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Meet Trailblazer Erica Tatum-Sheade

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Tatum-Sheade.

Erica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I first moved to Arizona, I thought it would be temporary and a short adventure. I knew nothing about the state except it was unbelievably hot and the state motto, Ditat Deus (God Enriches). I was attending grad school at Arizona State University for a Masters in Social Work planning to move on to bigger adventures afterwards.

So, in reality, I never really wanted to be a therapist. I knew I wanted to help people but more than the normal “I’m a social worker I help people” sense. I wanted to sit in hard places with people and help them find their way out. I started my career working as a tribal social worker but knew I wanted to do more. My husband opened his private therapy practice in 2011 and when the opportunity to join was presented to me I knew I could make an impact that way. My main focus was on helping my clients combat shame, and when I noticed a rise in female clients dealing with low self-esteem and self-confidence, I started to conduct groups to help empower girls. It was important to me to create a space where they could share their stories and grow from each other.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Finding my place was hard, I moved here with no money, no job and really no plan, just a hope that it would work out. I use the quote “Everything you want is on the other side of fear” with clients often. I often have to remind myself of this when hitting roadblocks in my career. I knew in order to take control of my future and grow to my full potential I needed to be in control. Being a minority (Black and Female) in business is hard sometimes. Even though the social work profession is female dominated, there are still times when my abilities are questioned based on my race or perceived lack of business knowledge. I often sit in rooms with people who don’t look like me, but I know and have to remind myself that I’ve earned my seat at the table just like the person next to me. For young women starting out, I would say keep pushing, know your worth and double it. Every time I run a girls group, I know it’s an honor to stand in front of the group of girls and help them learn and understand their worth. Not every girl/woman is taught that early on.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about your business – what should we know?
I provide individual psychotherapy to children and adolescents, focused on early childhood trauma, anxiety and shame. I created a girls self-esteem/self-confidence curriculum called G.E.M.S. (Girls Empowered, Motivated, and Strong) to help girls learn how to let their inner light shine. The best way to combat shame is to know our truth and own it, and the group was created to make sure every girl who attends leaves with that message.

As a therapist, I tell my clients I have no answers, they have all the answers and my job is to walk beside them on their journey as they work toward finding their true selves.

The thing I’m most proud of is when someone trusts me to walk their journey with them, to be able to sit with someone in their most vulnerable moment and watch as they step out of is the best part of my job.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
My Grandmother- She was a military wife who lived all over the United States and even out of the country. She raised four daughters, often without family support, all of whom are now strong, well educated, and inspirations in their own ways.

As strange as it sounds, my biggest inspiration is my 10-year-old daughter. She’s a feisty, talented, smart, phenomenal girl. Every day, she amazes me with how kind she is and how she never gives up. I often wonder if she knows how beautifully amazing she is as a human being. I strive to be half as strong as she is.

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Image Credit:
Moonlit Dreams Photography

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