is yet to be told.
Can you tell us how you arrived at where you are now?
I arrived at where I am now, through Grace and Mercy – My faith in God is a principle in every area of my life. I believe that by Grace, I’ve been afforded opportunities and privileges that aren’t available to all and I recognize the compassion or mercy shown to me throughout my journey. Thus, I assume the responsibility to extend the same pleasantries to others. My family and friends have always played a significant role in my dreams and achievements. They cheer challenges and don’t allow me to settle for anything less than greatness. Also from trial and error, I’ve failed many times and emerged wiser and stronger on the other side of each fall.
Leaps of faith have also played a big part since I’m a risk-taker and free spirit. I’ve walked away from relationships and careers that appeared beneficial to others but felt like bondage to me. There is a scripture that states, ‘My gift will make room for me.’ I interpret that to mean that my opportunities and resources are limitless if I continue to apply my gifts to the world. So, I jump into new experiences when I feel led to led.
What were the first few steps to becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist?
My path to becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist has been a long windy road. I earned my first degree in California as a single mother. I had my first child when at 17 years old. I attended a prestigious university, but it took me 6 years to earn a 4-year degree, due to balancing motherhood, a troubled relationship, employment, and coursework. When faced with countless struggles, I persisted because I was determined to be an example for my son. Once I moved on my destructive relationship and grew as a woman, I met that man that is now my husband. We blended our families and created a third blessed child together.
As a family, we relocated to a different area of the country to establish a new life together. During this season of our lives, I earned a master’s degree in Counseling and two therapy licenses in the State of Illinois. By this time, we had welcomed our fourth child. That was almost 14 years ago.
Balancing careers and a growing family, while being far away from our support system, was a challenge. So, we returned to our original home in California. Upon return, I learned that neither of my therapy licenses wouldn’t be accepted in California. It was disheartening to hear that I’d be required to start the process all over. I eventually began the painstaking process of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. Although I’ve been a licensed practicing therapist for approximately 14 years, I earned my license in California 3 years ago.
In an over-saturated market of coaches, how are you standing out?
I’m a licensed mental health professional. I’m capable of a shift to a less formal role and offering clinical coaching services virtually, but as a licensed clinician, I’m qualified to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. The arena of coaches is heavily saturated; however Licensed Mental Health Experts are relatively few. Surprisingly, the field of psychology is and has historically been led by older white males. I strive to add diversity to the face of power in mental health. I celebrate al other skilled professionals and coaches while recognising that I stand alone. ‘No one else in the world can fill the space I was created to fill,’ so there is no competition regarding my unique contribution to the world.
Can you tell us about the areas you specialise in?
I specialise in working with the most difficult people and situations. I am especially skilled at connecting with people that are skeptical or resistant the therapy services. I also have an uncanny ability to sit with people that have experienced intense emotional pain and help them find hope. I work with individuals that struggle with communication, relationship or self-esteem issues, but my specialisation is really in the area of trauma.
How are you planning to expand your services?
My desire to be an international trauma specialist, reaching and treating emotional suffering all over the world. Participating in events that promote mental health awareness around the world can support me with achieving this goal. Also, offering services virtually can support my expansion.
The most rewarding moment in your personal life?
The most rewarding moment in my personal life has been finding true love. My husband is my protector, supporter, best friend, and lover. I thank God for our union, the way we lead our family and how our bond has grown over the years.
What do you think makes a great entrepreneur?
My beliefs regarding entrepreneurship may differ from popular opinion. I’ve often heard that commitment, persistence and laser focus on the desired goal are necessary for being a great entrepreneur, but I believe that balance is the most critical quality. I believe that vision and effort, must also include the willingness to care for yourself and do the things that feed your soul. It can be dangerous to allow your business to become your sole purpose and total identity. ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
My ultimate career satisfaction comes from being fully present in a session with someone. It brings me immense pleasure to see and support someone, that’s experienced significant challenges in life, with regaining a sense of hope.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled with the most whilst being an entrepreneur?
I’ve struggled with navigating the business side of being an entrepreneur. Compassion makes me a fantastic therapist but challenges my position as an entrepreneur. It’s been tough being firm regarding business dealings. I often want to lead with my heart, instead of considering my fiscal needs.
Have you ever had a mentor or coach? If so how has this benefitted, you to grow?
I have a health coach that supports me with being aware of my self-care and overall food and fitness needs. I’ve had many mentors that have offered wisdom and guidance in different areas along my journey.
What top 3 outlets do use to market your services?
1.Being an active member of mental health networks
2.Speaking and training on mental health-related topics
3.Online platforms/referral sources: Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Therapy for Black Girls, Melanin and Mental Health, TheraSite, Medium
Which methods are you using to build your audience and expand your network?
Social media, mental health conferences, media
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
The best advice that I’ve ever received was the statement, ‘Marriage is work.’ Surprisingly, I shunned this advice when it was offered prior to my wedding. I believed that my marriage would be solely about love and our love would make it easy. I learned over the years anything of value requires effort, including relationships, personal or professional. My marriage keeps me grounded. Regardless of the impact, I may have on the world, I can never forget to be a contributing partner in our union.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned since building your company?
I learned to be clear about what I am willing and able to give. Setting boundaries around my giving, whether it’s regarding time, energy or resources, prevents me from building resentment or burning out.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I strive to be intentional about the time that I commit to each task or person. I seek to be fully present with each client, my husband, my children, others or myself. I set the intention for the time spent to be meaningful and mutually beneficial.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and leading female pioneers do you also admire and why?
Dr. Monica Wilson who is my friend and mentor. She’s an accomplished mental health professional and world changer. Soul singer, poet, and actress, Jill Scott, because consistently presents as genuine, humble yet extraordinarily gifted and unique. Her poetry and music are sensual, uplifting and pure. Film Director, Ava DuVernay, because she’s breaking down barriers in her industry. She takes risks in her projects; her smile is powerful and soft, and we graduated from the same university.
What YouTube or online space channels are you watching currently?
‘Red Table Talks’ with Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Hyatt, the ‘Therapy for Black Girls’ podcast, and Joyce Meyer ministries podcast
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
‘The Science Of Getting Rich’ by Wallace Wattles, ‘Women, Food and God’ by Geneen Roth and ‘Positive Psychology For Overcoming Depression’ bt Miriam Akhtar.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
I’m currently attempting to gather all my videos and have them in one concise playlist to include my promo videos, MeTyme network mental health briefs, speaking, and interviews.
How do you measure your terms of success?
Success equates to freedom to serve, do and explore.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means fully embracing my unique self, gifts, and flaws, while never being in competition with another, which is why I found it hard to respond to the question about other coaches.
Lastly, what is next for you the rest of throughout 2018?
For the rest of 2018, I will expand my reach and increase my resources, outside of my office and into the world. I was a key presenter at a social justice and mental health conference in Canada In April this year. That experience ignited in me a newfound enthusiasm for reaching the world.
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