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Meet Angela Skurtu of St. Louis Marriage Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Skurtu.

Hi Angela, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
At the time I started the business, I was the only person working in my household. I was making 33K, had thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off, a decent mortgage to pay and no decent job offers. This was around 2011.

I knew I wanted to be in private practice so I asked fellow mental health colleagues about their journey and how they became successful in business. The main story I heard was, “My husband had a good job so I could take my time getting started.” That wasn’t an option for me. If I was going to make this business work, I had to do it without any financial help.

I started networking with multiple groups of people from various business backgrounds. I attended free workshops at Washington University’s Skandalaris program which is intended for future entrepreneurs. I also attended as many different networking events as I could. I knew I needed to get outside my bubble to really learn success. The reality is that I learned how to be a good therapist, but I did NOT learn how to run a business.

I opened my doors in January of 2012. Over that next year, I worked 50-60 hours every week trying to build my business. I started with a couch, a computer, and a website. I didn’t even have my own office to start but shared one with a colleague who charged me per hour to rent. Within three months, I signed my lease for my own office space and I was able to quit my job. Within the first year, I was making a decent salary. Over the next several years, I learned more about myself and business. I knew I wanted to go places-to stretch myself in new ways. Each time I was faced with a new challenge, I struggled to trust myself. These were the growing pains of running a business.

In 2014, I went to a Sex Therapy conference. It was common for me to sit in a new location at every meal so I could meet new people. On this particular day, I sat next to a prominent publisher in the mental health field for Routledge. I was so excited to meet a publisher in person because I had always wanted to write a book. She told me that she was looking for new ideas. I pitched my idea for a premarital counseling book. She was very excited because to her knowledge, there were no clinical premarital books on the market. You could only find religious books on the topic. She asked me to send a formal proposal.

This was a key moment that I had to get over my fear. I had never written a book nor did I trust I was capable of doing so. I remember lying in bed next to my partner at the time. We talked about how this was a dream if I could simply get over myself. I think that’s the real thing people struggle with. I felt like an imposter. Who was I to write a book? Who was I to start a company? At every point in my career, it was me who would hold me back. No one else. That’s when I learned to never let my anxiety or fear of failure stop me. I had to keep moving forward one step at a time.

I ended up writing two books over the next few years-“Pre-Marital Counseling: A Guide for Clinicians” and “Helping Couples Overcome Infidelity.” As I moved forward, I also started a podcast, a Youtube channel and became a keynote speaker. There are many additional stories of fear and questioning myself along the way. This story could last for hours if I tell you every time I didn’t believe in myself. One thing stayed true, fear only held me back if I let it. I’m not sure when my attitude shifted exactly, but at some point, I learned I truly could do anything I set my mind to do with the right resources and information.

As of January 2022, I celebrate ten years in successful business. I’m grateful for all the people who helped me along the way. I am grateful my business made it successfully through the pandemic. That was another scary time. One thing I continue to learn is that, somehow, I’ll figure it out. Whatever the task may be. Who knows what the future holds.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
About 2.5 years ago, my husband and I decided divorce was the best option for us. We had a difficult marriage, worked on it in therapy for many years, but in the end, it wasn’t a good fit for either of us. Our divorce was final in December of 2019.

At that point, I had a personal and professional breakdown. Here I was, a marriage therapist who was now divorced! The old feelings of imposter syndrome started to creep in. My clients counted on me to be successfully married. What would they think of me? Would I still be trusted? Who am I to give marriage advice when my own marriage had crumbled? My business struggled at this time.

The same message from before rung true here. The only person holding me back was myself…my own fear. As I kept doing my job and helping people, I learned that there were many people considering divorce who appreciated hearing from someone like me. I had crossed that fateful line. I had lost everything. The biggest fear people have about divorce is the unknown. “This marriage is all I have ever known!” They tell me. “What is it like on the other side?” They are scared to be alone and to do things on their own. They are scared of losing family or mutual friends.

In the end, my divorce helped me have compassion for people who are struggling with whether to stay or leave their marriages. It also gave me a deepened respect for the couples who persisted through their issues and found a way to work things out. It also reminded me that I was not perfect and it was unfair of me to expect perfection in myself. I am human like every person I help. If I can give my clients compassion, the least I could do was extend the same compassion to myself.

Another tough time in my career is the pandemic. During the three months lockdown, I switched to zoom/online sessions. I had done a skype session here or there prior when a client was long-distance, but I had never done a full practice this way. During those first three months, I lost half my client caseload. Even though I offered online sessions, clients really wanted to come in person. Some would push this issue, and I remember thinking to myself, “You know we’re in a pandemic right?”

Add to that, my daughter’s school was shut down. I was attempting to be a mother while running my business from my home computer! What a nightmare! My ex and I had split custody. On days where she was with him, I was seeing clients where I could. On days when she was with me, I would have her watch TV while I hid in my bedroom and saw a client. She was five during this pandemic year. She ended up missing the last few months of preschool and doing about two months of Kindergarten in online school before going back in person.

We played a lot more together. I had more time with my kiddo than I had ever had in her life. We did rain walks which include wearing rain boots and walking with umbrellas-excellent for social distancing since no one walks in the rain. We took long drives in the car and we started a garden together. It was a good time for us as a family, but I was very worried about the business.

At that point, I reached out to a friend for some help. She connected me with a woman who could revamp my website and got me networking again via zoom. I started putting out more Youtube videos and addressing topics that were relevant in my podcast such as systemic racism. After the three months passed and the city started to open up some, it was like the flood gates had been lifted. There were so many clients who needed my help. This pandemic really changed people. I honestly had no idea how bad things got for everyone.

For the rest of this pandemic, I have been doing fine with client numbers but I will say the problems have been very intense. I do my best to help. I have never been trained to help people in a pandemic. The amount of unrest, depression, and mayhem has been somewhat exhausting if I’m being honest. However, I continue to help people where I can. I’m proud of the work I do and the people I help.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. I work with couples and adults with various problems. My website is www.therapistinstlouis.com. I also a keynote speaker and two time author of the books “Helping Couples Overcome Infidelity” and “Pre-Marital Counseling: A Guide for Clinicians.” I run the “About Sex Podcast” at www.aboutsexpodcast.com and a Youtube channel that offers skills couples can use to improve their relationships and sex lives. You can look up my name, Angela Skurtu, to find my Youtube channel.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
When I was a kid around 8 or 9, my dad took us to one of those diamond miner fields where you can dig in the dirt and pan for gold. He made it seem like it was going to be very fun. However, this was a hot day in July and digging in the dirt was back breaking work. After having spent the whole day digging and finding nothing, my dad sat us down for a talk.

He said, “How did you like today?” My brother and I replied, “That was hard. We’re so hot.” He stated, “Kids, this is why is you should go to college. If you don’t, this will be the kind of job you end up in. Do you want that?” I’ll never forget that day or that lesson. I remembered it when I chose to go to college and get my degree.

Although, it’s funny. Now that I have a sit down job all day, I love spending the weekend outside in the dirt in my garden or doing remodel projects in my house–back breaking work.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
One picture is me interviewing Marcus Boston for my podcast. It’s the studio picture and it was taken by his manager Big Stu at Shock City Studio. The rest are my speaking engagements at various locations. I also included my couch in my office because all my work starts with my couch. Here’s my mission for that couch: Our mission is to bring opposing sides of the couch together in peaceful, respectful conversations no matter who’s on the couch, where the couch is or what the couch represents.

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