The ‘Believer’ Rebuilds Lives Through Counseling
Kanye West’s song Come to Life begins with “My soul cries out Hallelujah, and I thank God for saving me.” Shantelle Jacobs relates to the lyrics as a believer, not just in her ability to lead her fledgling business, Pure Mind Counseling & Wellness, but in the power of God to show her his plan for her life.
Shantelle’s beliefs keep her on a path of service like a train on the tracks. She doesn’t want to be a perfectionist because the licensed counselor knows the illusion of perfection can be the enemy and make life heavy. With this knowledge, she is intent on saving us from ourselves.
Falling short of a perceived ideal can lead to heartbreak, pain, and suffering on a path of self-destruction. In the illuminating book Just Mercy, a story of justice and redemption, Bryan Stevenson wrote, “We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.” Shantelle has witnessed this first-hand, with 19 years in the field of behavioral health.
The World Atlas reports that there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world today, with 230 million living in the US. Believers, as they are called, are regular people. Shantelle watches television, scrolls through social media, enjoys traveling and peonies, loves pralines, and often cooks outside with her family. There’s just one difference between her and the nonbelievers; her favorite book is the bible.
Weather Girl Takes a Detour
“My major when I first went to college was atmospheric science. I was very interested in the research aspect of weather,” Shantelle says. As a pastor’s daughter, her parents played a big role in “preparing and planning” her future. They were so involved that when she was in high school, her father was able to arrange a meeting with Carl Arredondo, a 28-year veteran of the Eyewitness News Team at WWL in New Orleans.
People always came to me for help.
Carl began at WWL-TV in 1991 after a stint as an on-camera meteorologist on The Weather Channel. That was when Shantelle was able to talk to Carl. She says, “That was pretty cool being in high school and having the ability to do that.” When she got to college, she realized that a lot of her atmospheric science major had less to do with the weather than with computers and programming, which wasn’t her “bailiwick.”
In 1998, she completed a placement test at the counseling center at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) and it indicated that counseling would be a good fit. She recalled, “People always came to me for help,” which led her to change her major. In 2002, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and followed that up in 2004 with a master’s degree in psychological counseling at Nicholls State University.
Shantelle, now 42, knows that college was good for her. She overcame her fear of public speaking in graduate school. She met Jason, her husband, as an undergraduate—their wedding song was Never Felt This Way by Brian McKnight. Their relationship would endure when Shantelle became sick at ULM.
Shantelle was fatigued and lacked energy. She bounced from doctor to doctor like a tennis ball hit by Serena Williams. One doctor thought it was depression. That wasn’t it. She kept bouncing from one doctor to another until she came across a Christian doctor. He discovered she had a sinus problem from an old softball injury, when she was hit in the nose with the ball.
Shantelle said, “They had to do five procedures in one.” During the procedure, the doctor discovered polyps in her brain. Had the surgery not been done, the polyps could have led to her death one day in the future. After the surgery, she felt better; her energy returned.
This experience proved to her that bad things have silver linings, like the lyrics in Kanye’s West song, “Come to Life”:
Floating on a silver lining (in the name of Jesus)
Yeah, you know where to find me, riding on a silver lining.
And my God won’t deny me, tell the Devil, “Get behind me”
God spoke to me and told me to start a business.
Demand for Mental Health
According to IBISWorld, the behavioral therapist industry is estimated to be $9.2 billion in 2022. Pure Mind Counseling & Wellness, based in Louisiana, celebrated its one-year anniversary in February.
Shantelle says, “God spoke to me and told me to start a business” focused on mental health. Her practice specializes in anxiety, low self-esteem, trauma, depression, grief, romantic relationships, and spiritual issues for teenagers to adults. The business serves believers and nonbelievers.
Booking an appointment with a therapist has become more difficult. A New York Times story, “Mental Health Providers Are Busier Than Ever. Here’s How to Find One,” reported that “Nine out of 10 therapists said the number of people seeking care was on the rise.”
A February Senate committee hearing regarding the mental health and substance abuse problem in America “noted that nearly 130 million Americans live in places with less than one mental health care provider per 30,000 people.”
Finding a therapist is not easy, especially when searching for a culturally competent professional who can relate to issues faced by Blacks and other minority populations. It can feel like trying to win the lottery. Therapy for Black Girls and Psychology Today are options (see more options here.)
The New York Times story reported, “ Studies have shown that mental health treatments can be more effective when a client feels that their therapist values culture.” As her marriage struggled, Dr. Charmain Jackman, a psychologist from Massachusetts, couldn’t find a therapist of color to help. She created the website she was looking for: InnoPsych, which has almost 450 therapists.
“The more you hold in and suppress your feelings over time, it can cause you to experience anxiety and depression because you’re avoiding dealing with what’s happening,” says Shantelle.
