Leslie Weaver-Martin has served Mobile and the Gulf Coast area for 17 years as an accomplished counselor and leader in the field of mental health. Leslie is fiercely committed to serving her clients and organizations that support mental health. Her notable leadership positions include service to the Alabama Counseling Association (ALCA), the state association providing advocacy and leadership for the counseling profession in Alabama, as a chapter president, a division president, two consecutive terms as historian, and as the 2019-2020 Association President. Leslie’s work with this organization also includes deserved honors, such as the 2014 ALCA’s Emerging Leader award, the 2015 ALCA’s Outstanding Practitioner award, and the 2016 ALCA’s Outstanding Member award. She is a past member of the Chickasaw City Schools Board of Education and a past District Director for the Alabama Association of School Boards. Leslie resides in Chickasaw with her husband Walter and their three younger children Mallory, Trey and Larry; their older children are Devin and Kiyah.
Tell us about your business(es)/employer. List services offered and/or work you do and how you describe what you do to others:
I have been a counselor for 17 years and provide mental health counseling services in the Mobile area. I’m excited because I recently opened a private practice in North Mobile County. My counseling background is in domestic violence survivor counseling, relationship counseling, and college counseling. I also provide counselor supervision services to master’s level counselors pursuing state licensure.
Tell us why you chose your profession, the value it brings to you and/or the community:
I always say my profession chose me. Helping others and being a listening ear has always brought me joy. A friend of mine introduced me to her friend, Ashley Dunklin, who was the first person to talk to me about the Community Counseling program at the University of South Alabama. It was exactly what I wanted to do. While completing this program, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at Penelope House Family Violence Center and later hired as a counselor where I worked for 10 years and where I discovered my passion for advocacy and a love for planting seeds of change.
What is your vision or hope for women in the Mobile and Gulf Coast communities?
My hope is that more and more women will come to understand the benefits of strong mental health and seek to build ourselves and others up as much as possible.
What advice or suggestions can you give to women walking the path of empowerment or struggling with self doubt?
Build a strong support system; find a good therapist; and find a trusted mentor. Be the type of woman that you need and that your daughters would need. Forgive yourself when necessary. Self-forgiveness is just as important as forgiving others, maybe more so.
Was there a moment for you that was a game changer and can you tell us about it?
For the first 20 years of my life, I was an extrovert living in an introvert’s body. I was a social wallflower. I was the peace-maker, often sacrificing/martyring my own needs/feelings for the sake of others. One day, I finally stood up for myself in an argument. It felt good. I knew from that day forward that I needed to use my voice.
Another game changer happened on January 1, 2017, just 9 days after my baby girl was born. I developed post-eclampsia and had a hemorrhagic stroke. I spent 10 days in the ICU recovering from a c-section and two brain bleeds. The scariest moment of my life was realizing that I was the “stroke code in the ER.” It was only after I recovered that a home health nurse called me a “miracle” and explained how close to death I had been and gave me the daunting statistics for recovery. It was eye-opening. I can say that I now, much more than before, appreciate the shortness of life, and also how quickly life can be taken from us. I celebrate the blessing of life every day and the blessing to be able to physically see my children grow up as the stroke affected my vision, and there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do so ever again. This experience made me a better person, wife, mother, daughter, and friend, and without a doubt, a better counselor.
How important has education and/or continuing education been to you?
I’m a lifelong learner. Master’s level education is required to work in the field of counseling. 3,000 hours of post-graduate supervision is required to be a Licensed Professional Counselor in Alabama. 40 hours of continuing education is required every two years to maintain that license. I’m also an advocate for and product of public education.
“Build a strong support system; find a good therapist; and find a trusted mentor. Be the type of woman that you need and that your daughters would need. Forgive yourself when necessary. Self-forgiveness is just as important as forgiving others, maybe more so.”
Do you have a mentor? Who are they and how have they helped you?
I have several. Dr. Irene McIntosh was my first professional mentor, followed by Dr. Christine Bogar–both are amazing women who impacted my professional path in ways they likely do not even know. They, along with many others, provided me with examples of strong, knowledgeable women, successful in the field of counseling.
I am hesitant to list those whom I consider a mentor because I do not want to leave anyone out but Elizabeth Grizzle, Richard Dollison, and Anita Frazier are definitely in my top 3. Mrs. Grizzle, the current President of Chickasaw City Schools Board of Education, encouraged me to continue to explore new paths of leadership. Richard Dollison, my high school economics teacher, inspired me to want to teach, and my desire to teach guided me into the field of counseling. Anita Frazier, who is no longer with us, was also one of my strongest examples of an empowered woman. I loved watching her navigate the world with grace.
What/who inspires you?
My children inspire me the most! Everything I do is for them. I want to leave the world a better place for them. And if I can’t do that, I want to leave them with the skills they need to navigate the world, and to instill in them a desire to be the change they want to see. I also want them to learn resilience, which is key to a successful life.
How do you take care of yourself everyday so that you stay balanced and centered?
I won’t even begin to say that I am the best at self-care. However, I do know how to set boundaries, which I do often. I know how to walk away when something is draining me into a place of unhealthiness. I learned many years ago to protect my mental health, and I work to do this as much as possible. My mental health is my balance.