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Conversations with Sara Bates

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Bates. 

Hi Sara, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
After learning my mother had acquired HIV and was moving to Ohio for a new research drug trial at the Cleveland Clinic, I decided to pack up my things, and leave the ocean behind to invest in the time she had left. I transferred to a local Red Lobster and established residency for affordable tuition costs at The Ohio State University enrolling the following year. My majors changed yearly between Criminology, Psychology, and Education. My work-study jobs followed suit, as I worked in a guidance office at a local school, admissions at OSU-Mans, psych research assistant, and at The Culliver Reading Center as a tutor. Eventually graduating with my Bachelor’s of Science in Middle Childhood Education, I pursued substituting as it was the middle of the school year. One of my first experiences was at a local juvenile residential facility, and that’s the moment I knew I wanted to pursue my Master’s in Social Work. I started the program a few months later and began working for Children Services during the first half of my grad school program. During my field placement, I returned to juvenile residential treatment, enjoying the role of identifying strengths with individual residents as well as providing family therapy to increase the opportunity of a stable home environment. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The Buddhist symbol “UNALOME,” reflects my journey in my life and career, lots of twists and turns along the path. Although there have been challenges, I’ve ultimately learned to trust that these obstacles all lead to a grander plan. Beginning as a caseworker in a broken child welfare system, miscarrying after falling during a home visit on a glass door someone had laying in their yard that was snow-covered, high caseloads, and excessive overtime, lead to an early burnout at just 11 months in. I then returned to the juvenile treatment facility I once was a sub at to complete my field practicum in family counseling. My own personal adolescent experiences helped me empathize and build rapport with the residents, as well as, being able to understand the dynamics and struggles within the family system of children struggling with substance abuse. I finished grad-school mid-2015, and a few months later welcomed my 5th child into the world. I decided to take some time away from the field but obtained my licensure before she was born. In 2016, I finally found my own voice, separating from my husband, and ultimately standing up to abuse. The transition into single motherhood with 5 children was not easy, as I was unemployed and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the beginning, I stayed at a local DV shelter, not for long, but for a short amount of time, to get connected with resources and support groups. After a few months of therapy, I was ready to return to my career field. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervision Designation trained in Trauma-Informed Care, Gender-Affirming Care and Therapy (writing medical letters for Transgender clients), Sex-Positive Therapy, Pleasure Education and Intimacy Coaching, Couples Counseling, CBT, DBT, and IFS; treating both adolescents and adult populations. In 2019, I facilitated a CEU training course for “LGBTQ Ethics in Community Mental Health,” to raise awareness, create allies, and bridge any gaps in care within the therapy community. During The Ohio State University’s 2022 Sex Week, I was an expert speaker on their panel, addressing “Feeling Pleasure After Sexual Assault.” In the future, I hope to pursue my PhD in Sexology to work on creating healthier evidence-based sexual education and juvenile sex offender programs. 

What were you like growing up?
Growing up on the outskirts of a trailer park in Palm Beach County, Florida; I was exposed to life’s hardships associated with poverty. At a young age, I understood and was affected by parental alcoholism and drug use, child physical and emotional abuse, and inappropriate sexual boundaries/grooming by friends of my parents. I adjusted and coped as best as I could, I started working at McDonald’s and taking High School level courses in 8th grade, to ensure I would graduate earlier and make a run for adulthood. However, along the way, being around college-age peers in the work environment, led me to experimenting with drugs, glamorizing the RAVE dance culture in the ’90s, and dropping out of High School my Sophomore Year. A year later I put myself in rehab, rebuilt my work ethic, learned I was expecting my first child at 17 and obtained my G.E.D… Most would categorize my childhood as minimally overwhelming but majorly traumatic. However, I have embodied the term of resiliency into a lifestyle and used these experiences to mold the adult I was determined to become. 

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