Converse’s Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT) program, the only COAMFTE-accredited program in South Carolina, has celebrated many milestones over the last few years. From welcoming its first Doctoral Intern, Deneisha Scott-Poe, to a unique is its partnership with local practice, EMERGE Family Therapy and Teaching Clinic, the program continues to expand and flourish.
Recently, two graduates of the Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy program, Shaylin King ’19 and Carrie Morris ’19, opened a group therapy practice in Greenville, SC. Berkana Collective focuses on providing therapy services that welcome all from the LGBTQ+ community and support all sexual & lifestyle options.
Shaylin King, herself a member of the Queer community, says she and co-founder Carrie Morris saw needs in the Upstate that were not being filled. They established Berkana Collective, specializing in Queer identity and relationship counseling, with further specialization in sex-positive therapy.
“I felt called to create a space that I wanted to have when I was younger,” says King, co-founder of the Berkana Collective.
King and Morris met during the MMFT program at Converse University but grew closer during an externship with EMERGE Family Therapy and Teaching Clinic in Spartanburg.
They both agreed that the Upstate needed a resource for people looking for sexual help that did not fall under the category of sex addiction or porn addiction. So they started Berkana Collective in 2020.
King credits her time at Converse with giving her the skills and relationships to start the practice so soon after her and Morris’ 2019 graduation. “[The program] fundamentally changed the way I thought about therapy,” says King.
As a therapist, King’s clients face individual struggles that are inherently connected to external factors. “What does society say? What do your parents say? What decisions are you making that impact your work life?”
This holistic approach is what grounds King’s therapeutic philosophy.
She also credits the program with helping her with the logistical side of therapy practice. In particular, she remembers a Jan term course, ‘Intro to Private Practice,’ with therapist Laura Long. The course explored the process of legally starting a business, marketing strategies, and everything in between.
King said, “It kind of walked through the ABCs of private practice ownership, which was very inspiring because that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how.”
Long became an essential mentor to both King and Morris. In fact, Long is now their supervisor as they work towards their certifications. And this is far from the only Converse relationship that would complete their practice.
Jordan Crosby ’20, a Converse MMFT graduate as well, is now part of the Berkana Collective team. Morris was a mentor for Crosby during his time at EMERGE. Morris and King knew Crosby would be a perfect fit for Berkana as they looked to expand their team.
King has found people with similar passions in surprising places. She met Converse MMFT graduate Rickell Park ’21 while speaking in an addictions class. King’s presentation so inspired her, that Park contacted her about joining Berkana in 2021.
King said, “She took a level of initiative that I really respect, and that’s largely why she’s in the practice now.” Once Park passed her license exam, she joined the practice in February 2022.
All these relationships come back to one mission: creating an open, supportive space where individual struggles are tackled holistically and without shame.
King hopes that Berkana Collective will be a part of creating social and political change in the Upstate. “I hope that through us being able to start and run a successful business, we will also inspire and create opportunities for other Queer members to start their own business as well,” she says.