Tomanika Witherspoon, BSW, LCSW
In-Home Therapy and Female Sexual Trauma Specialist
A native of Detroit, MI, Tominika Witherspoon has lived life passionately with an ever-present desire to be of service to her community and help it heal as well as grow in positive and beneficial ways. She began by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work at Ferris State University, located in Big Rapids, MI. Forging on, she applied and was accepted at Wayne State University located in Detroit, MI, where she was granted a Master's Degree in Social Work. Following graduation she held such positions as a Family Advocate, Access Clinician, Clinical Therapist for over a decade, and now is CEO and founder of Growing Counseling Services, LLC., in Redford, MI. Although her specialties are In-Home Therapy, At-Risk Children and Families and Female Sexual Trauma, she has experience in multiple areas such as: preservation services for families, adoption support and counseling and issues surrounding foster-care. With community healing and positive change at the core of her work, Tominika is a positive role-model by having demonstrated how determination and hard work have indeed, made a difference.
Tominika will you tell us a little about your childhood?
I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. As many may know, unfortunately Detroit is known for high murder rates, theft and other negative associations. Fortunately, I had good parents who instilled the importance of education, helping others and other positive morals and values. I was determined not to be considered “a product of my environment”, at least in a negative way. I maintained good grades in middle school, applied, tested and was accepted into a school of choice, Cass Technical High School. It is the largest high school in Detroit, reportedly with high graduation and college admission rates. Although I struggled at times, I graduated and immediately went to college at the tender age of 17. I attended undergraduate and graduate school, in which I had an overall GPA of 3.6 when I finished.
Was the field of social work a natural choice for you?
I chose the field of social work because I've always had a passion to help others. I used to think that I wanted to become a teacher, but when I would picture myself in a classroom setting, I often envision talking to kids after class and addressing family matters, social relationships, self-esteem, anger management, etc. Prior to going to college, I knew my major would be sociology, social work, or psychology. When asking around and doing research as it related to career options, it was determined that social work would be best for me. Social Work is a very diverse field which enables one to do therapy, foster care, adoptions, parole/probation, school social work and more.
How would you describe your specialty?
Although I provide services to a broad range of clients, most of my experience has been with those that have experienced significant trauma (sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse). I initially did not desire to work with this population because I thought it would be too emotional for me. When I began working at a residential treatment program over 10 years ago, I was placed in a trauma program. In a very short period of time, I realized this was an area that I was drawn to. In addition, from my experience working in the mental health field, I have often found that many people struggling with on-going mental health issues have been experienced some form of abuse and/or neglect.
What challenges did you face on your educational journey?
One of the most significant challenges was financing my education. From the beginning of undergraduate school, I was in an unfortunate situation. My parents did not make enough to finance my education, but they made too much for me to receive financial aid to cover all of my expenses. With this being said, I had to take out loans to obtain both degrees and I’m still paying on them. There was one semester in which my financial aid paperwork had not been processed, and I was threatened that I would not be able to attend FSU. I was hopeful and continued to attend the classes that I had planned to take, although I was not listed on the class attendance rosters.
I spoke with a financial aid officer to explain that I would have loan money but the paperwork would take additional days (not weeks or months), but she explained there was nothing she could do. One day, I went to my dorm and there was a letter under my door stating that I would have to move out by a certain day or my belongings would be placed in storage, I would be charged a fee and my locks would be changed. For that semester I had to return home and attend community college. I was DEVASTATED and lost focus for the entire semester; those were the worst grades.
What do you consider your career challenges?
My greatest challenge getting where I am today is having PATIENCE! This is something that I have always struggled with and was anxious to finish school by a certain age, making a certain level of income by a certain age, grow my business overnight and so on. It’s taken a lot of time, but I am finally learning that you must crawl before you can walk.
What advice do you have for others who want to help their communities?
You can do it!!! Be sure to that you are passionate about helping others and are not doing it for the money. I would also recommend to anyone considering the field of social work to plan to obtain their Master’s degree to expand their career opportunities.
What rewards come with a career in social work?
The most rewarding thing about this field is making an impact on others. I love to see the transition of some of my clients. It feels great when I get calls from old clients updating me on their accomplishments and how they overcome certain barriers in the lives.
If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the field of social work, what would it be?
If I could change anything about the social work field it would be increased pay and less documentation.
At the end of the day, what do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
Although I've accomplished a lot, I hope to continue to grow my business, and if I decide to retire, it can still function.