Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Baxter.
Catherine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I actually started my counseling career as a school counselor. When my parents divorced at the age of seven, my brother and I went to see our school counselor in a small group she had created for us and other children of divorcing parents that she called ‘Banana Split.’ I don’t even know what we talked about or what her name was but the fact that she had created a space for us was enough. It was enough to know that she was there and she cared. From then on, I knew I wanted to nurture the same feeling and cultivate a similar space for others.
After college, I worked with a non-profit, Bright Futures ATL, serving inner-city teens as Assistant to the Director, summer camp counselor, and middle school teacher. While their resiliency and optimism were incredible, I often came face-to-face with their mental health struggles and wanted to connect more than surface-level.
It was then that I decided to go back to graduate school and pursue my Master’s degree in Counseling. After three years of courses, practicums, internships, and receiving the Graduate Student of the Year Award (I suppose that probably doesn’t count as a humble brag), I began my career as a school counselor. I spent four years working with students, their families, and school faculty primarily focusing on academic success. On the occasions that students were directed to my office for actual counseling, they were quickly summoned back to their classrooms to return to their schoolwork. I rarely had enough time to do more than offer a listening ear, a tissue, and an emotional band-aid. Not quite what I had in mind when I set out. I often found myself referring students to outside therapists; when they had more time outside the confines of the school day. It was then that I confirmed that I wanted to be one of those therapists.
Luckily, I had a small inkling into this forethought as I completed dual studies in my graduate coursework and experience to study both School Counseling and Community Mental Health. However, I had felt some sense of obligation to do exactly what my school counselor had done for me. After four years of living out that felt-obligation, I was true to myself and left the school setting to refocus on going deeper than that surface-level I was trying to get past.
I went into private practice in May of 2017 and began seeing clients for entire 50-minute sessions. It was thrilling. Over the next number of months, I began narrowing down my client focus. Having worked with children and teens throughout my professional career, I realized that having children of my own filled that yearning in me. I no longer had the desire to work with children in a professional capacity. I decided to pivot and focus primarily on adults. In working with adults, I am able to nurture self-compassion, wholeness, self-acceptance, being in the present moment, connectedness, aliveness, contentment, and joy. All things I desire for myself (and still actively work toward); enabling the connection to be that much more authentic. Finally a few years in, I feel that I’ve found my place.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have the not-so-unique experience of finding myself along the way. Oftentimes people show up in my office because they are checking things off the list but they aren’t feeling fulfilled in some aspect of their life. We begin to experience a feeling termed ‘cognitive dissonance’ in which we experience discomfort when two things aren’t aligned; our passion and our reality, for example. When we are not living out our true passion or purpose, we feel unfulfilled but we are not always sure why. Part of my job entails approaching this mission with curiosity; rather than judgment. It took time for me to carve out what I wanted to do professionally, and even more time to refocus on exactly what I wanted, so I thrive on joining people on their journey to self-exploration and self-fulfillment.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I specialize in self-care, relationships, and life changes; working mostly with the over-scheduled, perfectionistic, high achieving, anxiety-ridden, entrepreneur types. In my work, I emphasize the importance of taking care of oneself, nurturing healthier interpersonal relationships, and navigating life’s transitions to find more enjoyment and engagement with the self and others. My passion is guided by the belief that healing takes place within the bonds formed between client and therapist; that then translates to relationships outside my office walls. My primary focus is on forging trusting, warm, open, and compassionate relationships with my clients.
What sets me apart is my propensity for cursing in one of the first few sessions. Not in a gratuitous, performative way. But in a meaningful, cathartic way. I like to give my clients the full green light from the outset. There is a lot of research behind how healthy using profanity can be, too. Just see here, here, or here for a small sampling. Along the same vein, I want clients to know I’m being my complete raw, unfiltered self as I open the door for them to do the same.
I am most proud of what I do when I get a referral from a past client. When a former client tells a friend, colleague, or family member, “Oh, you have to go see Catherine. She is fantastic.” Literally. No better feeling. Because of those referrals, I now get to grow my business even more as I prepare to bring on associate therapists to my team this fall. My hope is to nurture the same feeling of authenticity in them; allowing them the freedom to show up as who they truly are as well.
What were you like growing up?
My personality can be summed up in that I like a little bit of everything. Interests, foods, hobbies, entertainment, knowledge, music, experience, and style-wise. Growing up, I had quite a lot of interests: cheerleading, service clubs, dance line, studying abroad, soccer, cross country running, and dance team. Foods: if given a choice between this or that, my answer is simple: I want both. Hobbies: I enjoy hiking in the mountains, reading, traveling to new places, satisfying my perfectionism with an efficiently packed car, watching the same movies over and over, listening to every kind of music, watching reality TV, camping, experiencing football in the south, and being immediately gratified by online shopping.
Last on the list of my eclectic dabbling are my knowledge and experience. Knowledge: I have a generally, broad knowledge about most things and a specific knowledge about the very few things I focus my energy on. And I prefer it this way. This means I usually have a good foundation of what my clients do professionally; allowing them to fill in the gaps with what is specific to them. I defer to my clients to be the experts in their lives; respecting the wisdom they bring with them, and am honored to be in a profession that allows me to learn from people everyday. Life experience: I come from a blended family. I grew up as the “baby sister” to two older brothers and then became the older stepsister to four younger stepsisters in high school. I am a single working mother to two boys who love to keep me on my toes. I am a sister, mother, daughter, friend, car singer, chef, volunteer, web designer, yoga enthusiast, boo-boo healer, entrepreneur, and therapist. I like to think that my broad range of life experiences and interests allow me to relate to my clients in a very real, connective, and authentic sense. And that’s what I’m here for, after all.
- 50-minute sessions are $200
- 30-minute sessions are $135
- Address: 2751 Buford Hwy NE, Suite 700
Atlanta, GA 30324
- Website: www.CatherineBaxterLPC.com
- Phone: 678.664.8201
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org