Wow, when discussing my journey, where do you begin? Life is definitely a journey, and it can be beautiful. I grew up in Philadelphia and was always inspired to be a lawyer. At a young age, I felt as if I wanted to be a Public Defender. I wanted to give people the best legal counsel despite their ability to pay…Life had other plans.
I started college at the greatest HBCU, Lincoln University, where I majored in Criminal Justice. I had to leave college in my junior year, as I found out I would become a young mother very soon. I transferred to the Philadelphia Campus of Alvernia College and began working at the Department of Behavioral Health in their Case Management Unit as an office assistant. That is where I was introduced to Social Services. Intrigued by this new world, I worked and went to school and observed the program participants that I worked with. We were supporting these women with children who were recovering from substance abuse. I listened, and I learned, and a passion inside me began to ignite. I wanted to assist these families—my director at the time seen something in me. Here I was, this young, pregnant college girl that had these zany ideas on how to help these families. He admired my creativity and allowed me to work closely with the Case Managers. My title soon changed to Intensive Case Manager Technician, which had to be the best clinical experience of my life. I was in the front line, had ideas, and wanted to challenge the system and encourage the heart. Somehow Law School got lost in my passion, but the creator knew that I had a purpose much larger than the scales of justice.
After graduating with my Bachelors in Criminal Justice, (Honors; Certification in Juvenile Justice and Awarded Determination of Academic Pursuits), I quickly transitioned to Intensive Case Manager, where I was pulling a caseload of 25 participants that mixed with women with children; and Single Men and Women with Housing Insecurities. I found my knack quickly. I loved my job; I sincerely loved what I did with these individuals who invited me to assist them in their journey. I did so well my director promoted me again to Supervisor of Intensive Case Management Unit. Yup, I became an administrator; no fieldwork, no caseload, my promotion felt like a punishment. Life had some other tricks up its sleeve to test my resilience. At the time, I was young, married at about 24; one sickly son born at 29 weeks’ gestation, and now another son who had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I now became the client that I fought so hard to support. That was the chapter in my life that I call dusk.
It was getting dark, but I refused to let go of the little light that was left. I fought hard for my son; I became my most prominent advocate. Ask me about an IEP, Elwyn, Center for Autism, Speech Therapy, waiting list, Occupational Therapy, Medical Assistance, Mobile Therapist, ask me about any of it. I could do a class; I was there, tired, wanted to cry, and tried to rest, but it was no time. I had to fight for this young black boy, and I could cry later. Now it was time to research, advocate and connect. It came; naturally, I would cry later…but I did pick up a book by Jon Kabat Zinn called "Wherever you go, there you are," which introduced me to a more Eastern Philosophy of living (more on that later.)
As an administrator, I went back to school somehow and graduated with my Masters in Health Administration and Public Health. A dull degree for my dull job of checking charts and living vicariously through my subordinates as they discussed saving lives one day at a time in the field. I missed it! So I would do what any other mother of (now three) with a semi-demanding job, wife, and a son with autism spectrum disorder would do. I went back to Bryn Mawr College and majored in Social Work! Bryn Mawr was excellent, the missing link in my education chain. It ignited my passion for assisting others again, introduced me to the Mental Health Crisis in Philadelphia Prison Population, and actually changed my career path. Shortly after gaining another Master's in Social Service/Social Work and becoming licensed in the state of Pennsylvania, I began working part-time at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility as a Mental Health Social Worker/Evaluator. I learned how to make a concise assessment in minutes because that is what we did. That was our job. Working with inmates taught me so much about the legal system and the inadequacies in our society. It was a teaching experience.
Still, at the Department of Behavioral Health, I transitioned to the Behavioral Health and Justice Related Services Division, where I helped create the first diversionary program for individuals that are arrested with severe mental health issues; from there, I was promoted to a Forensic Supervisor and supervised all partnerships between the Philadelphia Police Department and the Department of Behavioral Health. My sons are now thriving (21 and 16), and my daughter is 14 and cannot put her cell phone down long enough to proofread this for me. Along my journey, I divorced the father of my children (it happens, we are friends) and began practicing the art of meditation and mindfulness daily. I began to learn about manifestation and that our thoughts have power. I learned about breathing and following your breath. I learned that in life, you could decide that today will be heaven or hell, and whatever you decide, you will see exactly that in your reality. Somehow, I manifested and skipped right into the heart of the love of my life and the CFO of my new endeavor, Synchronicity.
In March of 2021, Synchronicity was developed during COVID, as I would hear stories from petrified individuals, and the thoughts in their minds were driving them crazy. The healer in me wanted to assist, and that is how Synchronicity was born. A conversation with my better half, and we decided let's invest in opening therapy services where you can not only provide therapeutic interventions but educate on the power of a person's mind. So, in my practice, I combine mindfulness with meditation, sound therapy, holistic healing, and individual and family therapy. I feel that everything is precisely where it is supposed to be at that moment in time. If you align with Synchronicity, LLC, that is where you are supposed to be, it is Synchronistic, and I love the holistic service we created.
On May 18, 2021, I had one last educational hoop to jump through, and that was passing my clinical exam, which I did on the first try. How? I aligned my thoughts with what I wanted to see in my life. I create my reality every day. I chose to see beauty, I chose to see love, I chose to be happy, and because that is the frequency, I decided to live my life. I welcome anyone on their journey to become one with the divine and enjoy what we are truly meant to see and experience during the short time that we are here on this earth.
Thank you for sharing my experience, and I wish you all the peace and blessings that this life has in store for you on your personal journey.
– Shaakira R. Gillette, LCSW
About Our Guest Contributor
Shaakira is a Licensed Practitioner in the State of Pennsylvania with over twenty years of experience in Behavioral Health. Her passion is connecting the mind, body, and energy experience. With a Dual Master's in Social Work and Public Health, Shaakira is trained to examine the entire person, including family dynamics, socialization, ecology, and environment. Her innovative techniques combine cognitive behavior therapy with mindfulness, reflective activities, metaphysics, and holistic practices. Her prescription is meditation and self-awareness, digging into layers of stored emotions and challenging cognitive distortions and limiting beliefs. In addition, as a Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Shaakira can offer guided hypnosis to facilitate awareness of the subconscious mind.
"Align your thoughts with divine presence, the natural flow of the universe, and your purpose...Synchronicity"
For more information, please feel free to email her at: email@example.com.