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Meet Dr. Nikki Watkins of Maple Leaf Counseling Services in Chula Vista

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Nikki Watkins.

Dr. Nikki, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2005 I started a Counseling Psychology program at Southern California Seminary. In May 2008, I graduated with a master’s degree. I worked at the San Diego Rescue Mission for approximately four years in a variety of positions )including Case Manager, Social Worker, Therapist, and Program Manager), prior to going back to school to pursue a doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology. While in my doctoral program, I became pregnant with our fourth daughter, and three weeks before my scheduled C-section date our daughter Riley Elizabeth Watkins was stillborn. Needing time to recover, I took a break from school for a year.

I eventually returned and graduated in 2015 with a Psy.D. degree. I returned to SDRM as the Vice President of Clinical Programs and while there I started a part-time therapy practice on the side. I decided to specialize in providing therapy/counseling for individuals and families who have experienced the devastating loss of a baby through stillbirth, pregnancy loss, pre-term birth, SIDS, or illness. I have partnered with National Share to start a local support group, Share San Diego – South County, to bring these much-needed services to the South San Diego area. I am now working full-time at another mental health organization and I continue to run my counseling practice in the evenings.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. There is a learning curve when starting a business. There are many administrative tasks that need to be completed that have nothing to do with the true work the business owner wants to focus on, such as: obtaining a business license, renting space, marketing to obtain customers, opening a bank account, paying state or local taxes, applying to be on insurance panels, website creation, creating and purchasing business cards/letterhead, etc. Also, working full-time was another challenge because I am limited on the amount of time I can dedicate to the business. It is challenging to get a steady client base. One I limit my practice to a certain population, I cut out many other potential clients. Also, paying for therapy is not high on a lot of people’s list of priorities.

Please tell us about Maple Leaf Counseling Services.
Maple Leaf Counseling Services provides individual and family therapy to those who have suffered the traumatic loss of a baby through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, SIDS, or illness. It also provides a monthly support group, Share San Diego South County, to women who need a safe place to talk openly about the daily challenges of living with the reality of infant and/or pregnancy loss. The company name was selected because when a family experiences a stillbirth in the hospital, a card is placed on the wall outside of the room of a maple leaf with a teardrop falling into it to alert the nursing staff to be sensitive to the unique needs of the family. I am most proud of bringing these services to South San Diego County because in my research I noticed a larger number of pregnancy/infant loss services in the North County area, but not South of the 8 freeway. I am set apart from other therapists because I specialize in this population of women who are the silent sufferers. This is a loss that is not openly discussed like other losses.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory is of going to the movies with my grandmother. She loved going to the movies and often took me with her. We always ordered popcorn with butter and red vines licorice.

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