LaToya Smith on The Power of Storytelling | FP 44

LaToya Smith on The Power of Storytelling | FP 44

How can storytelling give you power and peace? What do you need to do to share your story? Does storytelling make a difference in therapy?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens talks to LaToya Smith about how she came to share her story and how she helps others to realize the power in sharing their stories.

Meet LaToya Smith

LaToya Smith

LaToya is the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fortworth Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or the place they became wounded. She encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome.

She has also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal communities through the power of storytelling.

Visit LaToya’s website.

Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Strong Witness Instagram, and Twitter.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Faith and starting a practice
  • Going from a solo practice to a group practice
  • Balancing therapy with admin work
  • Strong Witness
  • Helping people to tell their story
  • Using the power of story as a clinician

Faith and starting a practice

The way things lined up, where I almost didn’t have a choice but to do my own thing, it was just the timing. It wasn’t a coincidence, it was God, you know, just how it worked out. And I needed him to break those things off. … At that point, as ambitious as I am, I still would have been very, very scared. So, he moved things out of the way so that I could move forward with that.

After being laid off from her job towards the end of 2015, LaToya sought guidance from her pastor and an evangelist at her church, both of whom sparked the idea for her to go off on her own and start her own practice. She had never really thought about it but was also never too keen on sitting in an office and seeing one person per hour all of the time, so she decided to start a practice.

She went from being a clinical director at an agency to feeling stuck with nothing to do, to trusting God and using the tools He had given her to put it all together. With God’s help, LaToya was able to create and build it into what it is today; a successful group practice with 5 therapists working alongside her.

Going from a solo practice to a group practice

Right from the start, LaToya never wanted to turn anybody away from her practice, especially those whom she knew she could definitely help, so she found herself working really long hours and feeling absolutely exhausted. At the beginning of 2019, she brought another therapist on board to take over some clients and divide the workload, and then kept building it up piece by piece with more therapists joining the practice as the months went by.

From there, the referrals and appointments kept flowing in, which showed LaToya that she had made the right decision by bringing more therapists on board and that those who were on her team were the right people for the job. Even though she had never really wanted to have a group practice or be in a supervisor or admin role, she believes that God is maturing her and preparing her to work in these different professional capacities and find her new role at the practice. Since she knows what it’s like to wait to bring in help until it’s long overdue, her advice to any therapist is to get someone to join you before it’s too late and you find yourself overwhelmed and burnt out.

Balancing therapy with admin work

Going from a difficult season of unemployment and lack of guidance to running a practice was overwhelming, but LaToya was able to lighten her load by turning it into a group practice and bringing fellow therapists on board throughout the years. She has restructured her workweek so that Fridays are dedicated to admin tasks, but she still feels a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work she has to do which takes away from the time she could be spending with clients. She feels like she should probably hire someone else to whom she can delegate those tasks and then not have such a big burden to carry anymore.

Strong Witness

In the seventh grade, LaToya went through a painful experience and never confronted the person who put her through that. She kept it all bottled up inside and carried that story with her for a very long time, until about 2015 where she was urged by her pastor to write to that person about what had happened to her. She poured the whole story out and sent it, unedited, to that person, and was overcome with a feeling of peace and power.

Nothing was stopping her, and she realized that the more she started to verbalize her story, the more in control she felt, and the more power she was able to draw on from the Holy Spirit to keep telling her story. She began to see the bigger picture in that she needed to help others to find that strength and power in sharing their stories, no matter how deep those stories may be, so she launched Strong Witness, a storytelling platform that allows people to regain their voice, share their story, and connect with other people.

Helping people to tell their story

I like to help people know that their voice does have power, and they don’t have to shy away. You can stand up and speak your truth. This is your story and we’re listening to it.

LaToya has a few guidelines that she uses when helping others to figure out how to share their story:

  • You have to be true to yourself and talk about something that you’re passionate about or something that has affected you in some way.
  • An important part of your storytelling process should be talking about how sharing your story has changed you.
  • Share your story in whatever form works best for you, be that speaking to others, writing it down, writing and sharing something online, creating a video and posting it to social media, or even singing.
  • Lastly, you don’t ever have to share your story if it is still too traumatizing or triggering for you. Make sure you’re ready to share that story or find another story that you are ready to share and get more comfortable with storytelling.

Using the power of story as a clinician

LaToya uses storytelling when she works with clients in her practice and says that it’s more flexible than asking question after question about an experience or a feeling. She encourages her clients to share their stories and use their voice to find that peace and freedom and power that comes from letting go of something they’ve been holding inside of them.