“One of the biggest components is getting individuals to understand who they are and where they are,“ says Shantelle. Clients who visit Shantelle are encouraged to talk about their “belief system,” which helps them understand how their thoughts impact them.
A client came to Shantelle struggling. The client said she was in a “dark place,” battling depression, and had experienced betrayal in her life. Shantelle says the client was “struggling and didn’t know if anything could help her.”
The client was able to connect the dots with help and understand her decisions. They talked about her “belief system” and how experiences in her childhood influenced it. She never felt wanted, beautiful, or accepted. Therapy helped her increase her self-esteem. Today she is excelling at work and as a mother; she feels hopeful about the future.
Many factors cause trauma, depression, and low self-esteem. Shantelle states, “It helps to normalize therapy because we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of individuals seeking therapy.” She says there’s a “new pool” of people who never would have gone to therapy. Some clients have stated, “Nobody in my family has been to counseling.”
We have the solutions inside us, says Shantelle. A common technique to get at those solutions is “motivational interviewing,” which is “getting an individual to see that they have a wealth of knowledge on the inside and helping them to tap into it.” She explains, “One of the biggest components is getting individuals to understand who they are and where they are.”
A typical question for clients is to rate their self-esteem on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest. Often clients rank their self-esteem low. Shantelle asks clients, “What would make the score higher?” Responses range from losing weight and finding a good job to the ability to make better decisions. Shantelle states, “It helps them realize that they can do this.”
The more you hold in and suppress your feelings over time, it can cause you to experience anxiety and depression because you’re avoiding dealing with what’s happening.
Shantelle encounters avoidance themes in many of the clients. When clients list things they are avoiding, the list can add up. “That’s why anxiety is so high.” While breathing techniques, meditating, and exercising are helpful, they don’t get to the root issue.
She helps clients to develop action plans. The more they work on the list, the freer they become—the elephant sitting on them disappears. Anxiety is focused on what may happen in the future. “Many times people spend so much time playing out all of these scenarios, they think that the worst will happen and in most cases, it doesn’t,” she says.
The Pastor’s Daughter
Shantelle is the middle child of five. Her brother is the youngest. Born in Los Angeles, she grew up with her brother and younger sister in Kenner, Louisiana, about 12.5 miles northwest of New Orleans. Her two older sisters grew up in California. They would visit frequently. “I love them dearly because we’ve always been close, and they’ve always been supportive,” she says.
Her father is a pastor and owned a funeral home in Kenner. “I’m so grateful to my parents,” says Shantelle. Going into more detail, she states, “I went through that [difficult] phase when I was growing up with strict parents.
Her parents were big on “operating out of excellence” and instilled that value in Shantelle. I didn’t appreciate them when I was younger. They were strict and would always tell me that it was for my own good, and I would understand when I got older.”
One day, she had a sit-down talk with her parents and thanked them for being wonderful parents and “helping me be the woman I am today,“ she says. They taught me not to be afraid. “They taught me to be bold. They taught me to be me.”
Her daughter, Jadin, 14, is in the eighth grade. Shantelle refers to Jadin as a “leader and very smart.” Jadin is taking a ninth-grade English class and is active in sports, where she plays volleyball and is on the track team.
As a mother of a teenager, she knows that developing healthy habits around communication can help her daughter navigate the issues she may face as a girl. Studies have shown that social media can be toxic for young girls. A Wall Street Journal story, “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” reveals that “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board.
I never wanted her to feel like she had to battle anything alone.
She started ‘girl talk’ in elementary school. When Jadin arrived home from school, they would sit on the sofa and talk about what had happened in school. This was a regular thing until her daughter came to her and said, “Mom, I had a bad day. I think we need a ‘girl talk.’” They have talked about faith, peer pressure, and making good decisions.
“That’s something that I incorporated with her when she was very young because I wanted her to feel like she could come to me. She can talk to me,” says Shantelle. “I never wanted her to feel like she had to battle anything alone.”
Shantelle and Jason rewarded Jadin for her excellent grades with a family vacation to Disney World in 2022. They visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. “We had a fantastic time!” she says.
As the conversation winds down, Shantelle says, “Success to me is being obedient to God’s purpose for my life, but also being able to touch lives, impact people’s lives, and show them that life can be better.“ She says, “Life can be beautiful, and you can overcome any challenge that comes your way.”
Shantelle bubbles like a bottle of soda, reflecting on starting her business, “I get to live a life of authenticity now and feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’ve had many jobs, but I knew they weren’t it. I feel like this is it. I love being able to help people when they’re in those most vulnerable moments.”
Anthony Price is an entrepreneur, writer and publisher of Mini Books, concise & inspiring stories for people who are curious about the world.