Taquila Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works full-time at Parkwood Behavioral Health System and part-time at Counseling Associates, LLC, in Olive Branch. Smith’s interest in her field sparked when she was a child.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the behaviors of other people as a kid,” she said.
She spent a lot of time at her uncle’s place, which was a group home. She said while her friends were out playing, she was fostering her passion for helping others there. She would go on to attend Delta State University, earning a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in mental health counseling.
She works mostly with adults, and considers herself an eclectic therapist. While she uses several different types of therapy based on the client’s needs, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), she’s also trained in EMDR therapy –– Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy.
“I feel like a lot of people suffer with their traumas in silence,” she said.
EMDR is an eight-phase psychotherapy treatment that is typically used with trauma victims. These victims may be suffering from PTSD, or experiencing certain events like “flashbacks” and generally reliving moments of trauma and things associated with that trauma, such as images, thoughts or feelings.
“It helps you stop reliving that trauma over and over again every time they think about that trauma,” Smith said. “EMDR is able to help them be like, ‘Okay, that happened to me, that happened to me in the past and I’m okay now.’”
Smith said EMDR works by helping the brain store information properly, taking those traumatic experiences “from the front burner, to the back burner,” while allowing space for individuals to use their own beliefs to better process that disturbing material. This is done by repetitive movements, like shifting one’s eyes to follow a finger, or alternative movements like tapping one’s hands or foot, while simultaneously recalling an event and the thoughts and emotions associated with that moment. Eventually, the therapist will shift their client’s thoughts to more positive events as a way to categorize each trauma.
Aside from clients with a history of trauma, Smith also sees people dealing with other disorders too, like anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, personality disorders and other disorders. While she may use different treatment methods, she starts each session the same: She asks her clients to tell her a “feeling word,” and then bring her “up to speed” on what’s happened since their last session.
“Nine times out of 10, them checking in with that feeling word and them bringing me up to speed on what has happened is going to direct our session, so I never know what I’m going to do that day.”
As her day shifts from session to session, she said the spontaneity is what keeps her excited for her work. That, and her clients.
“I’m a very extroverted person,” she said.
She said her clients are usually extroverted, too; so telehealth appointments due to COVID-19 have presented a challenge in its own rite to her and her clients. Through the pandemic, she’s encouraged her clients and those around her to find new “coping skills that they can utilize inside of their home.” Some people may have coping skills like “shopping, hanging out with friends,” but all of those require leaving the house and socializing, so she encourages her clients to find enjoyable things that offer an escape, all from the comfort and safety of their home.
Smith is currently attending Jackson State University to earn a specialization in psychometry, which will allow her to do psychological assessments, like for ADHD. She will complete the program in May.
A tip from the pros: Taquila Smith encourages practicing positive affirmations every morning. For some, this may look like writing affirmations on a sticky note, and attaching it on the coffee maker, or somewhere visible each morning. In solidarity, Smith practices this herself, and has a note on her bathroom mirror. She encourages at least one note, but the more the merrier.