The heart doctor is in! I’m talking about Nicole Efunnuga, M.S. – Christian counselor and founder of “Heart Mission Therapy Services.”
Last year Nicole (who goes by the nickname “Nykki”) launched Heart Mission Therapy Services, LLC. I knew Nykki leads worship at her church (check out her CD). And that she co-leads the Women’s Ministry there. But I didn’t know she started a counseling practice, and that she’s trained professionally to do so (a PBU graduate). She has many other talents too, like writing (check out her blog). But this interview will highlight just two gifts: counseling and singing. Read below to learn more!
* * * *
June: Thanks so much for taking the time to conduct this interview. I’m excited to inform readers about your singing ministry and your new counseling ministry that is now open for business!
Nykki: You’re welcome! I’m equally excited and honored to be interviewed by you and to share about these ministries!
J: First, tell us a little about your music.
N: I always smile when I think about music!
As a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, I am known as “Nicole Danielle.” My music has both a jazz and R&B vibe to it, but my lyrics are almost always typical of contemporary Christian praise and worship music. While I have sang and written some testimonial-type songs, I generally write songs that very directly lift up the name and person of Jesus Christ. Read more.
J: Second, please tell us about your counseling ministry. What is the name of your counseling ministry and what does it mean?
N: Aaah, counseling! :-) Another thing that makes me smile.
The ministry is called Heart Mission Therapy Services.
My husband and I came up with name at our first business meeting. The name means that the ministry is on a “mission” for the “hearts” of others–to help encourage them, comfort them, heal them, convict them when necessary, and ultimately draw them closer to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
J: Can you tell us a little bit about your background with counseling?
I have been counseling both professionally and as a layman through the ministry of my church for about 5 years. I took one counseling course many years ago through Christian Research and Development, a biblical counseling training program affiliated with my former church, Christian Stronghold Church. This was at the start of me sensing the “call” to counsel.
However, rather than complete the remaining counseling courses through that institute, I went on to receive a Master of Science in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia Biblical University.
I have worked as a dual-diagnosis clinical counselor providing counseling to individuals with both mental health issues as well as addictions. I also worked as an individual and group counselor for an outpatient rehabilitation center. I have also worked as an adjunct professor at Philadelphia Biblical University training graduate counseling students in counseling skills and practice. Additionally, I have worked as an adoptions social worker. I currently do contract work as an adoptions and foster care profile writer for Bethany Christian Services. In my work as a social worker, I use my counseling skills to assess families as potential adoptive and foster parents. As co-leader of the Women’s Ministry at Antioch of Calvary Chapel, I co-teach a weekly Bible study. In this capacity, I have counseled women as the need arises.
J: When did you first realize you had a calling to counsel others?
N: When I first started college back in 1989, I was a nursing major. However, I was not a committed student and ended up being academically dismissed after my freshman year. I started a full-time job and began attending school part-time to pursue nursing. When I became a Christian at 23, I was taking one of my many “breaks” from school and I sensed the door closing on my desire to pursue nursing.
I began to notice how God seemed to bring people across my path who were hurting and needed encouragement or a listening ear.
I also began to learn about how God gifted me spiritually and, in conjunction with how He shaped my personality, He was using me to “counsel” others. At this same time, I developed a growing desire to study counseling. I eventually completed my undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Science in Bible and was praying for direction. This is when the Lord impressed upon me to go to grad school for counseling.
During my grad school years, I continued to serve in my former church and always found myself “counseling” others.
What’s more, on my job, people would come to me confessing their struggles and issues. God was confirming more and more that He was calling me to this–specifically to minister to and counsel other women.
This was confirmed through other believers as well… that God had His “hand on me” in this way. I had professors encourage me to use what they saw as a gift from God–not simply theory and skill that was taught. So I truly realized the call about 10 years ago, just before I enrolled in grad school.
J: What types of issues do you assist people with? Do you have a special niche?
N: I generally work with people who have issues with:
- self-worth struggles
- relational conflicts (marriage and others)
- singleness and dating issues.
I currently primarily counsel women, families, and older adolescent girls (ages 17-19) in an individual, family or group format. However, I will see men for assessments and initial consultation before referral to a male Christian counselor.
My niche is women with relational conflicts and issues of self-worth.
J: Do you operate alone or with other counselors?
