Dyonna Wilkerson (Intern Therapist)
Dyonna Wilkerson (she/her) is an intern therapist at the Center for Growth in Philadelphia, PA (6/12/2023-6/5/2024). She is currently working towards her Master's in the Mental Health Counseling program at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). Dyonna strives to create a therapeutic space that is inclusive, welcoming, and fosters growth. At the Center for Growth, Dyonna is interested in supporting individuals with sexual concerns, trauma, anxiety, and depression. She is also interested in working with individuals that show interest in self-identity development, self-esteem building, and boundary setting. Dyonna works with couples, adolescents, and individuals with a focus on marginalized communities. Utilizing a feminist approach, Dyonna works with clients to understand their background and identity in the world. In addition to feminist, narrative, and relational-cultural approaches, Dyonna is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and utilizes these techniques to reduce anxiety and build coping strategies.
Before moving to Philadelphia to complete her bachelor’s degree, Dyonna was raised in rural North Carolina. Dyonna has experiences with the unique landscape of rural communities, and understands that novel dynamics may come from being raised in these spaces.
Prior to enrolling in her master's program, Dyonna completed her bachelor's degree in Psychology at Temple University. In her undergraduate career, Dyonna gained experience in working with African-American Philadelphians above the age of 60. In this work, Dyonna gained insight into the unique experiences of adults over the age of 60, which created a special interest in working with the population. She also understands some of the generational challenges that come along with seeking mental health services as an adult over 60, and works to answer any questions potential clients may have while seeking services. Additionally, Dyonna currently works as a research assistant in a substance abuse clinic, working with clients to further understand how addiction impacts their lives. Working with this population has granted me knowledge of the process of medication-assisted treatment, and some specific concerns of individuals in active addiction. Dyonna brings these experiences into the counseling space to empathize with clients and work to build a sense of empowerment.
Dyonna believes therapy functions to help people feel seen and understood. This includes understanding clients through their social position in the world. She feels learning about how systemic forces affect those in minority populations can provide insight into their mental health. In the therapeutic space, Dyonna encourages clients to consider how their identity is framed through a cultural context and celebrate this identity. Coming from an African-American female background, Dyonna has experience with racial disparities and encourages clients to explore their own relationship with systemic oppression in sessions. This contributes to Dyonna’s feminist approach that centers on understanding how systemic factors negatively impact clients' mental health.
Dyonna encourages clients to examine the many stories that surround their lives. In session, she motivates clients to challenge how they view themselves, and open up to the possibility of new approaches to concerns they are facing. This makes up Dyonna’s view of narrative therapy, and how clients can explore themselves, their relationships to those around them, and problems they are facing.
Along with her feminist and narrative approaches, Dyonna utilizes a relational-cultural perspective. Social relationships play a large role in our lives and can serve as a great source of support. Dyonna encourages clients to explore the impact of social relationships in their lives and how their culture has impacted the development of these relationships. In sessions, clients can take time to reflect on important relationships, and how their cultural context may shape and define their presenting concern.
Dyonna is also trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy. In sessions, Dyonna utilizes interventions to improve understanding about how client’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors impact one another. She works with clients to build successful coping techniques as well as assess how their minority status affects their self-esteem, self-image, and how they view others. Dyonna encourages this by examining the rules that govern clients' lives and how they impact how they interact with the world around them. In tandem with cognitive behavioral therapy, Dyonna takes a multicultural lens, and feels it is important to view thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as things that are impacted by one's cultural identity. In this way, sessions will validate a client's experiences and celebrate their cultural identity, while using interventions to reduce the presenting concerns.
Mental health can be a taboo topic that not all clients or their families are familiar with. In sessions, Dyonna works to demystify mental health and meet her clients where they are. There are many reasons people seek therapy, from looking to solve a specific problem, healing from past trauma, or to strengthen relationships with others. Dyonna encourages questions in session, and feels learning about the process of therapy can be helpful to reach all populations that may be apprehensive about seeking mental health services. This translates to Dyonna’s use of educational sessions, in which clients can learn more about their presenting concerns.
Dyonna identifies as queer and provides gender-affirming and celebratory care to other queer clients. In sessions, it is important to create a therapeutic space that is considerate of the different struggles that accompany queer identities. Along with queer identity, Dyonna believes an intersectional view that takes into account a client's race, gender, and sexuality provide the most insight into how identity forms and the different struggles a client may face. Dyonna works with sexual health concerns, identity exploration, and anxiety related to queer identity. She meets clients with compassion and is honored to be a part of this stage in a client's life.
Therapy with Adolescents
Adolescence can be a turbulent time for teenagers and families. Concerns around puberty, peer relationships, and dysregulated mood are all topics that Dyonna views as common reasons to seek mental health services. In sessions, Dyonna works with adolescents and their families to navigate these concerns with a judgment free approach. Sessions can be a space where adolescents learn effective boundary-setting and explore their relationship to themselves and their growing responsibilities. Dyonna welcomes families to attend sessions in order to gain a deeper understanding of the family context in order to effectively engage with the adolescent.
While working with couples, Dyonna feels it is important to explore expectations, boundaries, and views of the relationship. In sessions, clients can feel empowered to explore their identities as individuals, and members of a relationship. This can work to address presenting concerns and consider intentionality in relationships. Utilizing a feminist approach, Dyonna encourages members in a relationship to explore cultural influences on their views and expectations of a romantic relationship. Dyonna welcomes queer and non-monogamous/polyamourous couples in sessions.
Sexuality is a spectrum that is expressed differently across various populations. Coming into therapy with sexual concerns can be nerve-wracking, especially because in our society, we are often encouraged to view sex as a shameful act that can create feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and avoidance of the topic overall. Dyonna strives to provide an open space to talk about sex that also takes clients multiple cultural identities into account. This includes taking a gender-affirming and trauma-informed stance when considering sexual concerns. Dyonna focuses on providing an inclusive and diverse approach when considering issues such as: sexual discomfort, sex-based disorders, growth in sexual confidence, and exploration of sexual identity.
Outside of counseling, Dyonna enjoys live music, reading romance novels, and hanging out with her cat, Smudge. In her free time, Dyonna can be found attending a trivia night or shopping at her local farmers market.
- Pennsylvania: currently working towards her Masters in the Mental Health Counseling
- New Jersey: currently working towards her Masters in the Mental Health Counseling
Dyonna Wilkerson (Intern Therapist)’s Latest TIPs:
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Finding Social Support as a Queer Teenager
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How to Navigate Stress as a Queer Teenager
How to Navigate Stress as a Queer Teenager
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