Kim Lee-Okonya, LCSW, DSW-S, BD
Mental & Behavioral Health Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Doctorate of Social Work candidate, Birth Doula, Adjunct Professor, Black Maternal Mental Health Advocate, Mom, Daughter, Friend & Wife
I am a DONA International trained birth doula, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). I am a wife and mommy of two. I am a mental and behavioral health therapist with a niche of working with black mothers, from conception, throughout pregnancy, post partum to those with adult children and everywhere in between. I have completed training in Advanced Perinatal Mental Health Psychotherapy and have a certification in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders through Postpartum Support International. I also work with couples whose relationships range from dating, premarital counseling, newly married to seasoned. I own a private mental health practice located in The Suntrust (now Truist) Park area of Atlanta, GA; Life Begins Here Therapeutic & Counseling Services, LLC . I have been a clinical social worker for over 10 years. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and a minor in Child and Family Development from Georgia Southern University. My graduate degree is a Masters in Clinical Social Work from the University of Georgia and I am currently getting my Doctorate in social work from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). I previously was the prenatal HIV high risk Obstetrician social worker within the Family and Youth clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. I primarily worked with pregnant mommies, children and families who were HIV+. I also worked at several other health systems including Wellstar, Southern Crescent Behavioral Health, AbsoluteCARE and Oakhurst Medical.
I was awarded the Contribution to Scholarship Award by the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama’s (Tuscaloosa) Honors Day 2020 for my scholarly work in the Doctorate of Social Work program relating to this topic. My work “Addressing racial disparities among birth outcomes in African American women” was also selected to be presented at the 2020 National Association of Social Workers National Conference. I have been trained as a birth doula through DONA international and have several certifications from Postpartum Support International which has helped to strengthen my skills, abilities and experience in helping mothers and their families. Women have birthed nations and have literally populated this earth since the beginning of time and I know firsthand the importance of taking care of the mother mentally, physically and emotionally as the mother needs to be holistically well in order to adequately care for her baby.
Black mothers face a unique weight as mothers to African American boys and girls alike, as well as being partners/ wives to our Black men. As a trained birth doula, mental health therapist and based on some of the research I have done on black women, mothers specifically, I saw a need to create a safe and nurturing space for black mothers…and from there The Melanated Mommy Tribe was born.
I have a strong unwavering passion for African American mothers. African American women are 12 times more likely to die during childbirth or from pregnancy related causes. This is one of the top health disparities affecting our nation and I am positioning myself to be on the frontlines to help bring awareness and provide support. I have dedicated my doctoral education to addressing this disparity in hopes of joining and educating providers, clients, women, communities and everyone in between on ways to address and eliminate this issue. Furthermore, it was through my own pregnancy and birth experience as well as my journey through motherhood up until this point (as well as those of my friends, family and past clients and patients) that birthed the idea of The Melanated Mommy Tribe a few years ago. The idea was to provide a safe space for African American mothers to discuss the mental impact of motherhood no matter the age of the child/ adult child, etc. and to receive resources and support in attempts to accomplish holistic health and wellness.
My hope is through partnering with others in the community and across the nation we will create a tribe of genuine and authentic love and support full of resources to ensure we remain our healthiest from the inside out. The old saying goes “it takes a village…” and it absolutely does. We need one another to lean on, learn from and celebrate our resilience with as we continue to not just survive but to thrive on this journey of motherhood, because no one can truly understand our unique journey like us. So you and all your friends, aunties, moms, grandmas and every black mommy are invited to come join our tribe!
Love & Light,
Kim LO, LCSW, DSW-S, BD