Dr. Bertrina Olivia West Al-Mahdi Ph.D., known as Dr. O, building her empire inspiring and empowering her clients leading by example by dedicating her career to social justice, human rights activism, racial and cultural equality, and advocacy. Her hard work, determination, and self sufficiency speaks for itself. We here at Sheen are delighted to share Dr. O, journey in this exclusive. We caught up with Dr. O, to discuss her journey helping and being the change she wants to see. She specializes in the area of trauma recovery and has traveled the world working with individuals, families, couples, children, and organizations, helping them identify and overcome trauma while educating and advocating for the equal rights of marginalized groups. We salute Dr.Bertrina impressive work and contributions to society and glad to share her latest endeavors and accomplishments .To learn more about Dr.O, journey read her exclusive interview below.
Congratulations on all your success and hard work. Tell us about your journey working in social justice, human rights activism, racial and cultural equality, and advocacy. How did you get your start?
Thank you so much. I am so excited to share my journey with you. My mother was very militant as she and my grandmother were both a part of the Black Panther Party, so I would say Black Pride, equality, justice, and militance were instilled in me from a very young age. I loved Angela Davis, Nikki Giovanni, Huey P. Newton, and the like. I recall watching the Rodney King beating when I was ten years old. I remember the aftermath. The protest. The anger. The marches. The violence. I was young, but I was angry. I wanted justice. In hindsight, it was probably more so because my mom was angry and very active in marches and protests, and I wanted to be just like her. Fast forward to my freshman year of high school; I grew up in Seattle, WA. And this was my first time personally being exposed to racism. My mother also went to high school in Seattle. Wanting to follow in her footsteps, I was adamant about attending the same high school she attended in a very affluent neighborhood in Seattle. I recall having to be bused to school and seeing “Ni**er” and “Go home Ni**er” vandalized on walls at school and the bus stop. I was exposed to this type of hate, and racism is what catapulted me into activism. I started our first Black Student Union, tried out, and was accepted on our all-white cheer and track teams. But I was later expelled before being able to participate on either team. Throughout my lifetime, I have always been placed in positions of advocacy. I am a fighter. I always come ready to battle and to fight. I believe in fighting, advocating, and standing up for those who don’t have a voice, whose voice is not heard, or who need someone to stand with them to fight for justice. My journey in working in social justice, human rights activism, racial and cultural equality, and advocacy was a natural progression from a young age. I continued my advocacy professionally throughout my career.
It has always been my belief to not talk about what’s wrong in the world but to do something about it. This led me to join my local law enforcement agency to be a part of the change in my community. I advocated for equality and justice in faculty, staff, coursework, and internship placement diversity in graduate school. Currently, I advocate and educate in all areas of social justice, human rights activism, racial and cultural equality, and advocacy.
What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from traveling the world helping so many people?
What keeps you grounded?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from traveling the world and helping others that keeps me grounded is that we are all the same. This world is a very small place. We may speak different languages, practice different religions, and even be of different ethnic backgrounds, but we are all the same. We all have struggles and trauma; we are all human. Growing up in my household, there was huge stigmatization of mental healthcare in my family. Therapy was not for us. It was for “white people.” We took our problems to God, “Take it to the altar and leave it there,” or we were not to speak of what goes on inside our house outside the home. When I started talking to other international minority populations about therapy, they would say the same things. I was shocked, like, “Wow, this is not just a “Black thing?” We are indeed all connected.
What are some things that you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
In the next five years, I hope to continue to bridge the gap in mental health equality through my group practice and serve more people and communities in need. Within the next year, I will publish my book “From Dyslexia to Doctorate,” I hope to bring more awareness to the inequalities in mental healthcare against marginalized populations.
If you weren’t in these professions, what else can you see yourself doing?
I would probably be a singer or actress if I were not in this profession. Well, at least that was my childhood dream. Although, I can’t hold a note. But thanks to autotunes, I might be pretty good. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I were not in this profession. I would say I would still be in the military; however, I was well out of the military before starting this career. I would then like to be a professional traveler. However, I did not even know international travel was possible for me outside of the military before this career.
Realistically, maybe a stay-at-home mom. I love my kids. I love my family. I love being a part of their lives. Being able to go to their schools and sit with them, participate in PTA, see them off to school every day, and be home to help with homework and cook dinner when they get home. Being a stay-at-home mom would also allow me to volunteer my time while my kids are at school to continue doing what I love: advocating and helping others.
What do you do in your free time to unwind?
Sleep. Honestly. I will be ty-erd chile. I love to rest. Spend time with my family, reading, writing, and performing poetry. The gym is my refuge, but currently, I love my Mirror Fitness. Dancing and listening to music also help me to unwind. One last thing is watching a good Nollywood or International film on Netflix.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in your acting career so far?
So far, I am most proud to obtain my doctorate in International Psychology. As a person with a learning disability, I never believed I was smart enough for college. But once I started, I never gave up on myself. I am the first in my nuclear family to attend college and the first and only in my extended family to obtain a doctorate degree. Getting my doctorate degree is not only a personal accomplishment but has also opened so many doors for me both personally and professionally and has helped me accomplish goals I would not have been able to achieve otherwise.
What can readers look forward to?
Readers can look forward to my book coming out in 2023. They can also look forward to my upcoming vodcast Dr. O after Dark streaming live on all social media platforms. We will have special guests and discuss real, raw, and relevant topics on the impact of trauma on our lives. Readers can also look forward to the expansion of Out of the Box Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting. We are now back in the office offering in-office, telehealth, in-community, and concierge therapy services, including holistic and trauma-based services such as EMDR, Brainspotting, Hypnotherapy, and Reiki.