Susan Smallwood photo
Susan Smallwood, LLPC, CAADC

At Feinberg Consulting, it’s important to us that you have the opportunity to learn more about the faces behind our company. This October, we’d like you to meet our employee spotlight: Clinical Manager & Recovery Coach, Susan Smallwood.

How long have you been with Feinberg Consulting and what do you enjoy most about working here?

I just recently began working with Feinberg Consulting in July 2021, and have quickly grown to enjoy the developing relationships that come from working with individuals and families. I have worked in a variety of clinical and counseling settings, and Feinberg feels (for the lack of a better word) more human.

What inspired you to start in this career field and what do you enjoy most about it?

It’s an interesting story, but I’ll save you the New York Times Best Seller version, and simply say the career journey makes sense. I’m not suggesting that it hasn’t been difficult, but it’s been worth it. At each stage of this journey, I’ve been forced to look at my values, beliefs, and worldview, and have learned to discard ideas that no longer make sense or those that were leading me in the wrong direction. So, in short, I became a counselor because I thought I wanted to help other people, today I recognize that all those people have really helped me.

Where did you attend school and what did you study? What certifications have you acquired?

My master’s degree in counseling was earned from Spring Arbor University, a Free-Methodist affiliated school that offered an accelerated program for a working, single-mom like me. The program provided the coursework that I needed to become licensed in the State of Michigan to practice counseling.

Additionally, I became certified with the Michigan Certification Board of Addiction Professionals in order to practice counseling specific to substance abuse.

What are some important lessons you have learned over the years?

I personally believe that the lessons of self-love are some of the most difficult. Some of my hardest lessons have come from learning to set boundaries, particularly with family. Setting those boundaries was the tipping point for my personal growth because I was finally allowing myself to break free from learned behaviors and beliefs that come from living in a toxic childhood home. The boundaries that I have committed to are not out of anger or resentment. The biggest take-away lesson is that I can love from a distance.

What is your personal philosophy or mantra that inspires you the most?

“You can be right or you can be happy.” — Gerald Jampolsky

What are 5 words that best describe yourself?

Don’t. Take. Yourself. Too. Seriously.

Do you have any pets? If so, how many/what are their names?

My kids are Sam (age 13) and Sarah (age 6)… I list them because sometimes they act like animals.

2 domestic house cats (Kity Bity and Tiger Boy – 4 yrs).

1 Rottweiler (Dj, or Douglas James when he’s in trouble – 2 yrs).

When you are not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I love traveling with my kids. Despite sometimes acting like animals, they are the best travel companions. They inspire me to want to explore new places and try new things.

On a much smaller scale, on an average day, you’ll find me running or at the gym. My sanity rests on getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

What do you do for your own self-care?

Self-care for me is pretty basic: I make sure that I put gas in my car before I’m driving around on fumes, I plan healthy meals but give myself permission to feed the kids fast food when I’m just too tired, I set reminders on my phone so I don’t feel overwhelmed and ashamed by missing important things (like Picture Retakes and Parent-Teacher Conferences); and none of this would be remotely possible if I didn’t practice this vital form of self-care…I see my own therapist.

What is your favorite book or one that has had a significant influence on your life?

At the risk of sounding very unpopular, a book with significance for me was “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. I’ve lived most of my life in an all-white, primarily straight, small-town- bubble. This fictitious land with leaders who want you to believe that “racism doesn’t exist,” is fueled by fear and control. Trust me, it’s in the Kool-Aid.

DiAngelo’s book created an awareness within me of all the ways that I’ve adhered to the microaggression narrative, which in turn forced me to reckon with my own shame, guilt, and anger for drinking the metaphorical Kool-Aid. Because of this, I work really hard to improve my awareness of the poison that is systemic racism and make it a point to keep the Kool-Aid from reaching my kids.

What are you most looking forward to in the future?

I try not to place too many expectations on the future, not because I think it’ll be bad but more so because, despite all attempts at planning, The Universe always seems to have a way of working things out when I get out of the way.