Subscribe to the “Take Back Your Voice” email course

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Whitney Ownens | Build a faith-based practiceWhitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY]:
If you’re looking to connect with other practice owners and learn from the best, I want you to consider attending Killin’It Camp. Killin’It Camp is an exclusive event, hosted by Practice of the Practice, where we bring the community together to start and grow our practices. This event is going to be virtual this year. It’s October 5th through 7th. You can go to the Practice of the Practice website to learn more or go to the show notes so that you can get more information. I will be speaking, along with other private practice owners and consultants, so that we can help you take your practice to the next level.

Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner and private practice consultant. In each week, through a personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow, and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective. I’m going to show you how to have an awesome, faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.

On today’s episode, I’m super pumped to be talking with LaToya Smith. So, when we recorded this episode, I guess it was back in late July. At the time, she was not a part of the Practice of the Practice team as a consultant, but I was hoping that that would happen. She just had so much to offer. And so, since then, she has now joined the team as a consultant on storytelling and the anti-racism movement, and I just think the world of her and you’re gonna hear all that in the podcast episode. And I love how, when we were talking, she just really drew me in with her stories, and you’ll understand when you hear her tell her story, it’ll make you super hungry, just thinking about it makes me hungry. But she just has this ability to tell a story and it makes a huge impact. And so, she’s doing some amazing consulting with Practice of the Practice surrounding how do we incorporate stories into the work that we do with our clients, but also how do we incorporate story into our big ideas. I know so many of you have big ideas surrounding podcasting, or courses, or speaking, or online stuff, and so, LaToya can help you learn how to tell a story, and she’s going to give you some great tips in this episode. I also just believe that she is one of those people that, you just feel God when she talks. I always feel like, when I’m in her presence, or even when I was recording the podcast, it just felt good. It felt good. And I attribute that to the Holy Spirit being involved and being a part of her life in the way that she runs her practice, in the way that she does the work that she does. So, if you don’t know LaToya Smith yet, you need to check her out and you need to listen to this podcast episode to learn more. So, I appreciate you taking the time to let me into your ears and into your hearts, and we’re going to listen to episode number 44, LaToya Smith on the Power of Storytelling.

Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. Today I have with me LaToya Smith. She’s the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fort Worth, Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or at the place where they became wounded. She encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome. LaToya also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal through the power of storytelling. LaToya, thanks for coming on the show today.

[LATOYA]:
Hey, thank you for inviting me. I’m excited.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Good, good. Well, I’m gonna start with a little story, a little sharing here, about just how amazing LaToya is, honestly. She didn’t know I was gonna do this, so it’s okay. I met LaToya at Slow Down School, and that was in July 2019 which, if you haven’t heard of Slow Down School, it’s a week away in mid-upper Michigan, where we slow down, finally, and we work on our practices. And it was a difficult time for me because I was in this time of trying to figure out what I was going to do, if I was going to do this big idea of consulting, and the first night we were there, we had this opportunity to kind of write things down about what our dreams were and what we were scared of, and I was like, “I’m gonna journal a little bit about maybe being a consultant for faith-based practices, but I’m not gonna tell anybody about it. No one’s gonna know.” And I was I was like, “It’s just a journal. No one’s gonna read it.” And so, of course, after that, we get into small groups, and we’re asked, “What is your idea?” And I just remember, LaToya was so kind, but she was also pushing me to actually say it out loud – because I was trying not to say it out loud, because you know, when we say things out loud, it gives them power – and I did, and I said, “I’m thinking about doing this” and she just received it so well and really encouraged me the entire week in what I’m doing right now. And so, that’s to say, for you and the work that you’re doing, thank you, and I’m excited that you’re going to be able to kind of do this with our listeners today.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that story. I do remember it; I remember that outside picnic bench and all that stuff.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh yeah. That was when my life was transformed. And when we were at slowdown school, and we feel this within the counseling world, it’s like, you’ve got to find those faith-based people, like, you gotta have your team. And so, there were a couple of faith-based people, specifically at Slow Down School, and you were one of them that really encouraged me and we were able to kind of talk about the Lord together, and that meant a lot to me.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, I think that’s special. Thank you for bringing that memory up, cuz that was good.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. Well, glad to do it. Glad to think about it. Well, I would love for you to share your story about how you started your practice and kind of a little bit about the faith component that you bring into your practice.

[LATOYA]:
Sure. I started my practice at the end of, I want to say, I have to think about it, 2015, and – I do share this with people – I started it because I got laid off from a job I was with, they just start laying off, like, management and things like that. So, that was, like, late October 2015, and prior to that I had asked two people, one was an evangelist that was at my church at that time and my pastor, and they both, like in two separate conversations, they’re like, “Why don’t you just do your own thing?” And I was like, “You know what, I never thought about that”. I remember being in grad school thinking I would not want to see, you know, sit in the office and see one person per hour, all the time. And then it’s kind of like, you know, you said you don’t want to do things and then God ends up, you know, bringing it right back around, to do what you said you weren’t gonna do.

