Mayi Dixon is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Atlanta, GA, working in private practice as a therapist while also earning her PhD as a doctoral student at Mercer University for Counselor Education and Supervision.
Mayi didn’t always know she wanted to be a counselor though, and her career took her other avenues before she landed at graduate school at Argosy University.
“Growing up, I always loved legal dramas. I’ve probably watched every show dealing with the courts and police. So I majored in Criminal Justice for undergrad, with plans to go to law school,” Mayi said.
After completing her bachelor’s degree and struggling with the LSATs, Mayi decided to shift course toward a different aspect of criminal justice. She became a juvenile probation officer and to gain experience and deepen her understanding of adolescents, she also took a job at an inpatient psychiatric facility for minors.
“These were children who had been severely abused or neglected. My main role was to simply watch over them and keep them safe. They were often violent and volatile. I loved it but it was hard work and I couldn’t keep doing it full time,” Mayi remembers. “From there, I worked at a shelter with kids not quite so severe. But I still felt that it was too physically demanding and risky to carry on once I was pregnant with my daughter.”
To learn more about the risks of burnout when working with high-need populations, check out this other resource on the blog.
A few years passed while Mayi focused on raising her two children. Eventually, her husband asked: “Are you going try again for law school?” She decided she would apply to “some rinky-dink” law school.
“I got a rejection letter. And it didn’t bother me at all. That’s when knew I didn’t really want to go to law school,” recalls Mayi. “I was standing in my living room, looking at my bookshelf with all these books about psychology, social work, counseling. In that moment, I realized I should go to graduate school to become a counselor.”
“When you see a couple, family or individual go from point A to point B it is so rewarding,” she says.
Beyond helping families heal and grow, she sees her work as part of an overall bigger picture, which she is proud to talk about. “If we have healthier families, healthier relationships, that’s an investment in our children. And when we invest in our children, we’ll have a better society and the world will be a better place. . . Yeah, I get on my soapbox!”
One way Mayi helps families build healthy foundations is by offering pre-marital counseling, including a popular one-day group session that engages couples in discussions about finances, values, family roles and more.
Mayi had a supervisor provided for her at her first job at a counseling agency, and she also learned from outside supervisors for play therapy training.
“I had a lot of great experiences with my supervisors. I was really blessed,” she says. “I loved having a place to go where I could ask all my questions. When I graduated, I felt like I had all the information. Then I got my first job and I realized it was just the tip of the iceberg. If they were to teach us everything we needed to know, we’d be in school forever.”
An element of supervision Mayi found really beneficial was when supervisors offered practical information and ideas that could be put into use immediately. Whether a handout or an exercise, she’d love knowing she had an intervention in her back pocket for upcoming sessions.
“I had a supervisor with nearly 40 years of experience and she had a wealth of knowledge. It was priceless,” raves Mayi. “The best advice I got was when she told me ‘Even when we don’t think we’re helping clients, we’re helping them.’ Her wisdom was that we may not get to see the manifestation of our work with them, but it does mean something. We show up.”
That advice helped sustain her through times when she worked with a child who had behavioral issues and was feeling stuck.
“The mom is coming to me and saying every time, once or twice a week, ‘He cursed out the bus driver, he got kicked out of school’ . . . I held onto that advice to remember that all of this work we do adds up to something eventually. They didn’t develop these behaviors overnight, it won’t resolve overnight either.”
Mayi astutely points out that the same is true of couples, individuals and families in all sorts of circumstances.
“I had only one supervisor that wasn’t as great as an experience,” she explains. “It was because we had different modalities. He was more focused on the individual, while I was more systems-based. He was assigned to me by the company.”
Today, Mayi’s top value as a licensed supervisor is the relationship she has with her supervisees.
“It’s important that we’re a good fit,” she says. “And I let them know that there’s no hurt feelings if we aren’t. I encourage them to feel empowered that they have my blessing to move on if needed.”
An example that comes to mind is when Mayi had a supervisee who was working in school counseling. While Mayi has a lot of experience with children, she didn’t have experience in school systems, so it turned out not to be the best match. After a while, the supervisee found a supervision group of all school counselors and Mayi encouraged her to move on.
“Just like in counseling, it’s not about us. It’s about the client. I feel the same way about supervision,” she says. “Some people are damaged by a bad supervisor relationship and I don’t want that to ever happen.”
Mayi aims to emulate the supervisors she respected during her pre-licensure days. She does this by giving realistic, practical advice and careful listening. She also often passes on toys from her large collection after years of play therapy, along with suggestions on how to utilize that toy to engage the child.
She enjoys supervision because she is always focused on the bigger picture of helping the world be a better place. She’s not the lawyer or officer that she admired on the legal dramas she loved, but Mayi knows that her work with supervisees and clients has a ripple effect on her community.
“I learn as much from my clients and my supervisees as they do from me,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing and a blessing to be a counselor.”
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