Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Dr. Keisha Downey knows a thing a two about the importance of maintaining and building on the vital relationships in our lives. The relationship and mental health expert can even be seen as the Resident Counselor on VH1’s wildly popular series Couple’s Therapy with Dr. Jenn, but before starting her career in this particular field, she had to find her purpose is something that was rooted with her from the beginning. Dr. Downey granted me an exclusive interview where we discussed her stellar career, the importance of understanding yourself, therapy stigmas, and more.
Born and raised in North Chicago back before the doctor title was attached to her name, Keisha Downey grew up in single parent household knowing she always wanted to help people. Downey was the “go to” person people sought out for advice, but even then she didn’t realize her calling.
Jumping ahead, Downey earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Barat College and then got a job working with students. “It was at that time that I realized, this is what I’m suppose to do because I was in charge of enrolling students, but more importantly they received my message of encouragement and it was rewarding for them and I saw how well they took to what I was saying.” After a few years of doing that, she went to earn a Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy from The Alfred Adler School of Professional Psychology, then a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology at Argosy University. It’s been 11 years and counting since she started in her profession.
Insert VH1’s hit series Couple’s Therapy with Dr. Jenn, which completed its sixth season in December and recently announced a new spin off series Family Therapy. Dr. Keisha Downey has served as the Residential Treatment Counselor for the past four seasons and landed that spot from a push from a mentor. “A couple of years ago I had a mentor at the time and she asked me had I heard of the show and my reply was yes. She said that they were interviewing for a resident counselor and I called the appropriate parties. I interviewed with them twice and they hired me to be apart of Dr. Jenn’s treatment team and it’s been a really, really great experience.” Dr. Downey will not be apart of Family Therapy, but she said she knows it’s going to be a great series and is keeping her fingers crossed for Couple’s Therapy season seven.
Being apart of the series has helped expand Dr. Downey’s demographic, but her professional manner as licensed therapist has remained the same although the lines can be blurred sometimes for reality television. “In reality TV, there are certain disclosures that are signed to specify what can and cannot be aired and I feel the producers do their best to abide by this. As a licensed professional, everything is confidential, with the exception of self harm behaviors, so if I am your therapist I cannot disclose any information about any of my clients without proper authorization specifically stating what can be released.”
Although Couple’s Therapy is a popular show and it has brought to light mental health issues people face there’s still a negative cloud around the topic in general that Dr. Downey addresses. “For example, there is a taboo or stigma attached to the African American community, specifically men, where they feel “no one can tell me anything about myself that does not know me’,” Dr. Downey said, further stating, “Another taboo is if a person enters into therapy, then he or she is admitting they have a problem or mental health issue. These taboos are happening more often throughout society in general, but because we are seeing more people receiving treatment on tv, specifically reality tv, it’s helping to educate the masses to understand there is nothing wrong with seeking out mental health service.” Dr. Keisha Downey further says we must “continue to educate” and put “out the resources” to help with mental health stigmas.
When asked about building and maintaining healthy relationships, Dr. Downey gave me some great insight. “I really think that one, it has to start from within. Sometimes people carry baggage into a new relationship and have not worked through the issues or past hurts from previous relationships. Before a person can enter into a relationship, they have to get to know themselves first and more importantly respect themselves, love themselves, and understand their worth. If you love yourself and you understand yourself truly and understand your worth, all that positive energy is there within, hence you are more prone to attracting someone who also has positive energy, positive energy attracts positive energy.”
Great advice right? But wait, she had more to give saying, “I think it’s key to try to get to know one another first. Take your time to understand a person’s likes and dislikes. Understand your role and what the expectations are in a relationship.” Yes, asking those silly questions like what’s your favorite movie, color, food, etc are crucial because “nobody else should be able to tell you something about your mate. You should already know these things.”
Dr. Downey continued, “Once you have developed a really good foundation I think you have to learn how to stay connected and be able to stimulate each other mentally, emotionally, as well as physically just to keep the fire burning and to keep things going.”
With all this great advice on relationships and dealing with mental health, Dr. Downey adds one more tidbit. She said, “For 2016 it’s going to be really important for individuals to take care of themselves from a health perspective by implementing balance. We in today’s society work so hard and there is nothing wrong with this because you have to work hard for what you want in life, but at the same time you have to play just as hard to balance things out to maintain a healthy mind space. It’s so important. I always encourage people to implement balance and if you feel that something is not right seek out the services that you need early on.”
For more information on the services Dr. Downey provides be sure to visit her website at DrKeishaDowney.com and keep up with her on social media @DrKeishaDowney on Twitter and Instagram.
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Photo credit: Aaron Lacy