[WHITNEY]:
Exactly.

[LATOYA]:
And then I started the practice from there in a season that, for most people would have been very low, getting laid off and, you know, I’m not from Texas, but this is where I’m at, and then building it and creating it and then, with God’s help, turning it into what it is now. And so, basically, I started it because, at that point, I had nothing else, you know, I went from being a clinical director at an agency to sitting on my couch, looking out the window, and then I did what I knew how to do in that moment, you know, I didn’t know about consultants then, I didn’t know what was going on, I just did what I’ve seen done in work for years on out. So, yeah, I really started on faith, and just with the tools that God had given me along the way, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll put together what I know”, and it’s been running ever since.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh, I love your story on that.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah. You know, and I tell people I, you know, I didn’t have that help in the beginning, so it was just me for a while. And now I have a group practice, and I just hired another therapist this week so, in total, there’s five therapists with me, and then myself. I think that’s right. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s definitely grown over the years. But yeah, I’m really excited about that. That’s a good feeling. There’s so much more to that story to tell, but that’s a good feeling to know, like, where it started, from sitting on my couch staring out the window to, you know, today where there’s, you know, there’s other people that are with me. It’s a good feeling.

[WHITNEY]:
The importance of storytelling. It brings you back to that place of faith. Like, I think about, hopefully I’m gonna get this right, there’s a Bible thing about the Jewish people, and they were putting the rocks out, and they were supposed to put the rocks out to remember where they come from. And so, kind of, when we share these stories with one another, it reminds me of our rocks in our life, as we kind of grow our practices because, boy, there’s so much stuff that happens where you kind of lose your faith or you’re wondering, “Is this really what God wanted me to do?” And then you got to go back to, “Okay, he made it pretty clear”, like, you just share two people that told you to do it, and nothing else was happening, and so, that’s what God wanted you to do and you got to go back to that.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, exactly. That’s an excellent point, because the way things lined up where I almost didn’t have a choice but to do my own thing, it was just the timing, it wasn’t coincidence, it was God. You know, it was how it worked out. And I needed him to break those things off because, you know, it’s hard for people when they say, “Okay, I’m going to leap out of my full time job with these benefits and jump over here.” So, you know, I know me, at that point, as ambitious as I am, I still would have been very, very scared, and so he moved things out the way so that I could move forward with that. So that’s the exciting part.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, He has a tendency to do that. When I got here to Savannah, I had been working for a behavioral health hospital, it has hospitals all over the nation, so I actually came from that hospital to here, they had a sister hospital, and I was thinking surely they’re gonna hire me. I worked for them for four years, I already know their system, I’m licensed… They could care less about me. Like, I went in with my stuff, I applied online through the, like, inner system of the behavioral health agency, and they never reached out, never seemed too interested, and I reached out to all these other places in town and no one cares. And I was like, “Really?” Like, same for you, it’s like, all these doors were closing, and I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m starting my own practice.”

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, yeah. (inaudible) when opportunities mess up.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh, yeah. Well, tell us a little bit about how you kind of went from a solo practice to a group, and how did you kind of make that decision, and what’s that been like?

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, it was definitely… what I’ve learned is that I did it too late, you know, I started too late, because I worked myself to the point of, like, almost exhaustion, and trying to take on everybody. Because when I started the practice, it was just hard, you know, back again in 2016, the first few months, like, if I had, like, a handful of people in a week, and then I remember sitting where I’m at right now and, just, tears, like, “How am I going to do this?” And then it started building up so rapidly. I started getting exhausted cuz, you know, I’m a person, and I still say this to this day, like, I don’t want to forget, like, humble beginnings and act like I’ve arrived at any time. So, it’s always hard for me to, like, turn people away, especially, like, if they’re fitting, if I know I can be of some help to them. So, then I’m just working these long hours, like, you know, I’m starting early, I’m ending late, and I’m like, “This is just too much. I need help.” And then I brought my first person on at the beginning of 2019 and then, from there, last year, just kept building piece by piece. So, you know, I would definitely say to a therapist, like, “Listen, when it starts, you got to add somebody before you get overwhelmed. And then grow together.” But at that point, like, you know, I just didn’t know. And then from there, like, thank God the referrals keep coming, the phones keep ringing, emails, you know, social media, and people asking questions. I mean, that’s definitely a blessing. And so, I want to keep adding, you know, not just any therapist, but the right therapist on board. Again, I never wanted to do a group practice, you know, having bad experiences of being like, you know, supervisor or admin, I’m thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to do it, you know, I just wanna do this by myself”. So, everything I said I wasn’t gonna do, I find myself starting to do them.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah.

