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Inspiring Conversations with Dominique Begnaud of Create Play Grow Therapy Services

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dominique Begnaud.

Hi Dominique, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have always been a creative person from as long as I can remember.   I dressed up as an artist for our kindergarten play because that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I consistently enjoyed making things and being creative over the years, so I decided to pursue a degree in art during my undergraduate studies. I found a lot of satisfaction and purpose in making things. After completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in printmaking and painting, I also decided to obtain my credential to teach art education for the K-12 grades. While student teaching, I concluded that while I loved working with kids and hearing and seeing what they created, there were too many other things about the school environment I did not like. After conversations with my professors and independent research, I decided to pursue a master’s in art therapy counseling to begin a career as an art therapist. The art therapy profession joined two subjects I loved and found fascinating- art and psychology – in order to help others, another of my interests. I moved to St. Louis, MO, in August of 2013 from New Orleans, La, to begin my three year program at SIUE. I learned so much while in this program through classes and hands-on intern experiences. The faculty at SIUE was outstanding and helped to shape who I am now as a professional art therapist. After completing my degree, I had difficulty finding a job that would use my specific talents and education as an art therapist, so I decided to continue working full-time in the hospitality industry and take a year off from the mental health industry. After working three part-time hospitality jobs that I thoroughly enjoyed for a year, I decided it was time to pursue a mental health career.

I wanted to start the process of becoming a licensed counselor and registered art therapist and could only do that if I was actively working with clients in the mental health field. It was time. I accepted a position at a community mental health agency where I could use many of the skills I had acquired while in graduate school. I led groups and worked individually with clients diagnosed with severe mental illness. I used art therapy directives and interventions in this work whenever and however I could and also began using their raised bed gardens in a therapeutic capacity. At this agency, I learned a great deal about mental illness, how it impacts individuals and their families, and barriers to care. After working two years in this setting and gaining all the clinical hours and supervision necessary to apply for state licensure and to become a registered art therapist, I decided it was time to move on.

I accepted a position at a domestic violence agency as a children’s art therapist. There were two other art therapists on staff at this agency and a solid team of counselors I worked alongside to provide services to individuals (adults and children) who had either experienced or witnessed domestic violence. In this setting, I grew as a professional in my knowledge of domestic violence and its impacts on individuals, families, and society. I worked with the shelter staff to apply for a grant that we received to add a raised garden bed to the shelter playground area. I had hopes of working with residential clients in the garden in a therapeutic capacity, but COVID-19 hit, and all services went to telehealth. I learned a great deal about how to provide services through telehealth while at the agency. I am grateful I had a wonderful team to navigate this new territory as it was a way of providing therapy services I had never experienced nor had any desire to provide before the pandemic.

While at the DV agency, I also began my journey to become a registered play therapist. I was able toparticipate in a variety of virtual trainings and had monthly supervision as part of the requirements for becoming a registered play therapist. It was wonderful learning about new ways of interacting with clients in a therapeutic capacity using different techniques related to play. The spring of 2021 brought many changes to the domestic violence agency, particularly within the counseling team. I was pregnant with my first child and considering what I wanted my professional career to look like. I had considered private practice casually for some time and had been asking various art therapists in private practice about their experiences and journey. I am so grateful for all of the individuals who shared their stories and experiences related to private practice.

In June of 2021, I had my son, and my life changed like never before. I struggled with going back to work full-time at an agency and only seeing my son before and after work for a few hours each day. Most of the agency counseling team I had been working with had left.  This did not help with my desire to return to the agency. I returned to work at the agency in September of 2021 while continuing to research to see if opening a private practice was viable for me.  I explored various options and eventually decided to begin working 30 hours, which would be considered full-time, at the brewery I had been working at one day a week for the past 2.5 years.

This would provide:
– Health insurance.
– A steady source of income.
– The opportunity to begin my private practice in the hours I had available outside of working Friday-Monday at the brewery.

It was a scary but exciting step to take. In October of 2021, I signed a lease for office space in a unique office building in Benton Park West. Creating office space and a website focused on the unique therapeutic interventions I use in sessions was exciting and fun, albeit time-consuming and a lot of work. Setting up the space took a bit longer than anticipated due to childcare limitations and the limited time I had to dedicate to that. In January of 2022, I began seeing clients in my private practice. I received referrals from fellow art and play therapists who had waitlists due to the high demand for mental health services. I currently see clients three days a week in my office, and I am negotiating with multiple early childhood centers and schools regarding their needs and the services I provide. I look forward to continuing to have the freedom and flexibility my practice provides. I love that the clients I work with and the individuals from schools, etc., who seek my services want exactly what I provide- therapy that integrates art, play, and gardening.

We all face challenges, but would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has been challenging, but I would say overall it has been a smooth road.  I am an eternal optimist as well, so that may play into my interpretation. Some of the struggles I have experienced are related to scheduling. Having a child and limited affordable childcare options has made it difficult to start my business. Because I work with a lot of children in my private practice, scheduling options are limited as almost all parents want their children to be seen after school. Getting appropriate referrals has been a little bit of a challenge. Providing services at the price that makes it a viable business for me has been difficult at times as well as some families can not afford my fees but still need the services. I offer some sliding scale options, but that is unfortunately still not an affordable option for some clients. Lack of funding for mental health care and health insurance costs are big challenges that directly relate to my business and field.  I hope to establish a scholarship foundation in the future so that I can offer services to clients who would not be able to afford my fees.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Create Play Grow Therapy Services is a private therapy practice that provides therapy services using art, play, and gardening therapy interventions. I am the proprietor and sole person that represents CPGTS. I am a licensed counselor in Missouri and Illinois, a registered art therapist, and I am currently under supervision to obtain my registration as a play therapist in early 2023. I am also a Nationally Certified Counselor. I work with children, teens, and adults individually and in group settings to provide emotional and mental health support through creative hands-on therapy techniques. Sessions occur in person at the CPGTS office in Benton Park West, at a local community garden, or online via telehealth. contracts with local schools, early childhood centers, non-profits, and organizations that want to provide creative therapeutic mental health support for their participants.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
You can’t move forward or start something new if you are risk aversive. I knew leaving the agency where I was working was risky. I weighed the pros and cons and sought ways to mitigate that risk- I could get another job that would provide stable income and health insurance but also give me the flexibility I needed to start my own business. I knew it would likely be a slow start in building my practice.  My husband, who started his own business in April of 2018 was in full support of me starting my own practice.  My Dad started his own business the year I was born, so I have always been surrounded by an entrepreneurial spirit.  Having supportive people in my life helped immensely with the fear surrouding taking such a big risk.  I also knew I could always find another job at another agency if this didn’t work out. There was a small risk that I wouldn’t be successful or wouldn’t like it. I had a good idea that due to the demand for mental health services and the colleagues stating they had referrals for me, I likely would not have much of an issue building my practice, but it was still a risk.  So far, the risk has paid off and I am very happy with the decision I made to start my own practice.  I look forward to continuing to grow professionally in my career and as a business owner.  Having my own practice keeps me excited, engaged, and constantly solving problems in a way that I find exciting and rewarding.

Pricing:

  • private pay only
  • sliding scale available on a case by case basis
  • Health Savings Plans accepted
  • grant funding accepted for contract work

Contact Info:

Image Credit: 
Madeline Brenner

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