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Meet Claudia Haywood of New Phase Counseling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Haywood. 

Hi Claudia, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
Coming up on my last year as an undergraduate student at Xavier University of Louisiana, I struggled to figure out what my next steps were in my psychology journey. I had no doubt that I wanted to attend graduate school; I just didn’t know what for or where specifically. I spoke with a friend who had just graduated with his master’s degree from The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) in marriage and family therapy. This inspired me to do more research on the field. After researching more about Marriage and Family Therapy as well as UNLV, I knew that this was the direction that I wanted to go in. I interviewed, got accepted, and the rest is history. 

Typically, around your graduate school years, it is common for individuals to start recognizing the populations in which they want to work with and specialize in. However, for me, it wasn’t that simple. For years, I didn’t have a speciality or niche, I kind of just accepted whatever came my way. Looking back on it now though, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I think that experience molded me the therapist who I am today and has given me a unique edge. I have been able to work with a plethora of populations, and I have been able to gain a great deal of knowledge and experience. 

After graduating from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2019, I moved to Miami to open my private practice in March of 2020. As soon as I got settled in Miami, I found out that the office I was starting my private practice in was closing due to COVID-19. During this time, I was questioning all of my decisions. I have family members who live in Orlando, and I decided to take a week a trip to see them just to clear my mind and stop thinking about the fact that I no longer have a job. I was down there for maybe a day before my mom pitched the idea that I should look for a job in Orlando. Not thinking much of it, I applied for a job, and by the next day, I was hired. I was working for an agency seeing clients virtually, in schools, as well as seeing people at their homes. Around May of 2022, when my Florida board changed the rules, it allowed mental health interns (which I was at the time) to work from home. This allowed me to finally open my private practice, New Phase Counseling, LLC in May of 2020. 

Towards the end of 2021, I became the lead therapist for an eating disorder recovery facility in Maitland. With the high demands of the job, I made the decision to temporarily close my practice so I could focus my energy on one job. Almost a year later, I am happy to announce that I will be accepting clients for New Phase Counseling, LLC starting October 3, 2022. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
This has not been a smooth process whatsoever! One of the biggest struggles along the way for me was trying to pass my national marriage and family therapy exam. Passing this exam is just one of the few steps a marriage and family therapist must take in order to become a fully licensed. This was, by far, one of the most challenging exams I have ever had to take. Not only is it 180 questions and 4 hours long, it’s a whopping $350 each time you take it. I took the exam 3 times before I was able to pass. Along with passing the exam, Florida requires its interns to accrue 1500 therapy hours (face-to-face sessions with a client), 100 hours of supervision (meeting with a qualified supervisor each week), and completion of laws and rules, HIV/AIDS, and a domestic violence courses before you can become a fully licensed marriage and family therapist. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
The name New Phase Counseling came from the idea that we as humans are always evolving. We are constantly entering new phases, and that is okay. When people are fearful of change or struggle with accepting it, it makes life more complicated. Change is inevitable, you can either accept it and grow with the changes, or you can fight against it and ultimately create more problems for yourself. 

At New Phase Counseling, I focus on individuals, relationships, and family dynamics. I have clinical experience in assisting individuals, couples, and families who are struggling with relationship conflict, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, life transitions, and more. As an inclusive therapist, I endorse clinical experience in working with people of color as well as with the LGBTQ+ community. With each client being different, I select my therapeutic approach based on the client’s personality, wants, and needs. As your therapist, I aim to assist with helping my clients learn more about themselves while providing a safe, judgment-free, impactful environment in which any person from any walk of life would welcomed and comfortable being their true selves. 

One of things that sets me apart from others is the fact that I am one of the few African American mental health therapists in Orlando. I am also among the few African American marriage and family therapists in Orlando. I think it’s important for the African American community to have a therapist that resembles them. In no way am I saying the color of someone’s skin determines their competence to provide therapy to another individual outside of their race. What I’m saying is, if you have depression, you want someone who specializes in depression. If you have a child with autism, you want to make sure the therapist is equipped to care for your child. Having a fellow African American as your therapist gives you that sense of connection and relatedness. Although there is a growing number of resources to build cultural competence in treating people of color, that does not completely substitute for understanding and knowing the culture African Americans live. In order for the mental health field to obtain more African American therapists, in part, we as a community must start to acknowledge the importance of our emotional wellbeing, understand mental illness is not weakness, and to destigmatize the idea of seeking help in the same way we will for physical pain, illness or ailments. 

Something that I am most proud of is my resilience. From the moment that I received my graduate degree in 2019, I have been faced with many obstacles (some much worse than others). However, because of my unwavering persistence, I have been able to overcome these roadblocks. 

Outside of work, one thing that I am passionate about is travel. I love to travel, both domestic and internationally. I’ve found that travel has a great impact on my mental health and has become a big part of my self-care. I create travel content where I am shining the light on solo travel and the experiences that come with it. One of my favorite places that I have travelled to thus far is Reykjavik, Iceland. If you love to travel and want to experience new adventures, check out my travel Instagram page (viewsfromclaudia). 

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
My advice for those who are just starting out in the mental health field is to trust the process and yourself. Whatever life throws at you, trust that everything happening around you is happening for a reason. Another piece of advice that I will give to those who are just starting out is to choose your supervisor wisely. Having the right supervisor truly sets you up for success. There needs to be mutual trust between your supervisor and yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for help when you need it. Your supervisors are there to help you grow and to become an even better therapist. Also, reframe from going into this process rigid. Be open and accepting to flexibility and change. You are not the same person that you were a year ago, a month ago, a few weeks, or even a day ago. Change isn’t always bad, sometimes is necessary. 


  • The 50-minute rate for individual sessions are $115/session.
  • The 50-minute rate for couples sessions are $130/session.
  • The 50-minute rate for couples sessions are $130/session.
  • The 50-minute rate for group sessions are $30/person.

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