HHP Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Lewis
Two-time ECU graduate Nicole “Nikki” Lewis is the owner of Redefined Counseling Center, PLLC, in Kinston, N.C. As a clinician and supervisor, Nikki has been in practice for 18 years and attended the School of Social Work program here at ECU, completing her bachelor’s degree in December 2002. Shortly after graduation, Nikki completed her master’s degree through the advance standing program and graduated in April of 2004.
Nikki began her career working at Cherry Hospital as a clinician and later the social work supervisor of the admissions unit. After leaving Cherry Hospital, she served as a clinician and supervisor at various non-profits, community mental health and private practice offices doing what she loves the most – developing professional relationships with her clients and helping them discover their own path to meet their goals of life improvement and mental wellness.
Prior to opening her own practice, Nikki served at PORT Health for more than 8 years as the Program Supervisor in the Kinston Office. She has extensive knowledge and experience working with clients with concerns related to grief, trauma, relationship loss, life transitions and stress, addiction, depression and anxiety. She utilizes various treatment modalities and provides a person-centered, solution-focused approach to aid in quick recovery and stabilization. Nikki shared that her favorite aspect of her work as a social worker is walking alongside clients and helping them face difficult moments and celebrating when they have experienced breakthroughs and progress toward more peaceful living.
Nikki recounted that she thought she would never attend college. After continuous encouragement from her father, Nikki enrolled at Pitt Community College in the Human Services Program, meeting incredible teachers who encouraged her to believe in herself and recognizing potential in serving and caring for others. Those teachers at Pitt Community College, including one who was an ECU social work alumnus, gave her the courage she needed to take the next step.
“Attending East Carolina University became the dream I never knew I had,” Nikki said. “ECU provided me the opportunity and space to discover my potential of becoming a great student. The environment and support of faculty in the School of Social Work motivated me to work harder and dig deeper than I ever had before as a student. I found the confidence I needed to become who my dad always knew I could be. What I learned about myself, while attending ECU, was instrumental in the development of the confidence I carry today as a clinician. I am where I am supposed to be, using the gifts I have been given. Discovering purpose is a scary and difficult task, but having the right people and experiences makes this task much easier.”
During Nikki’s time at ECU, it was Professor Glenn Rohr who had the biggest impact on Nikki’s trajectory. Rhor’s class is where Nikki first fell in love with mental health diagnoses and treatment plans. Today, Nikki has a passion for serving first responders and has provided critical incident stress management services throughout eastern N.C. since 2002. Of all the opportunities to serve and lead, Nikki is most proud of serving as an educator and advocate to help fight the stigma related to mental health and addiction. She has served on various committees and boards to help fight the opioid battle in Lenoir County and to provide a safe space for those seeking treatment, as they pursue mental wellness.
Nikki’s advice to current students? “Take advantage of the “extra” experiences offered in your program. Become more involved and step out of your comfort zone while you are surrounded by teachers and students walking this journey with you. Take advantage of practicums and internships. Make them count by fully investing and learning from those who have ‘been in your shoes.’ Learn by trial and error. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong decision. Just make smart decisions and then adjust as needed.
“Social workers, like many other helping professionals, are not always good at managing their own self care.” Nikki continued. “There are many barriers to overcome when providing services to help others (governmental restrictions, insurance authorization, stigma, etc…). There is a push for a quick fix, despite barriers within our own agency policies, as well as the client’s circumstances that make treatment more difficult and our burden heavier. It is my hope that others will begin to understand the many demands and will continue to become more client centered as we progress forward. It is important for us to practice what we preach to prevent burnout from the barriers of attending to the needs of others.”
Nikki finds balance in her life by spending time with her family. The love and support of her husband, three children and her mother, keep her focused on remaining grounded in what matters most. Nikki pursues mental wellness by exercising daily, practicing her faith and finding new traveling adventures with family and friends.