We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer A. McPherson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer A., can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
As a Black, British American woman and the daughter of immigrants, I grew up in a culture in which mental health was taboo. If you experienced anything troublesome or mental health related, you were encouraged to give it God or to ignore it altogether. As I got older, I realized that my traumas including the death of my father when I was 6 years old, parentification, adultification, hypersexulaization at a young age, 2 IPV relationships, and a cancer diagnosis at the age of 26, needed to be address in a different way. However, when I sought help, I had difficulty finding a Black therapist let alone a therapist that would take my insurance and specialize in trauma. Additionally, I was working in very White mental health spaces where BIPOC experiences were ultimately disregarded. As I focused on my own healing, I unearthed everything that I hated about the mental health field and tried to find ways to fix it for my community. I started McPherson Clinical & Consulting Services in 2018 as a part-time, telehealth, solo private practice in the spare bedroom of my apartment. By 2019, I was able to quit my full-time, corporate mental health job and make the practice my full-time job out of a small sublet office in Jenkintown, PA. Word grew quickly about my work and my mission to serve BIPOC individuals and to make therapy accessible for them. In 2020, when the pandemic started, I thought that my practice would not survive but in actuality it exploded almost over night. Between the pandemic and the racial uprisings across the country, the demand for services skyrocketed and I hired my first employee to slowly start the process of expanding to a group practice. Fast forward to today, McPherson Clinical & Consulting Services moved into a larger suite in Wyncote, PA and provides both in-person services and telehealth services across the State of Pennsylvania. There are 4 other therapists in addition to my myself and we are all BIPOC individuals with different specialities. We are still growing and scaling in hopes to meet the needs of the BIPOC community at different intersections of life nand to destigmatize mental health in our communities.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I initially entered undergrad, I had every intention of being Pre-Med. My dream back then was to be a physician but I soon realized that the cost of medical school, residency, etc was out of reach for me a full-time student that also worked full-time to support myself and to help my family. I found Psychology as a major and received my B.A. from Temple University. I went on to graduate school and received my M.S. in Counseling & Clinical Health Psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. I started my career in Community Mental Health managing a specialized residency program while simultaneously working as a Methadone Counselor in order to gain licensure as a LPC in the State of Pennsylvania. During the licensure process, I got sick and was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer which briefly put my career on hold and I had to make some adjustment for my health and my treatment. For a better work/life balance, I found myself working a Behavioral Health Consultant for a for-profit organization in Philadelphia where I worked alongside some of the best medical professionals in the area. I was later recruited to become a Behavioral Health Consultant for a grassroots house calls program that covered 5 counties throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and assisted with the development of the Behavioral Health program. During this time, I was also pursuing my Executive MBA in Healthcare from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as one of the youngest and the first non-physician student in the history of the program. During my time at Saint Joseph’s University and working for a house calls program is when I decided to start McPherson Clinical & Consulting Services. I definitely remember being overwhelmed and tired but I had a goal in mind that meant to benefit me; I wanted it to benefit people that looked like me that needed healing from a Black clinician. There were many long days and even longer nights but my support system always had my back and encouraged me to “keep going”.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I was born and raised in Philly and I’m a foodie. Funny enough, my best friend just returned to Philly after living in California for the past few years and our goal is to reconnect while eating our way through the city. On the weekends, I love an authentic Italian meal at Palizzi Social Club or cocktails with chicken wings and crispy potatoes at Philadelphia Distilling. I’m always up for laughs and I often check out comedy shows at Punch Line Philly or Helium Comedy Club.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Being a Black woman in the mental health field is not always easy. However, I was able to find two organizations to assist me with my journey from working full-time in corporate America to owning my own business. I would not be the therapist that I am today with Deran Young and Black Therapists Rock who assisted me in my training in IFS and The Daring Way. Additionally, the love, knowledge and support of Lisa Savage Phillips from Clinicians of Color added to my skills as a businesswoman and assisted me in getting trained in EMDR.