With more than 20 years of experience in the field of psychology, we’d like to introduce the published author and spirit-filled, Dr. Shanda Smith.
Driven by her purpose to help women discover their true love from within—gaining the spiritual, mental, and emotional wellness needed to live a healthy life—Dr. Smith combines her practical, clinical, and formal education with her faith in God, while supporting those she works with.
Dr. Smith is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in the state of California, serves as an Assistant Professor in the department of Counselor Education and Family Studies at Liberty University, and is the author of Finding Love In All The Right Places. She’s been featured on numerous podcasts, television shows, and has made many radio appearances to share her experience in the world of psychology.
Can you tell us about your path on becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
I actually started as a business major and struggled a bit with lack of passion and purpose. One day I found myself engaged in conversation with a faculty member. During our discussion, they remarked on how I was naturally gifted as a listener. That was my aha moment and later that same day I decided to change my major to psychology.
I went on to complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in marriage and family studies. From there I completed a Doctorate degree in General Psychology, with an emphasis on teaching. Today, I specialize in working with women.
Ultimately, the inspiration behind choosing to be a therapist comes down to wanting to help others learn how to free themselves from whatever may be holding them back. To get unstuck and come out whole on the other side. My own personal wounds and subsequent healing helps me understand what others are going through, and how best to help them.
Can you think of an example from your daily life where you practice what you preach?
Absolutely. How can I encourage someone to do what I’m suggesting they do, if I’m not doing it for myself? The thing is, if I’m not practicing what I preach then that makes me a hypocrite. Which is not okay with me!
Facing my daily fears and choosing to do things that are nerve wracking or scary, helps me to condition myself, in a way, to prepare for the bigger or unexpected challenges that may come. This is something I talk about with my clients all the time: facing one’s fears.
When I’m at a turning point or I’m stuck because of fear, I have this internal dialogue where I tell myself, “Okay, what would you tell your clients to do in this moment?” Truly, facing my fears is one thing I try to practice on a daily basis.
If you hadn’t become a therapist which profession would you have chosen and why?
Before I studied to become a therapist I was taking a lot of dance classes. Everything from ballet, jazz, modern, and some hip hop.
For me, dancing and moving my body is a form of therapy in itself. I find it so freeing and nurturing for my mind, body, and spirit. At one point I did think I wanted to pursue becoming a professional ballroom dancer. I find it so enchanting and beautiful! However, I do believe with all my heart that God wanted me to take a different path—the one I’m on now.
Having said that, I’m happy to say that I still indulge in movement and dance to this day. I take pilates and treat movement as a form of self-care. It truly helps me release and let go, relinquishing the things that I take on while at work.
What’s one thing you’ve learned through your own therapy?
One of the great things about the graduate program I was in is that students were required to complete one year of individual therapy and two years of group therapy. During that time one of the things I learned is that it’s okay to be vulnerable and transparent; it’s important to ‘do the work.’
I couldn’t be a therapist myself and help people like I do, if I hadn’t done my own work first. So, I was very grateful that the university encouraged me to do my own work so that I could unpack my own ‘stuff,’ learning to separate my stuff from my client’s. It ultimately made me a stronger, more focused and empathetic therapist for sure.