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Meet Dr. Dionne Bates of Self-SOULstice in Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Dionne Bates.

Dr. Bates, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I always laugh when asked that question because when I started, I never expected my career path to take the direction it has. I was supposed to go to law school. As a child, that’s all I ever knew I was going to be. As a teen, I volunteered in law firms, I was a page in my State Senate, and later I worked in Washington, D.C. as the Lyndon B. Johnson Congressional Intern for the late Honorable Claude Harris (Alabama’s 7th District).

I had all of these really great opportunities and experiences, but as I got closer to graduating from college, I realized that I really did not have a “passion” for law. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t passionate. As a matter of fact, I really didn’t have a passion for anything. It was just another thing that I thought I was “suppose to do.” I graduated from college and two weeks before it was time for me to go to law school, I came to Atlanta to visit friends. At the end of those two weeks, I called my parents and said that I am not going to law school and I am staying in Atlanta. Obviously, they were not happy with me or my decision and tried their best to change my mind. When they saw that my mind was made up, they said, “Okay, figure it out and oh, by the way, we’re cutting you off financially.” Even though I didn’t know what I was going to do, I had a feeling of calm that I never previously experienced and I knew that I made the right decision for me.

The first month I was in Atlanta, I slept on my cousin’s floor (shout out to Andrea Jones-Durr) before moving in with friends. To earn money, I worked briefly as an assistant for the VP of Promotions of a record label and from time to time, I would get work in a recording studio. Wow, that seems like eons ago. I still wasn’t fulfilled. I then got more stable work at Curtis Office Products in Decatur (shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Glen Curtis, Sr.) and got my own place. By this time, I had been in Atlanta about six or seven months. Fast forward about 18 months… I started doing volunteer work with juvenile offenders and realized that I enjoyed working with youth. This led to me working on the adolescent unit of Anchor Hospital (College Park) and then later Hillside Hospital (Midtown). Even though I enjoyed working with kids, I still had not figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

One of my coworkers was in the doctoral program at what used to be Georgia School of Professional Psychology (Dunwoody) and she noticed that I seemed to enjoy my work and, I was pretty good at it. And she asked if I had considered going back to school. She encouraged me to consider GSPP. I looked into the school and saw that they had an intensive weekend Master’s program in Counseling Psychology. So, I figured I would try it out. Shortly before I was to start the program, my father (whom I was extremely close) passed. Despite his transitioning, I decided to start the program anyway. It was one of the worst decisions I ever made. My grades suffered and I was put on academic probation at the end of the first semester. I had very little confidence in myself (I was also grieving and extremely depressed). I decided that I would quit the program rather than waiting for them to put me out.

When I went to the school to withdraw, I ran into the department chair and told her my intentions. She had me come into her office and said, “Had we known that your father passed before the start of the semester, we would have encouraged you to consider waiting to start.” Rather than withdrawing, she encouraged me to take a leave of absence to “get yourself together.” That way, if I didn’t want to come back, no problem. But, if I wanted to come back, I would just appeal the committee. I would have to start the program over, but at least I would be able to resume. So, I took a leave of absence, came back a year later, started the program over, and graduated with a 3.98 GPA. It was during this time that my career passion found me. I knew that I wanted to be a therapist. I knew that I wanted to empower people to heal mentally and emotionally.

Fast forward… after earning my master’s degree, I went straight into a doctoral program to earn a degree in Clinical Psychology. Throughout most of the time, I was in the program, I worked as a psychometrist for the Anxiety and Psychological Center of Georgia (shout out to Dr. David Rush). It was at this time that I knew that I wanted to do private practice. So, after I graduated with my doctorate, I started doing private practice part-time. This was in 2008 and because the economy tanked, my practice tanked before it really got started. I took a job at the Georgia Southern University Counseling Center (shout out to Dr. Jodi Caldwell) and about four years in, the private practice bug bit me again. In 2012, the International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy published the self-affirmation model that I developed – the Self-SOULstice Model of Affirmation. Hence, Self-SOULstice, LLC, was born and I resumed private practice. In 2016, I moved the practice from South Georgia to Marietta, where it has continued to grow.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been smooth in some areas and not so smooth in others, as you can tell by my response to your initial question about how I got started. What I have come to recognize is that this has been more of a journey about me exploring, finding, and accepting myself and the nuances this journey has brought. This has been a journey of me learning to be confident in myself, learning what is true for me, and learning to accept the validity of that truth while being consistent with it. For most of us, this can be challenging. I have not always gotten it right. But, rather than looking at it as “right or wrong,” I learned to view it as a part of the journey.

Please tell us about Self-SOULstice.
My practice is Self-SOULstice, LLC. I am licensed as a professional counselor and I do therapy with individuals (18 and over) and couples. I also do consultations with organizations regarding various mental health issues. The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM) is one of the organizations that Self-SOULstice, LLC provides consultation and I serve as the Senior Mental Health Advisor (shout out to Yolo Akili and the BEAM Team).

Self-SOULstice, LLC, has a very diverse clientele and I assist clients with issues ranging from depression, anxiety, mood disturbance, grief, life transitions, LGBT issues, trauma, etc. My specialty lies in identity development. I utilize the Self-SOULstice Model of Affirmation to guide clients through self-exploration, self-healing, self-affirmation, and self-externalization, in order to help them learn to affirm themselves and others and integrate more consistently their authentic selves into various dimensions of their identities. My work is healing-centered and I am more thankful than proud. I give thanks for the clients who trust me to guide them through their healing process.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
There are so many: persistence, focus, integrity, empathy, humor, confidence… most importantly, gratitude.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Headshots: Hakim Wilson

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