[LATOYA]:
But again, saying that I believe it’s in God’s timing, and I believe he’s maturing me professionally in different areas so that I can take those roles on. And it’s not what I made up in my mind for it to be, but it’s actually the most beautiful thing when you connect with the right people, and you have this team experience, and you’re able to help more people. So, that’s how I built to the group practice. Again, something I never thought that I would want to do, but I love it, and I’m with a great team of therapists. Like, I really appreciate every last one of them.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh, yeah, it is so beautiful when you get that team going. So, that story you shared about kind of sitting in your chair and crying. I mean, you’re working so hard that you care for all these people. I think so many of us have been there. And so, when you decided to start this group, are you working less hours now that you have a group? And do you feel less overwhelmed emotionally, now that you have a group practice? Or is it the same?

[LATOYA]:
That’s a good question. Actually, I’m working a little bit less. I began to block Fridays for, like, admin stuff, but I’m still seeing a good amount of people – that’s why I need to hire somebody else – so, I think, I’m not working as hard as I was, like, running around just, you know, scatterbrained. That’s the good part about it; I can pause, and I can think. I even have, like, an admin person now, you know, who’s wonderful to have in the office that helps with things. It’s very good to delegate, and to delegate to people that you can trust with it, that’s a good feeling because everything else is too much of a burden to carry, like, to have to do everything, it’s just too heavy. And so that part, like, relieving. And I had to learn that along the way, like with Practice of the Practice, and I know, even from your Facebook group, about how to hire the right admin, you know. I remember, somebody asked me that question in the beginning of the year and, you know, those things have helped me. So, definitely the tools I’ve gathered along the way and just not having to carry so much, that’s something that, you know, it just relieves so much because, in the beginning, you don’t know who to ask, you know, when you’re sitting on your couch and you gotta do everything yourself, because I didn’t know, you know? So, now, it’s just a lighter load. And that helps.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, that’s great. And so, I know that you hired Joe and did consulting with him. At what point did you bring in a consultant? How did you know that was what you wanted to do? And, like, did that help you with your practice?

[LATOYA]:
It did. I want to say, too, that was 2018. You know, because, you know, you can surf on the net and you can find different people, or social media and see what’s going on, I want to say I joined at that time, ‘How to Start a Group Practice’ and then, like, a money mindset one, and then from there, that gave me the know-how, like, okay, the courage to start and the right steps to start with. I needed that because I just didn’t know. I mean, I could call somebody and say, “Hey, you want to do it?” but then it’s different if it’s the right person, or certain books to read, or bouncing ideas off of other people. And I’m a person, too, and I guess this comes from, like, being younger and in community, like, neighborhood sports, I do well with teams. I do well when somebody else is kinda pushing me and I don’t want to be the one that shows up and didn’t do, like, if it’s a group project, I don’t wanna be the one who showed up and didn’t do my part. Like, you know, like, I want to push myself hard too, but I also like the idea of bouncing ideas off other people and getting that feedback. I love that space. And so, that really helped me. And then, from there, it’s just taken off.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I’m totally on board with you on that. I mean, I did Master Minds too, and that team effort is what kind of drew me in into doing that. So, for real.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, okay. And so, when we were at slowdown school, we talked about big ideas, and I launched this big idea of doing consulting and then you also launched your big idea of Strong Witness. So, can you share with the audience, what is Strong Witness?

[LATOYA]:
Yes, I would love to share that. So, Strong Witness is a storytelling platform. So, it allows people to share their story, regain the power of their voice, and then connect with other people. And the reason I started Strong Witness is because, for years, you know, I had this story locked up on the inside of me, it was just a painful story. And I was carrying it since seventh grade and, you know, I may share it here and there with some people, but I never truly confronted the person who I had the biggest issue with. And I moved to Texas in 2013, and somewhere along the way, it may have been the beginning – 2015 was a good year, I guess – in the beginning of 2015. My pastor was like, “You know what, why don’t you just write that person?” and I was like, “Okay.” And I sat down one night, and I poured my story out. Like, no edits. I just typed it out and I mailed it off. And then, at that point, I remember, just the idea of the peace that I had, and the power that I felt, knowing what I just did. You know, nobody stopped me. It was just… Man, I felt so good. And I felt so strong. And then, once I did that, I started verbalizing my story more. It’s like, you couldn’t tell me nothing, like I had these superpowers. And then I realized, “Wait a minute, that was that easy? Like, all I had to do was just speak my truth out loud?” And then I’m like, “Oh, no, this is way bigger.” And then that’s when I wanted to start Strong Witness. I don’t remember the first name I came up with, but just the idea in itself, like, I’m a witness, like, this is my experience personally, and then by telling my experience it makes me stronger. Like the word says: “Be you overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of your testimony”. And I feel like, “Okay, once I speak it, it doesn’t have a grip on me anymore.” Like, the weight that I was carrying, again, like, the traumatic effect, once I started talking about it, I got control, you know, by, you know, the Holy Spirit, I got the power to talk about it. And that’s what a strong witness is. So, since that time, I’ve been working to help other people tell their story. Now, some of it is as deep as, you know, the one that I was talking about, but it doesn’t have to be that deep. That’s the other part I try to get people to share, too. Some of it is going to be deep personal stories, and sometimes your story is like the questions you were just asking me, “Why did you start a group practice?” That’s a story in itself. Like, if, you know, if we had the time to just chat all about it, you know, so that’s why I started Strong Witness. And then I connected in the Master Minds group, like, I want to make this bigger because I do want to help more people. And so that’s why I obviously started and that led to, like, Slow Down School and then working on it this past year.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh, I love that you shared that. Thank you. Yeah, and I can just sense that power. I was thinking about that verse, I think it’s in Psalms, about light coming into dark places, like, when we bring our shame out…

