Nzinga Cates and Darnita Samuels – 2 Dope Therapist

Laci Ollison | January 19th, 2021
Nzinga Cates and Darnita Samuels (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

Nzinga Cates and Darnita Samuels (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

During a time where the world was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, two women found themselves collaborating over their mutual love for black people and therapy.
Nzinga Cates and Darnita Samuels of Charlotte, N.C., are both licensed therapists in the state of North Carolina. After forming a friendship, the duo decided to create a podcast to answer questions from clients, friends, and listeners about mental health, life, and other various topics.

Born in Detroit, MI, Darnita is an auntie to several nieces and nephews. She comes from a large family that is rooted in southern traditions. Darnita says the primary focus of her practice is to provide a safe space that will encourage open dialogue to help her clients reach their goals and create a toolbox to use on their journey of this thing called life. Though Darnita embraces her season of singleness, she spends her time traveling internationally and domestically. These voyages often involve exploring new cultures. “I am a history buff and I like winery’s, vineyards, and good food,” she shares.

Nzinga, who is a native of Erie, PA, provides a wide array of services that cater to individuals, couples, marital relationships, and teens. She has a specialty in helping individuals who have been victimized by narcissists, as well as helping individuals discover narcissistic traits within themselves. She is also the owner of Cates Counseling, and author of What Happens In This House: A Memoir of Strength, and shares her story of being raised with the struggles of a narcissistic mother and how she prevailed to become who she is today despite being abused.

Life has come full circle for Nzinga. She acknowledges that her family has played a huge part in her success as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. She also notes that she wouldn’t be as successful without the support of her husband of 17 years, and her three beautiful children.

“I actually referred someone to Nzinga,” Darnita said. “We hit it off from the first conversation. But it actually took us over a year to finally meet. Nzinga kept saying ‘let’s get coffee together,’ and one day the stars finally aligned, and we were able to get lunch.” The rest was history.

One day as the two therapists were sitting in the garage of Nzinga’s home over the pandemic, they decided they needed to start a podcast together. After a bit of discussion and planning, they released their first episode of Theralit on August 25th.

“The podcast is mostly based off of anonymous questions,” said Darnita. “We’re not providing therapy but if a person needs therapy then we will provide resources on how to select a therapist.”
Darnita says that the two like giving information, breaking down the stigma, and normalizing the conversation around mental health as well.

“The beauty of the podcast is that there is no particular subject,” said Nzinga. “We don’t know what we’re going to answer until a week sometimes days before we record. So, it’s fresh. It’s ideas that come from our clients, sometimes from conversations that we have with our friends when they ask questions. It’s a wide variety of questions that we take great joy in answering. And not only that, but we add our personal touch to it. It’s not just therapeutic, but there’s never a dull moment.”

Nzinga says that they answer from their hearts, but they also answer from their own experiences. These experiences were also the driving force for both of the ladies to begin a career in mental health.

“I honestly didn’t like people. I just wanted to program. I wanted to be an IT person, make a lot of money, have a great house, and live a great life,” Darnita says. But unfortunately, life didn’t pan out how Darnita expected. “Moving to North Carolina actually helped me a lot because I was in a relationship and I was about to get married. But when the relationship fell apart, I was devastated. I went into a deep state of depression and I was highly dysfunctional.” Darnita ended up seeing her primary care physician who referred her to a mental health professional.

Darnita shares, “Thank God for a great primary care physician that saw me. She referred me to a therapist, and I went that day. I left my primary care physician’s office and went straight to the therapist’s office. The therapist worked with me to help me heal wounds. They also helped me understand who I was and the role that I played and help me get over things that were so deeply held that were not good beliefs.”

After going through therapy, Darnita decided to attend Pfeiffer University to begin her career as a therapist. “When I went to Pfeiffer I went through further therapy because that was part of their program. They say how can you have someone else in your chair if you don’t know what it feels like to be in a chair.”

Darnita says that the student therapist that she worked with, helped her break down some issues even more. “It has really been a growth opportunity for me, and as a result of this, my private practice is definitely expanding.”

For Nzinga, therapy was something she realized somewhat early on that she wanted to do. “I was 19 when I went to therapy for the first time and I loved it,” Nzinga said. “I knew that based on the things I was going through in my life that there was a greater calling on my life to help people.”

Initially Nzinga did not know exactly what that calling was but after she met her first therapist, she realized that was what she wanted to do. “I had already been in college,” said Nzinga. “I believe I was an English major or something like that. But I changed my major and my career and that was it. I started off in social work and got my master’s in counseling.”

One of the goals the two have for the podcast is to eventually take it on the road. “We want people to see that we’re normal people,” Darnita said. “We want people to come and meet us and be able to ask us questions on the air.”

She also shares it’s important for people to see their faces too. “Representation matters,” she said. “Here’s two black female therapists that are operating their own businesses who are successful and who are gaining a foothold in the podcast industry. They also hope to break down the stigma in the African American community that therapy is not necessary.

“For people who think therapy is not for us, why is it not?” Darnita asks. “We have access to every other thing, why not therapy?” Darnita says that this is a question that they get asked often. “You get a physical every year. You get a colonoscopy every year. You get checkups to make sure that your body is running right. Part of your body is your mind. Why not check on that?”

Darnita wants people to know that there is help out there. “You don’t have to suffer in silence. There’s a lot of mental anguish that happens and it has a direct effect on how your body reacts to certain things. That’s why we ask when is the last time you had a physical and what came back. Because we see the tolls that hurt, and pain are causing.”

Nzinga says that part of being a therapist is learning when to listen. “If someone comes up to me and asks me why they need it, that tells me that they’re reaching out,” she said. “A lot of being a therapist is having a listening ear to hear what people are saying and what they are saying with their heart. And that comes out in the podcast. When we answer we answer based on what we have been through because as therapists we have both been through a lot. We give answers from the heart.”

Darnita says that the two try to be as relatable as possible on the podcast as well. “We try to keep it real,” said Darnita. “We don’t try to speak so therapeutically that people don’t understand. We try to be normal, even down to the way we dress.”

Nzinga and Darnita both operate their own private practices and offer the ability to see their clients virtually.

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