Katie Leikam

Katie Leikam

LGBTQ-affirming Therapist, Owner of True You Southeast

Katie Leikam is an LGBTQ-affirming therapist who owns a group mental health practice in Decatur, GA called True You Southeast. She specializes in working with anxiety, relationship stress, and gender identity. She has three employees, and her career started in 2004. Katie is an LCSW in Georgia and an LISW-CP in South Carolina. She teaches other therapists LGBTQ-affirming care and writes for publications.

Question & Answer

What do you do at True You?

At True You Southeast, I am both the owner and a clinician, so I do a couple of different things. I see clients clinically, so I cure a caseload of clients, and I also hire other clinicians. And I manage other clinicians, offer clinical consultation, and do all the running of the practice.

What drew you to social work? Was there an "aha" moment?

When I was in high school, I was actually seeing a social worker and I had a good experience with an LCSW as a therapist. I took an AP psychology class in high school and decided I liked psychology. Then I received my four-year degree in psychology. Originally I wanted to be a juvenile probation officer; then I decided against that and decided to pursue my social work degree.

Why did you decide to specialize in helping the LGBTQ+ community?

I use something called solution-focused therapy. That's the modality I use for generalized anxiety disorder most frequently. I realized that I was being really helpful with the anxiety, and my clients were really getting better, so I decided to focus more on anxiety. I focus on relationship stress because it kind of goes hand in hand. I have seen a lot of people with relationship stress inside the LGBTQ community, particularly gay men. And I just really enjoy that work. I also focus on gender identity because in 2001, my best friend at the time transitioned, and she had a lot of barriers and a lot of issues with having to get letters written to start hormones and get surgery. I saw how hard it was for her and I wanted to make it easier for the community.

I think that compassion is part of connecting with another person. Having empathy is part of just being compassionate about somebody, and it really helps you connect with another person; if you don't have compassion for your client, then how can you really help them?

Can you talk about solution-focused therapy a little more?

Solution-focused therapy is something that is brief intervention. So it's generally maybe like 8-16 weeks with clients, and it's almost more of a self-directed coaching style where clients come to me with a problem. So for instance, a client might say, "I'm having panic attacks" and we really think about what they want to happen in their life, what they want to see, and how can we get them to that place.

Do people usually continue to see and work with you for years or possibly even for the rest of their life? Or is there usually an end to this kind of therapy?

Most of my clients don't come for years. Most of my clients really do come to get a solution for a particular issue.

Why did you feel it was important to practice from a nonreligious perspective?

First of all, I'm really nonreligious myself, so that was important to me. Also, as I was working with the LGBTQ community, I found that a lot of people told me that people were trying to use conversion therapy on them and trying to let them know God so that they could repent and not be LQBTQ anymore, and it was really harmful to my clients. So it was really important to me to let them know that I don't practice from that perspective. You know, I'm not going to try to get you to change your mind -- a mind changing is not a choice. So it was really important for me to let my clients know that I'm not going to try and change them. And in doing that, I go for a nonreligious viewpoint.

Why is it so important to have compassion for your clients?

I think that compassion is part of connecting with another person. Having empathy is part of just being compassionate about somebody, and it really helps you connect with another person; if you don't have compassion for your client, then how can you really help them?

Is empathy something you feel you've always had, or did you have to work to develop your empathy for others?

It's certainly something I have to work on. It's not like I never get frustrated with clients, or frustrated with people in general, so I definitely do have to work on my empathy.

What are some of the ways that you work on developing empathy?

It's just a continual process. It's not something like, "I'm not empathetic and I need to work on being empathetic."

What is a typical day like for you?

I'm not really a morning person, so my day gets started pretty late. Then I generally go to the office, open, and start seeing my first client. I generally see clients from about noon to six, and then I wrap up, do my emails, and return phone calls. Then once I'm home, I work into the evening. I'm kind of a weird person, where I generally work a little bit every day, so I don't really have many long days. I'd rather work seven short days than five really long days.

Do you see clients daily?

I do. Sometimes I don't see clients on Wednesdays, but I do generally see clients daily.

How many clients do you usually see per day?

Generally 5-7.

I think my favorite part of the work I do is when clients tell me that they're “good.” It's kind of the termination of sessions ... It was a matter of saying that I had helped them. So I actually like it when my clients leave.

What is the writing part of your job like?

There's documentation for my notes and treatment plans, but there's also marketing and writing blogs, and I'm a contributing writer for UpJourney. So I do a lot of writing.

What is the benefit of being part of a social work organization?

I'm a member of the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work, which helps me with supporting legislation that would help social workers as a big advocate for social workers in our state.

Is joining an organization also a way for you to remain up to date on best practices in the field?

It does help me. It also helps me to connect with other therapists to have kind of a tribe and a community. I go to continuing education conferences and get my education that way. So I stay up to date with conferences.

What is the best part about the work you do?

I think my favorite part of the work I do is when clients tell me that they're "good." It's kind of the termination of sessions. I just had a client recently, a college student with whom I had been working for a while, who said "I'm good," which is good. It was a matter of saying that I had helped them. So I actually like it when my clients leave.

Do you keep in touch with clients?

I don't keep in touch with my clients. If my clients want to reach back out to me, that's fine, but I think it's a little inappropriate for me to keep reaching back out to my clients once we've terminated. Occasionally, my clients will reach out to me and say things like, "I have a new insurance" or "you helped me write my hormone letter and now I need my top surgery letter." So I'll see them again later, which is great, but I don't reach out to them.

What do you feel is the hardest part about your work?

I think the hardest part of my work is just managing a business. The clients aren't that hard. It's finding enough time in the day to do everything I want.

Did you practice as part of a clinic before opening up True You Southeast?

I worked for core therapy agencies. I was a 1099 contractor, so I worked for an agency and worked in the community.

What are some of the main differences between doing that work and having your own practice?

I feel a lot calmer having my own business instead of working for someone else.

Do you feel like you get to focus more on clients?

I do, definitely. When I worked for an agency, I was just assigned to people, but I didn't really have any say in who I saw.