Whitnee Nicley of Onward Clearing Counseling helps couples clear barriers and setbacks that hinder their sacred relationships. Her unique approach to couples therapy includes both clinically-evidenced modalities and an intuitively-guided approach to wellness. Whitnee understands that in order to treat the relationship dynamic between two people, it helps to have a firm grasp on the inner-relational world within oneself. Her unique approach allows her to work with both the couple as a unit and each separate individual in order to attain a focused understanding of the complete system.
Welcome Whitnee, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, can you introduce yourself to us as a marriage and family therapist?
Thank you so much for having me for the interview. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, which means I have a clinical mental health degree with a focus on family systems theory. This framework focuses predominantly on relational dynamics between people as they navigate through different aspects of themselves. Because of this training and background, I naturally gravitated toward counselling work with couples. I believe that the relationship dynamic between two people has so many unseen intricacies, and the more clarity that a couple has about their dynamic, the more empowered their relationship becomes. As an MFT, I get to use systems theory training, along with other couples theory and holistic intervention techniques, to help clients reach their desired goals.
Can you give us a little back story on your journey so far and how you launched Onward Clearing?
Sure! I’m a military brat. I grew up with a strong, high-achieving mother who provided good examples of empowerment, real-life challenges, hard work, and determination. Living in different places and always meeting new people helped me develop an appreciation for diversity and adaptability at a young age. I learned about people, psychological processes, and the overall human experience by being thrown into the fire. When I first became a therapist, I was still figuring out my therapeutic identity, including my unique approach to treating my clients. It was a years-long journey that led me down a path to understanding my specific gifts.
I sought out different healing modalities for myself that helped me to break through barriers that held me back from my true potential. Ultimately, I found clarity, confidence, and connection with my inner self and my life started to change. My marriage became stronger and more connected, my familial relationships revealed a deeper meaning, and how I approached the world changed completely. As I looked back on my journey, I realised that those things were already within me – I just needed clarity of consciousness to help unlock my best self. This is how the name Onward Clearing Counseling was born. “Clearing” in the name implies that we often have to clear away clutter from previous parts of our lives to make room for the beauty we already have within. As I was worked under other therapists, it became more apparent that I needed to pioneer my own brand of counselling. And this fits right into the theme of honouring myself and paying it forward.
What is a typical day like?
As I arrive in the morning, I always greet our front desk staff to have a little chat and start the day off with good energy. Once I get settled, I almost always start with a cup of coffee, which has become a bit of a ritual for me. From there, I light my candle, turn on my diffuser, and focus on clearing the room of any lingering negative energy from the day before. I’ve realised that all things carry energy, especially a therapy room designed to be a container for emotional trauma. Then I review my notes from previous sessions to refresh my mind on areas of need for my clients. After each session, I do the same. I usually reserve at least an hour for lunch and an additional hour later in the day for administrative responsibilities. I use my lunch to eat, do yoga, drink water, and decompress. The other hour is for returning phone calls, answering emails, setting up schedules, doing research, and billing.
Can you tell us the most rewarding aspect of partnering with couples and individuals to support them on their journey to find clarity and connection?
This is such a hard question to answer concisely. Overall, I feel it a meaningful honour and blessing to be entrusted with guiding our sacred connections. It has been so rewarding to see people unlocking insights within themselves that have been hidden or repressed for a long time. It reminds me of the excitement I feel in my own life when I am validated or I experience a breakthrough. It’s incredible to watch a client’s life or relationship change for the better, and I feel so lucky to have had even a small piece in each change.
Could you give us 3 tips on how we can take an active role in our own relationship and our life towards achieving the fulfilment we have been seeking?
- I would love to! For starters, I would encourage everyone to examine the relationship they have with themselves. This includes the thoughts you keep (especially when you make a mistake), how you treat your body (physically and mentally), and how you act toward others. Scan all of these areas in your life, and if you find something disruptive, you should investigate. For example, maybe you are quick to criticise yourself. Or perhaps you notice you seem to always carry fear. Not to worry, awareness is a first and really important step to making changes. You can start to reprogram your thoughts through thought redirection and building new healthy norms for yourself. With the self-scan technique, you become more aware of the relationship you have with yourself, and you can enlist the help of a therapist or coach if needed.
- My second tip is to look at what tools you already use to maintain awareness, focus, and maintenance with your healing and growth. If you don’t know what these are, know that it’s never too late to implement a self-care toolkit. We all need a set of skills (things you practice) and tools (tangible things you utilise) to support ourselves, particularly in times of crisis. For example, you can train yourself to notice when you’re emotionally overwhelmed, and use breathing exercises to bring down your heart rate. Another common tool is meditation or journaling to help you to better understand your thoughts and emotional triggers. In relationships, it’s especially key that each individual has an awareness and ability to implement these tools and skills for themselves. Realistically, you will get triggered by your partner, often unintentionally. It’s not always enough to assume you can get your partner to change. Using your toolkit is a necessary stop on the road-trip to effective problem-solving.
- My third tip relates to the relationship partner dynamics more specifically. I get asked questions about setting boundaries all the time. Whether you’re already coupled, or on the lookout for a partner, understand that personal boundaries are the bread and butter of life. Start by making a list of your boundaries and why they are meaningful to you. Look at where these boundaries are coming from, and how committed you’ve been to honouring them. If you’re not sure how to acquire the right boundaries for you, a therapist or coach can help. Boundaries are so important because healthy balanced boundaries promote safety and emotional intimacy with your partner.
What support networks do you personally love and recommend for other aspiring therapists out there to become part of?
Psychologytoday.com has a clinician member forum where therapists share insights about treatments, referrals, and office rental space. Also, joining or attending events held by your specific counselling association can be a great way to network and meet like-minded people who are interested in sharing resources. AAMFT has been an incredible resource for me – I was able to seek legal advice and attain CEUs at a discount when I first started.
How are you working on your own personal development?
I focus on my mental, emotional, and physical health and wellness. Taking time to tune into these aspects of oneself is half the battle. I live in a busy world with an enormous serving size of demands to heed. I have learned to keep a community of support around me so I don’t feel like I’m taking on everything alone. Ongoing education and training have been part of maintaining my personal growth and development, as it allows me to stay updated on the needs of my clients and emergent clinical approaches.
One hard lesson in business you have learned so far?
The hardest lesson I’ve learned is to be myself, and when I didn’t know myself or couldn’t find it, it was time to prioritise that need no matter what other professional goals were the subject of my focus at that time. It hasn’t always been easy to stand with the true authenticity of my vision and passion, but I have definitely learned to trust the process. I am so thankful for it!
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
BEYOUROWN means be your own version of you because everyone else is already taken. Be your own boss, be your own woman, be your own mom, wife, friend, teacher, etc. Embrace your power. Everyone has a unique essence and gift to contribute; it’s up to you to unlock that in order to BEYOUROWN.
In which areas are you looking to grow and expand Onward Clearing throughout the rest of 2019?
I’m super excited about the things I have planned. I am getting ready to expand the business by hiring another therapist to join the OCC team, which will enable us to serve more clients. I am also building a framework for a transformational life coaching track, meant for clients who are both highly motivated to meet individual goals and want more flexibility with holistic healing modalities.