By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
At Inspire Counseling LLC, Adrienne McCollum’s goal is to ensure that her clients are empowered and inspired.
“When I made the decision to start my own practice, I asked myself, ‘What do you want people to experience or walk away with?’ The first thing that came to my mind was that I want them to make the changes necessary to live a whole-hearted life,” she said.
McCollum, 31, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and the founder of Inspire Counseling, a private practice with the mission to provide top-quality mental and behavioral health counseling in a safe environment. She opened her first center in Montevallo in February 2019 and expanded to Hoover in November.
“This wasn’t something I set out to do,” she said. “It’s where the universe, or God, or whatever force that’s greater than me put me—and this is where I’m supposed to be.”
McCollum specializes in working with women, specifically millennials and women of color who are struggling to manage depression and anxiety, as well as low-self-esteem, relationship, and substance-abuse issues. Her counseling focuses on equipping people with the tools to create healthy mental habits and practices.
“I’m helping people that look like me, and I can relate to them. Nobody has ever sat on my sofa that I couldn’t relate to in some way, shape, or form. Our stories are different, but they’re me, so I fell in love with helping women like me: black women, millennial women, postmillennial women,” she said, adding that she also works with adolescent girls who are struggling with depression, anxiety, peer pressure and other problems.
McCollum is at her office on Wadsworth Street in Montevallo on Mondays and Wednesdays, and she’s at the Hoover location at Chase Park South on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; she sees about 20 to 25 clients a week.
Heart for People
McCollum is from Winfield, a small, rural community in northwest Alabama. Her great-grandmother, her grandfather, and his sister were great influences on her early childhood. As a youngster, McCollum often helped her grandfather in their garden—and even then she knew she wanted to help others.
“When I was about 5, I told an adult I want to have people come and talk to me about their problems,” she recalled. “They said, ‘Oh you want to be a psychologist.’ So, I went around telling people that.”
At 11, she moved to Tuscaloosa with her mother, Andrea. A few years later, she attended Tuscaloosa County High School, where she was involved in many activities, including Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC), the school’s drama department, and a community-service organization. She was also a debutante and made the honor roll.
Still, like many other young people, McCollum had to overcome troubles during her teen years. In some ways, it helped her when she listened to others her age.
“I say I developed this interest in social work when I started having trouble at home as a teenager, but I definitely took it more seriously as a leader in JROTC,” she said. “Students would come to me with their problems, and, even then, I was an advocate.”
After graduating from high school in 2006, McCollum attended Bevill State Community College, where she earned an associate degree in liberal arts. She then went on to the University of Alabama (UA) in 2009. While majoring in social work and minored in psychology, she also was a McNair Scholar, a member of the Lambda Zeta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and president of the Social Work Association for Cultural Awareness (SWACA). She received her bachelor’s degree from UA in 2012 and got into the master’s program for social work, which she completed in 2013.
Aspire to Inspire
After college, McCollum took a position at the Bradford Health Services inpatient center in Warrior. She then moved into medical social work because she wanted to explore something different. She was working as a case manager at Grandview Hospital in Birmingham when she realized that she was truly meant to be a counselor.
“At the end of 2017, I had the itch to work for myself because … I got my clinical independent license,” she said. “I started the process of [opening a business, but] I was pregnant at the time. I didn’t want to deal with all of that in addition to becoming a new mother, so I just put the idea aside.”
In March 2018, she had her son, Micah. Soon thereafter, she found a job, and while working for that company, she and her son were frequently sick—which she saw as a sign from God that she needed to go into business for herself.
“I went to see my doctor and told her, ‘I need something to get rid of this cough because I’m a counselor and I can’t cough all over my patients.’ She asked what kind of counseling, and I told her substance abuse,” McCollum recalled. “She told me she had a lot of patients asking for a reference for a therapist, but she didn’t know any black therapists to send them to. I just remember thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? You don’t know any black therapists?’ I couldn’t let it go, and I said [to myself], ‘God is trying to tell me something.’”
Two weeks later, McCollum had a “come-to-Jesus” moment and left her job. That same day, she went home, named her company, got her tax identification number, and developed her business plan. That was in September 2018, and by February 2019 she opened Inspire Counseling.
Here to Help
Opening her first business required a lot of on-the-job learning. “I just figured it out,” said McCollum, who established her business in February but didn’t start seeing clients until about April.
By July, she feared she had made the wrong choice. She got some referrals from her doctor. People would pass by, see her sign, and come in. But business was slow.
“It was a struggle. … People are on vacation [during the summer], … so they’re probably not looking for a mental health counselor. [Also], I was in a college town, so everybody was gone for the summer,” she said. “I was just like, ‘This thing is not popping like I need it to.’ There was some financial stress, too. I knew I needed to do something, but I wasn’t ready to quit.”
“I started talking to professionals about my business and marketing strategies,” she said. “I thought about my target market and population, which was no longer just anybody who needed therapy. It turned into women, black women mostly but just women in general, and they were not in Montevallo.”
To unwind from her stressful job, McCollum enjoys spending time with her family and friends, unplugging from social media, and doing things that help her relax, such as getting a massage or just staying at home and watching Netflix. She also loves to travel.
Though McCollum finds ways to destress, her love for and the importance of her work always take precedence.
“Black women want black providers. … There is a need for it, and we have a unique set of issues that need to be treated. We’re dealing with ongoing trauma, racism, sexism, economic disenfranchisement. … It’s a lot. I want to destroy the stigmas of what mental health wellness looks like and give people permission to do what they need to do to be mentally healthy.”
For more information about Adrienne McCollum, visit Facebook at Inspire Counseling LLC or www.inspiredbyinspire.com; you also can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.