[LATOYA]:
Yeah.

[WHITNEY]:
… and we bring that light in, the darkness is gone, and that’s what happened with you. And so, I love this idea of you putting that letter and mailing it off, and then the power you felt after that.

[LATOYA]:
Oh, yeah.

[WHITNEY]:
Sorry for the noise there.

[LATOYA]:
Oh, it’s okay.

[WHITNEY]:
Ambulance going by. But, yes, that’s really awesome. So, can you talk a little bit about, kind of, the work you’re doing now with Strong Witness and what types of, like, your ideal person coming in and, like, how can we get on board in supporting this as clinicians?

[LATOYA]:
Sure. What I do now, a lot of what I get the most feedback on, for a few months now, cuz there’s a Strong Witness Facebook page, and on Thursday nights we would get on there and there would just be different storytelling events. I’d have a certain theme and people would come and share. Or certain months in the beginning of the year, I’d take a theme and, you know, highlight it. I think at the end of 2019 I did, you know, ‘I am Fort Worth’, because my practice is here in Fort Worth, Texas and I’ve had different people, like, either born and raised in Fort Worth or a significant amount of time they grew up here, and just share your story, “What makes you Fort Worth?”. Or Black History Month, I’m making Black History, and they would just share what they’re doing to make history or leave legacy. You know, so we did a little bit of that in different months, whether it be… I think a good part of what we did this year, too, was – because 2020 has been heavy – I talked with some seniors, they told their stories. That was kind of sad, because we think of senior year in high school, everybody is excited about prom, you know, hanging out with your friends, but I had some seniors tell their story like, “I didn’t get to do that, but this was my 2020 experience.” And they loved it and their families loved it and I that’s the part I loved. I love seeing people smile realizing that “I’m using my voice for good. And I’m sharing.” Most recently, last week with the Practice of the Practice, we did the ‘Can You Hear Us?’ storytelling panel and discussion, where there were five black therapists that told their story, especially of dealing with racism, like, personally or professionally, so they were able to use their voice, open up, and to share, you know, and I give people, like, guidelines on how to share but it’s really, if this is, you know, you want to share on something you’re passionate about, obviously, that’s what makes it your story. And that’s what they did, like, whatever the theme, it just has to be true to you and you’ve gotta tell how you’ve been changed by that story. And I think I like to help people see that. We’ve had so many stories on the inside of on, and I don’t think people realize that we are built, born, encouraged, we persevere by way of story, whether it be our own or stories somebody else told us that got us so excited and encouraged to go forward. So, each day, we actually really tell more stories than we think about and we hear more stories than we realize, but, you know, we may just think, “Oh, we just had a conversation” but you just shared a powerful story, and I like to help people craft that. I like to help people know that their voice does have power, and they don’t have to, like, shy away. Like, you can stand up and speak your truth. This is your story, and we’re listening to it.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, so going into that, how do you help people tell their story? Do you have like some tips that you give to people?

