Therapist Torri Johnson Practices Mental Wellness For Herself While Helping Others

Torri is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in the State of North Carolina. She's also a National Board Certified Counselor.  In addition to working in private practice, she facilitates groups for clients who are addicted to opioids for a local substance use and mental health agency.  She also offers affordable group therapy and wellness events to clients in the Guilford County area. Torri specializes in mood disorders, women's issues and managing life transitions.

We first met Torri during our (soon to be annual) event, #GirlYouAintCrazy. Torri was one of our panelist discussing mental wellness and how black women are known to put themselves last, which is basically killing us.

Torri Johnson 2nd from the far right

We caught up with Torri recently to see how things were going with her private practice while juggling motherhood.

DL: Torri, we actually didn't officially meet until the #GirlYouAintCrazy event. You had such a welcoming spirit. I could tell that you enjoyed helping people live their best lives. When did you realize you wanted to help people, and become a therapist?

TJ: After high school, I originally went to college to major in Accounting. Shortly after starting college, back in 2006, I dropped out. When I decided to go back to school, six years later, I had experienced more life. I started a domestic violence nonprofit organization in 2008, where I was our Women Empowerment Coordinator. Hosting monthly meetings with a predominately diverse group of African American women and hearing their stories inspired me to go back to college. This time, I majored in Psychology. Throughout my studies, I started to feel called or pulled into therapy. I could not resist it. I completed my bachelor's and decided to answer my calling and enrolled in a Mental Health Counseling master's program.

DL: What is your ultimate vision for the people you counsel?

TJ: Wow, that’s a good question! 90% of what happened to you may not be your fault. In therapy, we process that 90%. I offer validation and empathy. However, in therapy, change happens when we focus on the 10% that has everything to do with you - the client. I believe that life has its shortcomings. Life can be grimey and scary and unfair. People in your life may hurt you. My hope, wish, and prayer for my clients is to restore their confidence, help build up their courage to heal and grow despite their personal histories. There are no safe spaces, only brave spaces. Sometimes, healing may mean doing it afraid and trusting the process.

DL: You have your own practice, Getting to Happy Wellness. How did that come about?

TJ: In short, after moving back to North Carolina from Georgia, I started my practice. Fast forward - running a private practice is tough! Do you hear me!? I had to scale back a little and decided to join a group practice, Whispering Willows Counseling Services. I receive professional mentorship and clinical supervision, which is super important. I've learned so much since joining this practice, and I'm pleased to be working alongside an experienced therapist, a Black woman, who has invested in me personally and professionally and is committed to providing quality, affordable mental health care to our clients. Nikki Caldwell took me under her wings, and I've flown to greater heights ever since. I'm genuinely grateful.

I still use my Facebook page to connect with current and future clients as well as to advocate for mental health across our communities. Getting to Happy Wellness has become an online resource and a way to connect people who are on their journey to happiness with others who are on similar paths. A place where they can share their stories and receive encouragement from a licensed therapist.

DL: I've always wondered how tough it was to be a therapist and even run your own practice. I know we talked about this earlier, you were experiencing a burnout. How did you take care of yourself during that time?

TJ: As a therapist, sometimes, I feel as if I swallow the trauma of my clients. The profession will tell us, "Don't do that! Stay detached." However, if I'm in the room with a client for 50 minutes, and they are opening up to me and sharing their stories, how do I not feel them? I'm human. I haven't met one person that has not experienced trauma or some sort. When I'm working with my clients, I connect. I'm with them. And yes, it was burning me out. I decided that I needed to establish boundaries that are more professional and limit my client caseload. I still have individual clients and accept them on a case-by-case basis. I always offer free consultations. If you're interested in individual therapy, give me a call to see if we will be a good fit for each other.

I've always loved group therapy. The healing power in a group is breathtaking. It's magical. When you bring a group of people together as a collective and discuss topics that connect with everybody, the amount of validation, story-sharing, empathy, support, and sense of community can shift the lives of those in the group. Imagine sharing your story with a group of strangers who listen quietly, without judgment, and say to you, "I get it." It can be transformative.