N: I currently am the sole therapist in my practice. My husband, Korey, has an MBA and is behind the scenes as the CFO, the business and finance person.
J: As a working mom and wife, how do you find time for counseling and the other activities that you do at church?
N: Well, I will never “find” time but I do believe in managing the time that I have well.
Of course, managing time is always a challenge for anyone in this day and age. Because I wear many hats and see how out of kilter life can get when it’s not done, I am a staunch advocate for proper time management and good boundaries.
Over the years, I have learned when and how to say “no” and to come away and rest, like Jesus did.
People sometimes wonder how I do all that I do. The primary and first answer is significant amounts of prayer and time spent with the Lord. That is where I get the energy and “marching orders” to do all that I believe He has called me to do.
The other is that I am a very organized person by nature. This does not mean that I never feel tired or even overwhelmed. When I do, I rest or examine my load and see where I need to make adjustments and do them accordingly.
In addition to it being my “calling”, I view counseling as my profession. Therefore, I counsel and address issues related to the practice only during the days/times that I am “at work”. I do not take calls or handle “work” issues when I am at home. I do not have my work email forwarded to my mobile phone so that I can keep “work” at work. I work on a part-time basis and center my sessions around the needs of my family. Thus, my hours of availability are very specific. Most of my evenings and weekends are for time spent at home with my family.
Finally, I must say my husband is an amazing man! Without his backing and support, I probably would not have done any of these things. Working as a team to glorify God through all that we are and have enables me to do what I do. We support one another, which makes things much easier.
We also make date nights a priority for our marriage as well. Also, we choose the set days/times that we are involved in church activities and stick to them ensuring that our family/home is nurtured first. Somehow, things tend to remain balanced and we still get to spend time with family and friends!
J: What advice do you give someone who feels extremely unhappy, about their job, marriage, or other circumstance?
N: Of course, every person’s circumstance is different so my answer to this question is very general. I guess a question would be why they feel “unhappy”. Generally, I would advise anyone struggling with such feelings to examine the reasons why they feel the way they do. (If this is difficult to assess, I would encourage them to journal their thoughts and feelings and/or talk to a trusted and wise friend to flesh out what may be going on beneath the surface.) Once they determine the reason(s) why they feel unhappy, I would advise them to examine their perspective about their situation. I believe it really is our perspective that determine our feelings about something.
Don’t get me wrong; people often really do have an awful job, marriage or other circumstance that is very difficult and causes extreme distress. This is reality. However, a key to managing the difficulties of life is first understanding and accepting the fact that they exist and then discovering new ways in which to respond to them.
This probably will not change the situation but it will certainly change the outlook of the person experiencing it and can subsequently buoy their spirits and lift some of those “unhappy” feelings.
Overall, the best way to deal with unhappy feelings is to talk about them–through prayer, reading the Bible [if they are a Christian] or some other encouraging book, journaling, or talking to a wise and trusted friend or a counselor.
J: What are your plans long-term for Heart Mission Therapy?
N: I envision Heart Mission Therapy Services expanding to include workshops specific to common counseling issues such as depression, relational conflict, or anxiety. There is also a plan for the introduction of a bi-annual weekend conference aimed at a specific counseling issue, such as one of those things mentioned. Additionally, we anticipate expanding Heart Mission to include counseling services for men–a branch of the ministry that my husband will oversee–as well as teens. As the ministry expands, we would like to bring on additional Christian counselors.
J: Do you have any special rates for low-income families or persons with no income?
N: We currently charge $60/session but, because we do not currently accept insurance, we use a sliding fee scale based on a person’s ability to pay. With this scale, we can offer rates as low as $25/session, if necessary. We will also provide counseling pro bono depending upon the circumstance or need.
J: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
N: I’d just like to thank you again for this great opportunity! It is really a blessing to be able to share my heart for ministry and the vision with others. I really want to be an agent of change and healing in the lives of others because God has tremendously used others to be that to me and continues to do so. All of my ministry endeavors are an expression of thanks to Him. I just want to be a part of Christ’s hands and feet in this world.
J: Thank you again for your time and sharing with us.
N: You’re welcome! It was an honor.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Part 2 of Nykki’s interview, where she discusses her CD and music ministry. For more information about counseling or to contact Nykki at Heart Mission Therapy Services, please visit heartmission.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215.933.5533.