[LATOYA]:
Sure. I always say, like I was saying a second ago, share your story in your own way. Because, like, if I got on here right now and I tried to be you, like, it’s not gonna work, you know? I can’t be you, you know, telling my story. And I think, like we’ve mentioned a little bit ago, it wouldn’t be authentic to me. If I was trying to be somebody else and sharing a story. Like, I have to do it in my own way. And I always say, like, “Nobody can beat me at being LaToya Cherie Smith, born out of Mount Holly, New Jersey”, well, I was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, but still. You know what I mean? Like, nobody can beat me at being that person, you know, so I got to be able to use my voice and share my story. That’s why when some people share this story with me, and they’re like, “Well, can I just write it?” Sure, if that’s how you share, I’m not gonna stop you. Just write your story and then I’ll post it. And some people want to do a video. Somebody asked me one time, “Well, can I sing?” Yeah, if that’s how you want to share. So, you share your story in your own way that’s true to you and use your own voice. I always tell people, too, like, if you’re really passionate about a topic, you’re not going to need a script to tell it. Like, when I ask you about the most exciting thing that happened to you this week, if you have to look on paper and read it off the paper, I would be like, “I don’t know if that’s the most exciting thing”, because as soon as I say that, something’s gonna come to your mind and you’re gonna be like, on the edge of your seat telling me what it is. I don’t care if it was, like, the best ice cream cone you ever had, you know. Like, you’re going to tell it with such passion, you know. A few weeks ago I went to this – I don’t even eat Cinnabon – but there’s this, like, vegan Cinnabon place here, and I have not stopped telling that story about how I waited for, like, 30 minutes to get it, I walked it to my car, I’m eating it at the car, and I’m just tearing it up, I’m like, “Yo, go home, because people are walking around, they can see you eating this on the street.” And then I get home and I tear back into it because it was so good. But if I read that off a script, you’re gonna be like, “Was it really that good? Because you haven’t looked up from your paper.” But the fact that I can tell somebody how delicious it was, and it had these berries on it, and this sauce, like, that’s your story. That’s what you’re passionate about. And I tell people, like, paint a vivid picture. Like, I can look at this Cinnabon – it was so warm, the sauce was melting right off of it, man, I love raspberries and the raspberries look so juicy when they were sitting there… and all of a sudden you’re like, “Man, I need to go get me some dessert. I don’t know what it is, but I need to go get it.” Just off the idea of hearing that story. So, you want to paint the vivid picture, and you want to start at the height of your story. Like, if somebody asked me right now like, “How was your day?”, I’m not gonna say, “Well, my alarm went off three times. And then I moved my cell phone, you know, it’s red, right? And it’s cracked. But I moved it over here a little bit…” And they’ll be like, “Okay…” but if I started at the height of my story about, “Oh, man, when I got up, I had this song in my spirit, so I just turned that thing on. And all of a sudden, I’m just, you know, rocking around the kitchen making coffee.” They’re more engaged than me giving the simple details that don’t have anything to do with it. So, you always start at the highest point, and that’s how you pull people in because that’s the part that you’re excited about too. You don’t, you know, if it’s dry to you, it’s going to be dry to somebody else. And then, you always got to know, too, there’s a part in your story that there is some struggle, like any good movie, like, they build the plot up, then there’s this climax in the movie and then all of a sudden, in most movies, there’s an ending that makes sense to, so you know where you want to go. If I know at the end I want you to hear that, “Okay, everybody, I want you to go visit this Cinnabon place.” That’s what I want to take everybody to, from the time I saw the ad on Facebook and I took my car right down – which is exactly what happened – and then I ate it, but at the end, “Listen, I want everybody to visit this place because it really is the best place” but your story does have some struggle in it, and my struggle could have been “Man, I could have I waited 30 minutes and I could have left but I knew that I was committed to this Cinnabon, like, you know what I mean, when I walked into it”, or the story I told about my letter, like, there was so much struggle, the tension, you know, it may have been walking, like, okay, I did type it up, I went and got it printed, took it right to the post office… There was some fear in there when I was like, “Okay, well, let me write out this address” and that wrestling part. So, every story has this part in you where you were changed by it. Every story has this part where, what’s the wrestling part? How were you made different as you tell your story? The transformation process. There has to be that space because that’s what’s important to you. I’m transformed because I did this, I’m transformed because this part happened to me, that’s why it’s significant. And then I always tell people, too, if you’re not ready to tell it, don’t tell it. Like, I can tell my story now, like, years later, like, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the same effect that it had on me when I was in seventh grade, so I can tell it differently at this age, as an adult. But if you’re not ready, then that’s not your story to tell. So, don’t tell a story that’s going to trigger you or traumatize you further, or if you feel like, “Oh, I’m too scared.” Like, that’s just not your story to tell. But we have so many stories, we’re made up of stories. I’m certain you can find another one that’s important to you that you can share. The story I tell now about my practice, I couldn’t tell that the story the same way in the summer of 2016. I was excited to be an entrepreneur, I was excited to work for myself, but, you know, that story had to be built up different, or the story of this level of success. I could have told another time story then, but it wouldn’t be the same. So, you tell you tell a true story, but you also tell the story that you’re ready to tell, and then be able to paint the vivid picture, and there’s a transformation piece to it.