Additionally, as a therapist, working in groups allows you to focus them on specific life issues versus any and everything. It allows you to "rest" too because usually, the group will become a cohesive unit, and they'll start working together. It's incredible to witness.

DL: Do you have a daily ritual for practicing mental wellness and self care?

TJ: Yes, I had to increase my self-care. Instead of nail days, taking a bath, or reading a good book, I had to make my self-care more spiritual. All those things are very relaxing, and I do them, but I knew my self-care regime was missing something. I needed more, and it needed to come from within. In the mornings, before I start my day, I start a small pot of coffee. I open the blinds in my living room. I sit quietly for 3 minutes, focusing my breath, naming things that I'm grateful for, and then I set my daily intention. While I enjoy my coffee, I turn on some John Coltrane (my sister reintroduced me to Jazz when Morry was born. He loves it, too). Throughout my day, if I ever feel heavy, I recite The Serenity Prayer, and I've done better at turning things over to God - and leaving them there. I've started showing down my pace, too, throughout the day. In the evenings, I work out. Yes, I'm going to the gym and love it. Exercise does help improve mood, clear mental energy, and can boost your confidence.

DL: Oh my God, to relax, and just breathe, I listen to John Coltrane too! And I was actually getting to motherhood. You're a mommy now Congratulations! I was thinking of the event you had, was it after you gave birth; “Raising & Loving Black Men in America. How do you maintain your mental wellness (around this topic) when we know the danger black men face in America?

TJ: Yes! I'm a mommy now. My son, Morry, will be six months old in February. He's terrific, and I love being his mommy. I'm so in love. I had this event while I was pregnant. At some point during my pregnancy, after I found out his gender, I started to feel the pressure, like "I'll have to raise this brown boy in this world... this America, frankly." It scared me. I would become emotional thinking about it. After giving birth, though, my emotions shifted, and I decided that I didn't want to fear for or worry myself. I didn't want to limit my thinking in terms of my ability to raise my son or his ability to rise above the inequalities and disparities that exist. I saw his face moments after he was born and immediately thought, "This baby will grow up, fearless. I'll educate him, I'll think highly of him and all that he will become." Every day, I see my son, I say to him, "You'll grow up and do great things, Morry."

DL: How do you think we can encourage black men to go to therapy?

TJ: This question deserves its own interview. Frankly, a lot of Black women are in therapy because of a Black man. But we're not ready for that conversation. My initial thought was if we, Black women, keep going to therapy to continue bettering ourselves and thus growing in our relationship with our innerself, we can model and normalize the healing power of therapy to the attentive black man. It's true that where the women go the culture goes.

DL: Why do you think people fear going to therapy and/or acknowledging mental illness?

TJ: We've made a lot of progress, and thankfully going to therapy is not as taboo as it used to be, it's "trending" now. I think most people fear to go to therapy because they associate it with "Something is wrong with me" or, "What will so and so think?" Also, the medical model of therapy has some thinking that in therapy, all we do is diagnose or misdiagnose and put folks on medications. However, I practice a more holistic and ecological/systems approach to therapy. Everybody experiences mental health differently, so treatment should be customized with the client in mind.

DL: What advice can you give to someone struggling with a mental illness but is afraid to seek help?

TJ: Therapy is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Try it. Not just one time, two times, three times, keep going and showing up for yourself. Trust and engage in the process. Everybody at some time in their life has asked for help from someone. Everybody, and it's okay. As I mentioned before, sometimes you have to do it afraid. DO IT, ANYWAY. Your healing and recovery are your responsibility, and I firmly believe that most of us are one decision away from a completely different life. Choose you. I tell my clients, "I don't do magic, but in therapy, magical things can happen."

DL: Last thing,How can someone get in touch with you for your services, and where can we follow you.


Or call/ text me directly at (336) 405-7200

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