The Trap Therapist team got an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Candice Cooper-Lovett, a Buffalo, NY native who is now a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Candice has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University at Buffalo, a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University, and a PhD in Couple and Family Therapy from Drexel University. Read more about her below!
- Dylesia Barner, Founder of Trap Therapist: Tell me more about what you do professionally? (license(s), specialties, target populations, certifications, etc.)
Dr. Candice Cooper-Lovett, Owner of A New Creation Psychotherapy Services, LLC.: I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy, Sex Therapist, and AAMFT Approved Supervisor. I also work as an adjunct professor and own a private practice, A New Creation Psychotherapy Services. And I have a PhD in Couple and Family Therapy! At my practice, I see a wide range of clients, but my specialties are adults recovering from domestic violence and sexual assault, youth who have witnessed DV and community violence, and couples dealing with issues related to infidelity and situational violence. I see both heterosexual and LGBTQ couples.
- DB: Where were you born and raised?
CCL: Buffalo, NY. I grew up on Zenner St. and in an area called ‘Da Wall. It’s in upstate New York about two hours west of Syracuse.
- DB: What were you like growing up?
CCL: I was the oldest child of both of my parents. Shy and quiet with only 1-2 friends. I was a nerd and sort of embarrassed by how smart I was because it isolated me. I remember getting joked on by the students on what my friends and I referred to as the Toilet Roll, because I was always on the Honor Roll.
- DB: What was growing up like?
CCL: There were always shootings and so many people were in and out of jail. I also witnessed domestic violence between my parents – to the point where my dad threatened to kill my mom and she had to go to a shelter for 6 months. We lived with my grandmother during that time and would visit my mom at pre-arranged locations, because we weren’t allowed to know where she stayed because it could jeopardize her safety. When we lived on Zenner St., my grandma only lived about four blocks away from us, and even though her house was still technically in the hood, it was a safe haven, because my grandparents were healthy. They took us to church and shopping.
- DB: What generational curses were present in your family that you had to break to get where you are today?
CCL: Domestic violence, for sure. It started with my great-grandmother. My grandma told me when I became an adult that my great-grandmother killed her husband because he beat her so bad and for so long. We have a rich history of DV in our family and unfortunately some of my cousins are still in violent relationships. Also, drug abuse, low self-esteem and self-worth, and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Anxiety is still something I struggle with from time to time, but tools like therapy, mindfulness, and chakra meditation have drastically decreased its impact on me. I also had a period where I was in a borderline DV relationship. He brought the worse out of me and I learned how much rage I had inside. I had great friends who were honest with me about the relationship’s impact on me because they witnessed me change for the worse because of it. From there on, I knew I had to be more conscious and intentional about who I connected with. Once I committed to that, I realized how hard emotional intimacy was, which was another generational curse I had to break. I was so guarded because of what I witnessed between my parents. I’d stay in the periphery and wouldn’t fully engage emotionally.
- DB: What are three things from your upbringing that inspired you to become a psychotherapist and an entrepreneur?
CCL: My grandmother, because she poured into me and was supportive. And my mom, because she was sacrificial. I watched her and so many other people suffer in silence and knew I wanted to be a helper. When I first started out, I thought entrepreneurship was unattainable, because no one in my family had ever owned a successful business. I would say things like “I don’t want to be a millionaire, I just want to make an impact,” but one time I went to a money conference and the speaker asked me why I couldn’t be a millionaire AND make an impact. That’s when I knew I had to try.
- DB: How does your practice reflect who you are as a clinician and the changes you would like to see like in your area of specialization?
CCL: I find myself using a lot of strength-based language with my clients, which is definitely because of my upbringing and knowing what it’s like to struggle to be optimistic about a situation. I’m also relatable and make people feel comfortable. I teach my clients the difference between post-traumatic growth and resiliency, because a lot of them feel the need to suffer through situations in order to show how strong they are. I’d really love to see DV victims seek therapy immediately after they’re removed from the DV situation, but I’ve noticed that many are separated from their abuser for several years before they do.
- DB: How does being from an urban, low-income area define you? How does it define your approach to treatment?
CCL: It makes me strong, genuine, and street smart. I’m like Mary J Blige with my clients and they appreciate walking their journey with someone who is so soulful and insightful.
- DB: Who was your role model growing up and why?
CCL: I didn’t have a real mentor until my doctorate program. My third grade teacher was great, because she was encouraging, but I didn’t want to be a teacher, so I can’t really say she was my role model.
- DB: What do you believe is the most common reason people from “the trap” stay stuck?
CCL: It’s all they know. And it’s easier. College may not be a visible option, but selling drugs on the corner is, because everyone else is doing it. I think the familiarity and lack of other opportunities keeps us stuck too. A lot of people from the trap that I grew up with felt like they could live the trap life for just long enough to stack up enough money to get out, but something always happened to interfere with that plan and they ended up in jail or something.
- DB: Can you think of a “turning point” in your life that made you who you are today versus who you stereotypically should have become? What was it? And what personal decisions did you have to make to honor the grace it offered you?
CCL: Not necessarily a moment, but a reflection – seeing how others lived when I moved to Syracuse for graduate school. Specifically going home with one of the friends I made and seeing how accomplished her parents were. I never really felt tempted to go the wrong way, but from there I was definitely sold on pursuing the right path.
- DB: What support and/or resources did you use to change the trajectory of your life?
CCL: Student loans, grants, assistantships, and part-time work during college. I was also a McNair Scholar, which is a program from low income first generation college students. Through the program, I got the opportunity to develop my public speaking skills and present at conferences, which was very helpful. I also had a lot of validating professors, such as my doctorate program mentor who I refer to as my “professional mother.” She stressed to me the importance of being an expert in not only my craft, but in myself.
- DB: What is the most significant professional accomplishment you’ve made to date?
CCL: Getting a doctorate. It was not easy at all!
- DB: If you had to sum your childhood up by picking five nostalgia-inducing people, places, or things (can include songs, television shows, movies, etc.), who/where/what would you pick and why?
CCL: Menace II Society, “Project Windows” by Nas, and seeing graffiti, people on corners or broken down houses with boarded windows.
- DB: What is something you still do that can be explained by where you were born/raised?
CCL: Girl, I am embarrassed by this because I have no excuse for why, but right now my glasses are being held together by staples! Haha. When I grew up, it was rare that we were able to get new things, so I’ve learned to hold on to stuff even if it’s raggedy. I also hate when my husband doesn’t use the tissue paper all the way down to the brown – that’s so wasteful! And I refuse to pay for things to get fixed before I try to figure out how to fix it myself.
To learn more about A New Creation Psychotherapy or to keep up with Candice, visit anewcreationpsychotherapy.com, facebook.com/anewcreationpsy, or www.facebook.com/DrCoopLove. You can also follow @DrCan327 on Twitter, @anewcreationpsy or @drcooplove on Instagram.