[WHITNEY]:
This is so good. I love it. I’m thinking about lots of things as you share stories, it brings up a lot. You know, you’re talking about the transformational process that happens within us when we share a story, and I was thinking about the transformational process that happens with people when they listen to the story, because as you’re sharing about the Cinnabon, I am feeling hungry, I’m wanting to go there, and I’m being changed. And I know that’s a physical part, but, like, the emotional part, we’re changed when we hear stories. And that place of vulnerability that it takes people to, the one telling it and the one receiving it, vulnerability is so important in our healing.

[LATOYA]:
Right. That’s a really good point because it does, it takes vulnerability to sit there and sometimes it takes courage to listen. That’s why I was so excited last week when we did the ‘Can You Hear Us?’ event and the people that were logged on, and I was really grateful for everybody that sat through it and listened, because some things can be uncomfortable and some things you don’t understand, but how can we connect with each other if we don’t know the story? And I say that a lot, I mean, can you truly know somebody if you don’t know their story? Because if not, we’re doing a whole bunch of guessing, judging, you know, and that’s not fair to either person. But once I sit and I can hear that, I’m like, “Okay, like, now I get it” or “Now I have a greater understanding of you” or “This story helped me to understand where you’re at, even where I’m at”. If you tell a story and I have a hard time hearing it, “Okay, what’s going on with me that I can’t hear that story? Or why does that story make me uncomfortable? And then there is more work to do, whether it be in my heart or what’s going on or all the judgments that I brought into the conversation, you know. There’s a lot to story, and we have to realize what going on in ourselves, and I love the idea that, like you just said, the story affects the speaker and the listener.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah, we’ll have to put the video in the show notes for the ‘Can You Hear Us?’, because I attended it and I was blown away. I mean, those stories… I was feeling sad and angry and all this stuff, like, I felt it in my stomach, you know?

[LATOYA]:
Yeah.

[WHITNEY]:
And yeah, I was changed by it. And not only that, but then I went and shared it with other people and just how story can really be like, you know, setting a forest on fire, you know, through one story.

[LATOYA]:
You’re right, you’re right. I remember one of the ladies on there, I heard her on a different podcast, that’s how I invited her. Thank God for social media where you can just find anybody and ask them a question in Messenger, and I asked her to be a part of it. So, I heard her story, but then to see her tell it, I remember still feeling it different. Again, the power of story. Like, I’m looking at her now, telling the story, and I’m hearing these words again, and I can hear in her voice how it’s still affecting her, and that does have a different take on me, too. Yeah, so, story is powerful. And it still is beautiful at the same time.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah. And so, I’m also thinking clinically, I mean, I’m guessing that you use the power of story when you’re working with your clients?

[LATOYA]:
I do, and I like it, especially building rapport to, you know, making that not as, you know, question by question, “Okay, tell me some about that” or “Tell me about this relationship”, and then I think it also helps them, it frees them up a little bit just to speak, you know, if they’re uncomfortable, if they’re nervous, like, I want to hear about you. Own your piece in it, like, if this is a story that you want to tell, you know, then tell it, then share it, use your voice. And that’s the part, I think we all do it, and I think that’s the part, you know, when clients say to me, “Man, I always feel so much freer when, you know, when we talk.” Because you’ve been holding that story in, you know, you’ve been holding that hostage for so long, and not letting anybody into that space, but when you share your truth as you know it, because it means something to you, when you release it again, it doesn’t have the power over you, because it was silencing your voice. And I think, in life, unfortunately, we’ve all been there when we’ve held things so tight, it’s like this rumbling on the inside of us because we’re not releasing what we’re not meant to hold. We’re not meant to hold everything, and some of it, you know, are the stories that we have locked up. And I know it helps people when they can come – well they can’t come into my office right now, it’s a lot of telehealth – so, across the screen or in the office, and they can release the things that they’ve been carrying for so long. And that’s the power of story.

[WHITNEY]:
So good. So good. So, I looked at your notes here, it sounds like you had a freebie for the audience, on your e-course?

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, the Take Back Your Voice E-Course. I, you know, originally wrote that just for the reason, like, as it sounds, where we felt like, either somebody, you know, I think why I really started that was because it’s like the world is so heavy and noisy. And we know this by, social media, I can post something – especially on Instagram – I post something, as soon as it’s posted somebody else’s post, like, knocks mine down, like, and I’m like, “Okay, I gotta go find my post to put in hashtags in the comment section”. It was just like, okay, and like things are so rapid pace, whether it be especially now, where we’re not doing a lot of in person stuff, so we’re doing a whole bunch of Zoom all the time, a whole bunch, you know, from Twitter to everything. And the world is so fast paced and is noisy and we can feel like our voice doesn’t matter, we can feel like something I said kind of gets, you know, blown away in the wind, and as soon as I say this it’s gone. Or I’ve never had the peace, I’ve never had the space to really share my voice, so now I’m going to take it back. The same thing I did, like, years ago. Now, I’m going to take back my voice. And so, I give people the tools and the steps to begin to know this is the power of your voice, begin to tell your story in your own way or own your words. Don’t let anybody tell your story for you, because, you know, that’s pretty annoying, too, when somebody wants to speak over you and speak for you, and, like, answer all your questions, like, “No, I’mma start talking for myself, thank you. Like, this is my story and I’m gonna own this piece and this is how I’m going to say it.” So, yes, of course, it’s available on AWeber. And hopefully, you know, your audience, too, can just, you know, sign up and go through those steps and begin to share the power in their story.

