Singing came first. When I was fourteen years old, I was signed to a record label in Germany under the name "Stephanie D" (D is for my middle name, Davis). I released an album and toured, and even though I was living my childhood dream, I was unhappy. I felt like a puppet, and had very little control over my Art.
I turned down a second album deal at seventeen and studied music at two prestigious music schools (Jazz Vocal Performance at The Frost School of Music/University of Miami and Songwriting at Berklee College of Music) before changing my major to Psychology and finishing up undergrad at Florida State University in 2010.
After that, my life went off the rails for a little bit. I had no plans to go to grad school like my parents wanted me to. I wanted to make music and go on an adventure. I hit the road and embarked on what I now call my beautiful nightmare. It started with intentional, nomadic living; camping in National Forests (google Rainbow Gatherings), sharing songs and food with my brothers and sisters, and living in harmony with the Earth. I learned how to survive outside the system, literally. I was a traveler. I panhandled and gas-jugged my way across the country and back. It was fun at first, and then it turned dark.
It turned dark because during this stage of my life, I was not a healthy human. I allowed for my involvement in toxic relationships and sought escape, excitement, and relief through substances. My adventure led me further down that road, away from Nature, and into places where dis-Harmony and dis-ease festered. I ended up getting arrested for the last time back in my hometown of Orlando, Florida in the fall of 2012. By that time, I had had enough and was ready to receive help. I was incredibly fortunate to begin my healing journey at a treatment center near Nashville, TN that incorporated indigenous spiritual practices into the milieu. Had it not been for this, I do not think that my life would have recalibrated so effortlessly. I remembered this deep and incredibly special connection that I have to the Earth and the Universe. I began growing roots into my Purpose and reinvigorated the flow of Love between myself and Spirit.
I decided to relocate to Nashville, TN. I had family here and knew Music City would be an ideal place to give my music career another shot. Life flowed in another direction for a while. After a couple years, I began working at an alcohol & drug treatment center and eventually became licensed as an Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC-II). I went to grad school and earned a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I loved the process of guiding people back to wholeness. I love the “providing therapy” part of being a therapist. The "behind the scenes" part of being a therapist? Not so much.
In short, the “behind the scenes” part of being a therapist exposed a profit-driven Eurocentric system that I no longer wish to support through my career. I have worked in a nonprofit treatment facility, a prison, briefly in medication-assisted treatment, and a group private practice, giving me a firsthand glimpse into our country’s healthcare, mental healthcare, correctional, and legal systems, as well as the world of alcohol and drug treatment. I do not like what I’ve seen and experienced behind the curtain, and I do not like how people, who are in need of care, can be treated inside these systems.
The personal growth that I experienced during my education and career as a therapist has been invaluable. Graduate school was akin to two years of intensive self-exploration, and I was blessed to have several professors and supervisors who provided therapeutic containers that affirmed my authenticity, intelligence, and potential to succeed. I was encouraged to apply to Ph.D. programs for psychology and attempted this for a couple years. Ultimately, I learned… Just because you should, doesn’t mean you will. Rejection was a hard pill to swallow (fifteen hard pills to swallow over the course of two years to be exact) after spending an exorbitant amount of time and energy on earning high GRE scores, writing dozens of admissions essays, soliciting academic transcripts and letters of recommendation. The Universe said no, when I believed, and my Circle of Influence believed, it was a certain yes. Now what?! Two years of work, probably a few grand, and all my hopes and dreams down the drain. Woe is me.
During my second Ph.D. admissions cycle, I began working at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW). I believed it would be a brief stopping place before moving off to some new place to begin my doctoral education. I managed the substance abuse treatment program at TPFW for thirteen months and eight days. The experience shook me to the core. It illuminated a component of our society that is kept intentionally hidden where mass incarceration serves as a mechanism to maintain systemic inequalities. The 13th Amendment to our Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United states or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Mass incarceration is modern society’s adaptation of slavery, and the discriminatory laws that haunt felons for the rest of their lives make it incredibly difficult to escape the revolving door of recidivism.
The curious will wonder why this is. Why doesn’t the system work the way it should? The sad truth is that - it does. It seems to operate by design; marginalizing people for profit. I worked with an incredibly talented and passionate team that incessantly challenged the administration to do the right thing. The prison was infested with drugs; the women experienced every form of abuse, and it appeared that the corruption of correctional staff and leadership perpetuated this.
Seeing this first hand broke my heart and set it on fire. It led to a new awakening within myself. I developed an astute sense of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to the treatment of people, and a refusal to excuse injustice. I became grounded and confident in my ability to use my voice and speak the Truth. As a result, I guess I’ve become a bit of a rebel. It’s ironic that it seems one must take that route in order to “do the right thing” these days.
