Phyllis Otera Thomas: Caring for the community with therapy and support

Olayemi Odesanya | 4/25/2019, 10:54 a.m.
The licensed clinical social worker and therapist told the Amsterdam News, “In our culture, we don’t invest in counseling or ...
Black New Yorker Phylis Thomas Contributed

“What made me become a therapist was the lack of acknowledgement of  our mental state,” said Phyllis Otera Thomas. The licensed clinical social worker and therapist told the Amsterdam News, “In our culture, we  don’t invest in counseling or even the study of behavioral science. It is either ignored or we look into spirituality to solve our problems.” That, she said, “is great for some people who have found the solutions to their questions, but, for those who don’t, their problems remain unsolved.”

Thomas went to Fordham University and graduated with her masters in 1998. She now holds over 25 years of experience working in this field. The New York born, Harlem residing clinical social worker

decided to mostly focus on addiction, domestic violence and some sort of abuse.  “I became a licensed therapist because I wanted to make a change in my community. I kept seeing same patterns from the generations before us with the new generation. I didn’t like what I saw, so I went to school got my masters, became licensed and now I run my own office.”

Inspirational, and approachable Thomas, LCSW-R, also advises people who have interest in this area of expertise, to make sure that this is something they truly want to do.

“While working in this field, you have to have empathy, be attentive and supportive. You meet so many people and hear so many stories, that sometimes it does become draining. And you have to learn how to separate your work mind, with your own personal mind.”

Navigating that thin line between leading with your heart and going all in; and having all of that passion whilst being able to detach to be objective and self-preserving, Thomas proclaimed, “Going into this field  is very rewarding. There have been numerous times where I haven’t seen the client for years, but they then would come up to me, greet me and tell me how much growth they had since our sessions. And that’s what this whole helping field is about. Being able to make a difference in our communities.”

Thomas said she hopes that one day, she will be able to see more African-Americans in this discipline of work, as well as involvement in their communities. 

“Not only do we need more effective African-Americans in political settings, but also in counseling. Everything ties together, where we may lack in one area it affects others. I always advise that if people aren’t open enough to talk to a professional, people should host interventions sessions with a close friend or relative. Talking about a situation or personal issues, does make you feel better. It’s the feeling of being able to express your emotions without judgment, that sometimes is all you really need.”

Thomas also specializes in couples therapy, depression and anxiety. In these hectic times she encourages anyone who needs to talk to reach out to a professional.

Her offices are located in Harlem and Midtown Manhattan. For more information call 646 322 5206 or contact PTHOMAS75@@NYC.RR.COM.