Dr. Tavari Brown is a counselor supervisor, public health advocate, and mental health therapist specializing in women’s health and wellness issues in Atlanta. Her career journey has taken her from presenting in juvenile detention centers in the California Bay area to working with vulnerable young women in villages of Sub-Saharan Africa. She has held positions at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), worked in private practice and has not only managed cancer wellness centers but has also been integral in opening additional locations to provide more resources and access to care.
Dr. Brown earned a BA in Psychology from UC Berkeley, a Master’s in Public Health Education at NYU, a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Georgia State University and earned her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision with a focus in medical family therapy from Mercer University, where she also now serves as an adjunct professor.
Dr. Brown felt the calling to help those in need from a young age and allowed her passions to drive her career and niche her focus. She wanted a career in both public health education and counseling and through her unique experiences has made that dream a reality.
“I loved doing all this public health work,” Dr. Brown says of her experience working with malaria prevention, “but I was deeply interested in all the behavior-change pieces. Being a public health analyst and public health educator gave me the opportunity to look at the big picture issues, but I also wanted to work on the one-on-one conversation. Like, why are you not sleeping under a bed net?”
She felt this same conflict in working on topics of sexual health, another area she now specializes in.
“From a public health perspective, conversations about HIV are about abstinence or safe sex, but it is the intangible constructs of love and trust where it makes a difference,” she says. “We can teach people. We can empower them. We can show them self-advocacy. But ultimately, there’s the counselor in me that wanted to work with the girls who kept coming back in with STDs, but still weren’t able to introduce condoms into their relationships.”
Dr. Brown eventually left the CDC to earn her MS in Mental Health Counseling at Georgia State. During this time, a close friend’s mother died of cancer. This tragedy opened her eyes to how many of her friends’ parents were dealing with serious illness. Dr. Brown found a population she wanted to help: those facing medical issues, especially women.
“I kept coming in contact with women who didn’t know how to be a patient,” she recalls. “Because they were so used to being the fixer, being strong, being the caretaker, being the mom. They didn’t know how to turn that over to other people.”
She also became intrigued by the so-called “vanity” issues that are impacted when women face health crises: losing their breasts, losing their reproductive organs, losing their hair, experiencing changes in their appearance. As part of her practice, Dr. Brown helps women process those experiences and make peace with the changes happening. She once even helped a client write a eulogy to her breasts.
After over a decade of balancing a part-time private practice caseload with work at the cancer wellness centers, Dr. Brown has moved full-time into private practice. She still focuses on those with chronic illness or in their final stages of life.
As an element of self-care, given the emotional work she does, Dr. Brown started taking aerial silks classes in 2012. She finds parallels between aerial class and therapy: when you’re in class, you have to push past your fears and comfort zone. It’s also, ironically, very grounding, she notes, because it forces the individual to stay in the body.
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As both a practicing supervisor and an adjunct professor, Dr. Brown puts tremendous thought into adult learning styles, methods for supporting new counselors, as well as how to utilize various counseling theories. In Georgia, there is a required certification for telehealth counseling, which Dr. Brown holds. In her private practice, she provides online and video services to clients; supervision through Motivo has become a natural extension to her in-person supervision groups.
She also keenly remembers her own supervision experience. “I was not that thrilled about it,” she says with a laugh. She recalls her feelings of resentment toward paying a supervisor who was very passive. Due to that, Dr. Brown keeps in mind that supervisees are paying and deserve her best effort.
“I make sure to assess each clinician individually,” she says. “And I make sure they are comfortable bringing things to supervision: their cases, their concerns, their questions, their struggles. I don’t want them hiding what they do or don’t know, or being afraid to take risks in supervision.”
Dr. Brown also believes in goal setting. She works with her supervisees to develop at least three goals per quarter to work toward. She finds most are about careers or clients, but she also encourages her supervisees to talk about their own personal growth and development, whether it is to travel or save money. She is collaborative in her approach and finds she also learns from them as well.
“It’s not just me pushing information to them. I love having all the supervisees recommend their favorite books, websites and podcasts, and then I make a list of those for us all to share,” she says. “I see it as cultivating my colleagues. I want them to become my equal so we can one day work together.”
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