It is what it is.
I cannot forget, of course, the ways that I was deeply moved and inspired by the Women inside those walls. They are precious. They are People. Just like you and me. They deserve to be treated with respect and have their basic needs met. They deserve to have the opportunity to heal and receive help, just like I did. The difference? My family had the means to pay for my attorney and send me to a nice treatment center. My felony charge was dropped because they were able to do that. These women, and most of the incarcerated population, especially when it comes to drug charges, do not have that luxury and privilege.
When I reached a place of acceptance around the Ph.D. thing not happening, it was as if the world opened up to me again. I realized that for years, I had been neglecting my creativity, and was pursuing a life that would continue to sideline that part of myself. When I resigned from TPFW, one of my intentions was to focus on my music again. I began seeking collaborative opportunities to co-create with other musicians. I was connected to Grammy-award winning producer, Paul Ebersold, who agreed to work with me and develop me as an artist. I had dozens of songs I wrote and had loved for years and felt a bit deflated when he challenged me to start from scratch. It turned into a huge opportunity to grow and hone my craft. Paul put me through lyric writing boot camp and helped me discover new routes to melody formation and song creation. I am influenced by jazz, pop (#britneyspears <3), soul, classic rock, hip hop, trip hop, EDM, reggae, and world culture. I love hand percussion, dark moody melodies, and spacey atmospheric soundscapes. I love to dance. These influences all show up in my songs in one way or another, creating the uniqueness and genre ambiguity that I was after. Half a lifetime after walking away from a record deal, I finally released new music in March 2021, a 4-song EP called "It Is What It Is". You can find it on all download and streaming services. My next release will be self-produced.
Divinity permeates everything that I do, because I Know that My Life is Sacred. I began keeping a journal when I was in second grade and have maintained the practice throughout my life. Writing in this way allowed for me to develop heightened awareness, a deep, meaningful relationship with myself, and revealed my ability to access guidance from the Spirit realm. This is one of my Spiritual Gifts; a very special one. I also happen to believe that anyone who is pure of heart and willing to invest in their partnership with Spirit is capable of developing intuitive abilities. This is something that I teach, and it is not difficult to learn. What is difficult for many people is learning to love and trust themselves, and it seems to me that those are precursors to initiating and attaining this kind of spiritual connection. You’ve gotta believe that you’re worthy.
When people ask Lee how we met, he often says, “somewhere out in the cosmos”. The stars aligned in such a way. Lee McCormick, author of The Heart Reconnection Guidebook, is the founder of several healing centers; including the place where my journey began. We connected a couple years ago when I reached out to interview him for my research studying the cross-cultural utilization of indigenous healing practices in mental health settings. As I progressed in my career, I felt guided to invest in this relationship due to our shared outlooks on culture, healing, and spirituality. I knew I could learn a lot from him. I finally took the plunge and embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage to Teotihuacan, Mexico and spent a week in “mystery school” at The Dreaming House, where Lee was among our three teachers. It was as profound and magical as it sounds. Today, Lee has become my mentor and dear friend, and through his spiritual lineage – the wisdom of his teachers, including Toltec Master Don Miguel Ruiz (author of The Four Agreements), is kept alive. I am being guided by Lee and supported by our community through an apprenticeship to pour sweat lodge ceremonies (open lodge tradition), and I think out of all my “achievements”, this has been the greatest honor.
The current climate of the world has caused me to reflect, question, and challenge myself and my choices. How can I be more fully myself? How can I blend my Artist and Healer/Helper sides? How can I distance my work from systems that undermine my values? How can I achieve greater satisfaction with my life? How do I move closer towards my Purpose?
Go your own way. Follow your Heart.
Set yourself Free. Be who you truly are.
So, here I Am. I’ve made a decision that I recognize as being somewhat “radical”. I am grateful and fortunate to have arrived at a place where I am able to let the prestige of being a therapist and the extra letters behind my name go. Bye-bye! I am lucky to be able to do this. I get to discontinue my involvement in another broken system, and move closer to actualizing Freedom. In many ways, “Therapist Steph” felt like a role that asked me to filter my authenticity, color within the lines, think inside the box, and tone it down.
Now, people can come to me because they want to, not because they have to. I trust and have faith in my Purpose and my commitment to achieving the Highest Good for All.
I Am a Creative Healing Artist.
I sing, I heal, I help.
Thanks for letting me share.
Stephanie Blick, MS