#BEYOUROWN MEETS LESLIE GARCIA
Leslie Garcia is a licensed clinical social worker who is a first-generation American, born in New York City to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. With a passion for the mental health and wellness for women entrepreneurs, Leslie created Counseling Space to help women who are struggling behind the scenes with the mental challenges that are often associated with business ownership and professional leadership.
With over 15 years of experience in the mental health field, Leslie is dedicated to changing the conversations we have about mental health and educating others on the importance of preventative mental health and mental wellness plans. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Stony Brook University and Master’s Degree in Social Work at Fordham University including certifications in leadership, cognitive behavioral therapy, and care management. Leslie has worked in settings that allowed her to serve in multiple roles such as a mental health advocate, social worker, consultant, and supervisor. She has extensive experience working with immigrants, chronically ill individuals, social work students and for the World Trade Center 9/11 Responders.
Hey Leslie, what do a typical 24 hours look like for you?
In the morning, I sit near my living room window to absorb the natural sunlight and have a moment of gratitude and visualisation, then just enjoy my breakfast. I truly love the sun. As you can see my logo has the sun. Sun is Life. Afterward, I get ready to head out and of course, I’m always looking for my keys. Then get on the NYC trains and hope to get a seat so I can read or catch up on my emails. However, depending on the day, I can be counselling clients, consulting, supervising, speaking, networking, volunteering, or planning.
Can you tell us how you arrived at where you are now?
Born in New York City to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, I grew up in one of the most intense cities and in a community where the stigma and shame associated with mental health were unprecedented. I knew so many who could benefit from a safe space to identify and share their grief, and pain. I also witnessed the peak of the New York City’s crack cocaine epidemic and how the laws were criminalised mental health. This experience has led me to be an advocate and work with substance abuse offenders who needed to be in treatment instead of jail.
Also while advancing my studies, I was further motivated to stay the course when I also recognised there were few culturally competent mental health professionals of colour. Then, after some years of practicing, I recognised that there was an unfilled need for the emotional and wellness support of women entrepreneurs and professional leaders. The lack of this support is a common reason why many women give up on their dreams to be their own boss. And that’s how Counseling Space and CEO Motions were born.
Through each change in my focus and philosophy, I have worked tirelessly to empower and give clients the support, guidance, and tools needed to take and keep control of their lives. I am dedicated to being part of a movement that is changing the conversations we have about mental health and educating others on the importance of preventative care when it comes to our mental health.
How are you helping women who are struggling behind the scenes with the mental challenges that are often associated with business ownership and professional leadership?
Over a decade of practicing in the mental health field and serving a broad demographic of clients, I recognised that there was an unfulfilled need for the emotional and wellness support of women leaders. I now help women conquer the mental challenges associated with business ownership and professional leadership by teaching a more mindful approach to mental wellness based on the 3 pillars of self-awareness, self-care, and self-development.
Through the triple “A” process of Assessing, Advising and Accountability, I encourage and empower women to be proactive about their well-being. I create a safe space where they can share their struggles with chronic stress, self-doubt, exhaustion and isolation without shame. Some have shared that they feel “emotionally lighter” after sessions. There is also The Wellness Board Room — the only space of its kind providing business therapy for women! In one-on-one sessions, group sessions and more casual meet-ups, we discuss mindfulness, stress management, quality of life, business administration and so much more.
As a network, we share and provide the resources, encouragement, and accountability that ensure personal, professional and financial fulfillment. My goal is that these women work together to prevent mental challenges developing into more serious diagnosable conditions.
Who are the team behind Counselling Space? What does your company structure look like?
We are small, but growing company offering intimate and safe spaces for healing and growth for both clients and employees. I am joined by a licensed social worker, mental health consultant, and small business owner, Minaa B. Finally, we support and are supported, by a dedicated team of virtual assistants and interns and many are all women entrepreneurs or in the process of building their businesses.
How are you planning to expand your services?
As I directed my focus to better serve as a resource to women entrepreneurs and professional leaders, I expanded my vision to reach a diverse group of women both nationally and internationally. I recently launched CEO Motions as space specifically dedicated to helping these amazing women avoid the anticipated physical and mental burnout. We already spoke about The Wellness Board Room and meet-ups earlier; however, we also offer Concierge Wellness Services where we travel to work with our clients, as well as One-on-One and Group Sessions on-site or at a convenient women-owned business location. We are now partnering with various co-working spaces in New York to offer Wellness Check-Ins to their clientele. Plans for Women’s Wellness Retreats in the Caribbean and the Middle East are also underway.
What do you think makes a great clinical social worker?
A number of things come to mind. The essential qualities are patience, resilience, the ability to recognise the strength of each client and provide them with the guidance on how they can be independent, resourceful, and maintain their well-being. No two days or two clients are the same and this means being patient with and adapting to the client, self, and process. Lastly, maintaining a self-care regimen in the midst of it all means that we remain an unwavering resource for those who need us.
What outlets do use to market Counselling Space?
We utilise online marketing and social media heavily. I do prefer and value the in-person network. When you organically establish and nurture community relationships it is often long-lasting and mutually rewarding.
Which methods are you using to build your audience and expand your network?
In addition to utilising the marketing methods mentioned above, I give presentations and collaborate with other women entrepreneurs. I also join significant conversations by participating in podcasts. Recently, I was appointed to chair a suicide committee in my county which will help me grow my network and promote suicide prevention and education.
Which top 3 leading entrepreneurs and leading female pioneers do you also admire and why?
1. Oprah. I admire how she has transformed media and made the platform for others to be recognised and thrive. She also values wellness and highlights it as the main ingredient for success. Oprah is unstoppable while still remaining humble and always giving back. Oprah teaches us that we must evolve including our business.
2. Shonda Rhimes, I’m a big fan of her shows and loved reading her book, Yes of Yes. After reading her book, I was so grateful that she shared her vulnerabilities with the world. Who knew that she struggled with letting go of some of her fears. I have been watching her shows for years and never knew the face of these shows and now I know why. I can relate as a person who rather is behind the scenes of success. Her book is often assigned as homework to my clients and they love it.
3. Beth Diana Smith as I have respect her tenacity as a businesswoman. Her transition from a corporate finance career to full-time entrepreneurship in the vastly different field of interior design is astounding. She was listed as one of Decorative Materials’ Top 50 Interior Designers, and featured in Ebony, Houzz, and Design*Sponge within one year of launching her business! And she seems to do it all with grace and a keen eye for combining wellness and physical space. Also, she sparks the interior design enthusiast in me.