We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamila Dawson, LMFT and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamila, how do you think about risk?
When I was younger, one of my favourite books was called A Calculated Risk; it’s a tale of sex, money, power, deception, and a brilliant and odd group of friends, Because of that book, I learned to think of risk as necessary to succeed in life; that it’s critical to be aware of one’s own attributes and limits but to also pay attention to the larger systems that impact resilience, safety and survival. As a Black woman, my level of economic, emotional and physical safety is chronically under threat more than a white woman or a white man. My resilience is chronically sapped by the microaggressions and macroaggressions that I have dealt with through my life. And yet, avoiding discomfort and sucumbing to fear wouldn’t lead me where I wanted to go and so that idea of calculated risk has become a deeply ingrained practice for me. When I began as a sex educator and then eventually went on to became a licensed sex therapist, there wasn’t anyone whose path I could follow, no clear steps about how to manage personally and professionally. There was a lot of disbelief and even contempt from others about the path I was on. There are some who believe that it’s silly, a waste, shameful or even perverted to want to think, write, talk about and help people around sexuality. I had been told in many different ways that it was a ridiculous to pursue a career around sex.. But I also know that I love this work. And when I calculate up the odds of the challenges, the fear and the fatigue, the risk continues to be absolutely worth it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I see clients and provide trainings about sex, trauma, and relationships through my private practice, Fire and Flow Therapy. Because of my years as a sex educator combined with my somatic training, I bring a pleasure positive stance to my clinical work. I don’t focus on dysfunctions, I help people learn about themselves and how trauma and bodies work so they can let go of that which no longer serves them and move towards relationships of clarity, wellness and pleasure. I’m most excited about owning my own business and doing what I love. I get to provide trainings and do clinical work and it’s a chance to see people grow, change, and become more themselves in real time. That never gets old! I got to where I am by following my curiosity and passions, by asking lots of people lots of questions, and eventually by being vulnerable and actively asking for help. Because of many experiences around race and gender, I had gotten out of the habit of being vulnerable and clearly asking for help. But I’d gotten as far as I could go just being on my own and as I kept practicing taking a calculated risk, I found people who would support me and champion me and my work. Becoming a sex therapist and running my own practice has definitely not been easy, I didn’t have start up capital and I was working full time while managing severe depression. I think the elements that helped me to keep going were trusting in the legacy of Black people in the US; we’ve continued to move forward, achieve, and bring others along with us. That was a lifeline I would remind myself of when things were (or are) challenging. My friends have been huge supports and have taught me the meaning of deep platonic intimacy and how nourishing and essential that is. I also am extremely careful about what media (books, moves, magazines, websites, social media accounts) I expose myself to. If the media makes me feel worse about myself, my body, or my place in the world or it doesn’t reflect the wonder, diversity and creativity of people, I’m not interested in letting that in. I’ve learned that relationships literally are everything and there is an art and a science to relationships and the more we deepen our ability to be in healthful relationship, the more we will live into new possibilities and new solutions for the challenges that humanity faces. I’ve also learned that playfulness, creativity and imagination are essential. Playfulness doesn’t mean frivolous, it means learning to be in the present and to be in flow with the unfolding moment and welcome it with curiosity. I’d like people to know that my brand stands for intellectual and clinical rigor, strong ethics and deeply pleasurable sensuality.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Art Deco so I’d absolutely take a friend to Culver Hotel, I’d drive them down Sunset Blvd from end to end so they could see how many different parts of the city there are. I’d take them to one of my favorite adult store Rough Trade, out to Point Dume which is the beach I go to when I need to let the ocean take away my worries, And then definitely to the African American Museum and the Norton Simon.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Any dedication has to include my parents who created a home that reflected the world and the beauty of Blackness back to me. In addition, my clinical training site, the Relational Center, absolutely helped to make me the therapist-changemaker that I am. And finally the writing of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Maree Brown continue to challenge and inspire me.
Facebook: Jamila Dawson
Photo by @Don Azu Keita