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Conversations with Maria Bush

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Bush. 

Hi Maria, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
“Maria, I want to die. I just don’t want to live anymore,” a classmate in high school whispered to me while sitting in science class. I will never forget that day. I was scared for him and afraid I would say the wrong thing but relieved that he told someone. I remember listening to his experiences and his reasons for wanting to end his life. 

After talking, he said he felt somewhat better but had to go back home after school to the place where most of his triggers resided. 20+ years later he is alive today and I am grateful we crossed paths at one of the most vulnerable times in his life. That was the first of many times I would sit with friends and loved ones who expressed suicidal thoughts, attempt suicide, experienced domestic violence, and sexual assault. 

Born and raised in the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri I witnessed mental illness and gang-related violence first hand. It gave me a passion to be a conduit for folks to feel seen, heard, and understood. I knew education would be the step to get me there. After spending two years in Marines ROTC in high school, I believed the military was my only option to have my college degree funded until a family friend sat me down and explained my options. I graduated high school a year early, top 10 of my class, then transitioned to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Fisk University. 

The first to graduate in my family from college, I immediately began working in community mental health providing emergency psychiatric services to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Working in the field allowed me to see that mental health is a complex, multifaceted social justice issue. It propelled me to find other ways to help individuals and their families. In June 2015, I started my counseling private practice. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
After giving birth to my firstborn, I started graduate school. I worked overnight for a community mental health agency in Nashville while working my internship during the day, writing papers and responding to online posts during my lunch breaks. My master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling afforded me the opportunity to gain more experience in order to provide for my family. I later moved into working in substance abuse residential treatment for women and eventually into the role of Assistant Director of the Office of Crisis Services and Suicide Prevention for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services assisting in the oversight of contracted crisis services across the state of Tennessee. Being away from family, with limited support, it was challenging finding work/life balance, which taxed my mental health. 

In the community I grew up in it was silently understood that part of being successful meant setting your self-care and mental health on the shelf. Through those moments, I developed a passion to help women who are going through life transitions to prioritize self-care. During the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, I co-founded and co-host Sweats, Heels, and Mental Health Podcast, a podcast we discuss everyday life issues women and girls face with an emphasis on mental health. 

It is imperative as women to make our mental health a priority. The podcast is available on all podcast platforms and accessible at any time. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Kindness Connects Us Therapy (KCUT) is a counseling private practice serving individuals and couples across multiple states, a few including Tennessee, Missouri, and Florida, with Tennessee being our home base. We help individuals reconnect and strengthen the relationship with themselves and in turn develop and strengthen life-giving relationships with others. Our philosophy is that we can only pour effectively into others from a full cup. We provide a non-judgmental and safe space for individuals ages 10 and older to process their struggles with mood and psychotic disorders, anger, and trauma that impacts their ability to make decisions, low self-esteem, substance abuse, physical pain, or troubled relationships. 

We also provide education and training to communities of future clinicians and citizens in the states we serve. We offer a supervision program for master’s level clinicians seeking licensure and a comprehensive Internship program for graduate-level students. This is an opportunity to prepare each future clinician to be well equipped to provide quality patient care, patient advocacy while learning to make self-care a priority. 

KCUT recently launched our new Self-Work Academy, a web-based classroom of eCourses for youth and adults to use as a tool to improve their self-esteem by addressing the impact of relationship trauma, trauma, and mental illness. We also offer community-based training, crisis debriefings, and motivational speaking. We are a growing practice and grateful for the impact we are able to make across the country. 

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
My mother is my greatest role model. She never meets a stranger and her superpower is empathy. She is a woman of courage who supported me and my siblings while we explored our interests, all the way to transitioning out of state. My mother and late father taught me to not be afraid to get my hands dirty, work hard, use my skills and talent to further myself, and provide for my family. 

My high school teacher, Eleni Palmisano was a huge influence on me. Being an educator, I believe is one of the most demanding but rewarding careers. I admired her dedication to teaching students coming from various backgrounds. While I experienced and witnessed challenging days in the classroom, her leadership and compassion remained consistent. 

My family who has cheered me on and held me accountable through life transitions. My children, who have been an inspiration and made me a better human. Fellow colleagues, previous supervisors, friends, my clients that trust me to be a part of their journey all have made me the well-rounded clinician and momprenuer I am today. 

Contact Info:

  • Email: info@kindnessconnectsusllc.com
  • Website: www.kindnessconnectsusllc.com
  • Instagram: @MariaOBush
  • Facebook: @KindnessConnectsUsTherapy
  • Twitter: @MariaOBush
  • Youtube: Sweats, Heels and Mental Health Podcast


Image Credits

Ashley Callahan
Payne Photography
Vicki Carter
TDMHSAS
Jamacia Johnson
Ampli Creative LLC

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