Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Coats.
Melissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I consider myself fortunate that from a young age I was able to identify my passion. My journey to becoming a psychotherapist started with inspiration from my mother. She would consistently remind me that the people around me had a story worth hearing, and to be curious, not judgmental about others’ experiences. We traveled together. Despite the fact that she was a single mother working four jobs, she somehow managed to find the time, energy, and resources to introduce me to a world full of vibrant and amazing people. I became fascinated by the stories I heard, lessons I learned, and the resilience of the human spirit.
By the time I was in high school I knew that I wanted to be a therapist. After a long journey, I graduated with my degree in Professional Counseling from the University of Georgia in 2013. Since then, I have been in private practice right from the start and I have loved being the person that people trust to hold their innermost thoughts and feelings with them. I have moved from Atlanta to Jacksonville Beach to Las Vegas and back home again. My journey has come full circle in a sense since my practice, Coats Counseling is now located in Alpharetta, my hometown.
Has it been a smooth road?
I wish I could say it was all butterflies and rainbows! But of course, there have been challenges along the way. Every entrepreneur knows the pains and triumphs of creating a business you are passionate about and making that business functional and successful. It is definitely more than a full-time job! But we all have our own struggles that make us and our businesses what they are.
I usually joke with my clients that most therapists did not get into this job because we have had super perfect, stellar experiences our whole lives. But it is true. Being a therapist for me often means that I get to use what I have learned from my own painful experiences and combine that with my professional training to offer what I can to my clients; a compassionate, understanding space where they can be who they are and grow in their own time.
Sadly, my mother and inspiration passed away shortly before my graduation from graduate school in 2013. Before that, I was her caregiver, while being married, going to school full-time, and working at my first internship. During that time was when I really learned the value of self-care and compassion and how necessary they are even when we are busy. I get a lot of clients who say they cannot afford to make time for themselves, and I get it! I have been there. But what I realized during that time in my life is that you can’t afford not to make time for yourself.
Since then I have moved all around the country, which is not an easy way to run a business in the field I am in, and have had to adjust time and again to starting over. I would not have had it any other way since these experiences have taught me so much about being resilient. And I can appreciate how difficult it is to need to take time off of work, get adjusted to a new place, and do it all again the next year. What I have to remember, and what I remind my clients of consistently, is that we have time. There is no deadline on pursuing what we are passionate about.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a psychotherapist and sex therapist and I help people overcome issues related to stress, sex, and self-esteem. So many of us are infiltrated by stress from work, family, our community, and life stressors in general that it begins to affect our mental, emotional, physical, and sexual health. I help my clients reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-compassion, and lead sexually fulfilling lives.
I often think sexual health gets neglected when we are discussing overall satisfaction with life in general. We are beginning to discuss mental health as a society more often, but problems with sexual health, satisfaction and sexuality still tend to be stigmatized. Sex therapy is just like regular talk therapy with an added emphasis on sexual health. I often ask my clients to incorporate mindfulness techniques into their lives to help with problems like desire issues, erectile dysfunction, pain with intercourse, sexual trauma, and arousal issues.
I am most proud of my business when I see my clients doing the difficult work of examining their own thought and behavior patterns they want to change. My business provides a space for not only change but connection and empathy that many people don’t experience elsewhere. And when I see my clients taking the brave and bold steps toward growth, I am once again in awe of the human spirit.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Atlanta has been taking great strides in ending the stigma around mental health and sexuality. People often travel here to get treatment that is not available in their towns or cities, especially when it comes to sex therapy. I have locations in Alpharetta and Buckhead, and from what I have experienced, these communities are doing what they can not only to support small, local businesses, but mental and emotional health as well.
We also have a vibrant community of therapists in Atlanta that treat so many different mental health issues and it is nice to be part of a system that is uplifting and supportive. I am fortunate enough to share office space with three talented and amazing women. If you ever visit our office, you will find the psychotherapy practices of Erin Simone, Karen Whitehead, and Radha Tilghman (Radha also has a massage therapy practice). Part of what I love about my job is that I get to work with and learn from these amazing therapists and be a part of the supportive community we are striving to create.