[WHITNEY]:
Yes, we’ll have it in the show notes. That’s a great course. And so, when people want to get involved, maybe in helping you with Strong Witness or maybe just getting in touch with you, how are ways that we can get involved?

[LATOYA]:
Definitely, you know, on Thursdays, like I mentioned, some Thursdays I post, like, themes and I want people to, I would love it if people want to, you know, jump on, you know, Zoom or just send a video or even write something and share their story. I think therapists in general, like, just like we started off, like, “Why’d you start the group practice?” There’s so many stories around that, from even why we go to grad school, like, remember, like, “Oh, we just want to help people.” And that’s why we went off, but there’s still something behind that as to why we wanted to, like, what’s your ‘why’ behind that? What’s the energy you have? And what makes your heart smile, like, what fills you up? And I think every therapist, even, like, from jumping, like, we talked about from an individual practice solo practice to a group practice, what’s the ‘why’ behind that? And so, I would love to hear that from people. I would love to continue to do, I am going to continue to do different themes on Thursdays, where I have different people come on and just share. You know, sometimes it is going to be deeper and sometimes it’s going to be “What’s the funniest story you heard this summer?” Or, “Tell me a funny story about…” everybody got a mask story now, about wearing your mask, you know, in the car, like, getting to the door having to jump back and get your mask, and like, I realized my mask has… Somebody made it for me and sent it. I looked at it the other day, and it’s, like, tire rims. I’m like, I wouldn’t necessarily pick this, but I’m like, I just thought it was, like, a great design. I’m like, No, these are tire rims. And I don’t know why I would wear a mask with tire rims on it, but it’s what I have right now because the other one, I took it home and I washed it. I’m like, “I gotta order some more masks. I can’t be out here with tire rims.” The colors are great, but it’s just odd, like, you know what I mean? But that in itself is a story.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah.

[LATOYA]:
And now, you know, it’s little things like that. So, I am going to continue to do that on Thursdays, but if anybody wants to check out the Strong Witness Facebook page, it’s just Strong Witness, you can type that in. Emailing me and then going from there, and just, you know, I would love to have volunteers that want to jump up and share more. And I’d love to hear from more therapists, even when it comes to the niche you pick. Like, there’s a story behind that. Nobody pops up with that out of nowhere, just because, you know. When you’re really connected to your passion or your niche, that comes from a certain space. So, there’s a reason where that came from. And I think, you know, my work with therapists, I want to help them begin to do that, to share more of their story, like, their ‘why’ behind it. I think that’s important.

[WHITNEY]:
That’s so good. Yeah. And therapists, we need to be telling more stories. We listen to a lot of stories, but we need to be talking a little bit more.

[LATOYA]:
Exactly. Exactly.

[WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Well, I’m gonna ask you the question I ask every person at the end of the episode, what does every Christian counselor need to know?

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, I love that question. I think it’s important to let the Holy Spirit lead. Even in the practice, you know, especially when you run your own practice, like, when you’re the boss and don’t you have to answer to anybody else, but I know I still have to answer to God and how he leads me, because it’s by Him and His grace that I even have it, that it’s built up from a handful of times per week to the phones constantly ringing, like that’s a blessing. But he still leads me in what I do. And so, even before bringing a person on, or even before making a different move, you know, choosing to move or whatever I do, you know, I take that to Him in prayer. And so, if we’re a faith-based practice, God still has to be in the midst. I mean, I think I’m a good leader, I think I take instructions well, I’ll ask a bunch of people, like, I’ll get on a consulting call or a Master Mind, but I still have to take it to God and leave it there and wait for his response.

[WHITNEY]:
Thank you for sharing, that’s so important. As business owners, it can be kind of lonely, and knowing that we got somebody to order that orders us and shows us what to do is really wonderful.

[LATOYA]:
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for having me.

[WHITNEY]:
Oh, it’s been my pleasure. Hopefully, we can do it again another time because I love the stories that you share and the truth that you bring to the table. So, thank you.

Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an e-mail whitney@practiceofthepractice.com. We’d love to hear from you.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the Practice of the Practice, or the guests, are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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