Philly therapist helps LGBTQ individuals lead proud lives

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Monday, June 27, 2022
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When Malika O'Neill lost her mom, she lost her support group. That's why she became a therapist to help others like her in the LGBTQ community.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "When I was growing up, I didn't see people that looked like me, that identify like me, helping other people like me," said Malika O'Neill.

O'Neill, who grew up in North Philadelphia, faced typical challenges when coming out as a lesbian. But she was unprepared for what would happen next.

"My mother was killed here in Philadelphia two months after I came out," she said. "And that was my only support system. There were no safe spaces, or if there was, I didn't know where they were. "

O'Neill didn't want any other individuals to feel lost the same way she did. That's why she enrolled in Lincoln University and then Widener University, receiving master's degrees at both. After becoming a licensed professional counselor, she started The Pleasure Collective LLC.

"There are people who might not be able to afford therapy," she said. "We try to make it affordable so we can help everybody."

The Pleasure Collective LLC currently offers virtual counseling with a focus on the LGBTQ community. Their services were instrumental for Southwest Philadelphia native Erica Brooks, who also identifies as a lesbian.

"Several years ago, I was having trouble coming out," said Brooks. "She just let me know that it's okay to be different. You know, it doesn't change who you are as a person. That helped me explain that to my family also."

Today, O'Neill has employed two more individuals within The Pleasure Collective LLC and hopes to inspire and educate more clinicians to expand her practice. She is also studying to earn a PhD.

"I just hope that if someone sees this and they need help, they reach out. And if I can't help you, I'll be able to find the answer," she said.

To learn more about The Pleasure Collective LLC, their services, and adjacent groups that can support LGBTQ+ individuals, visit their website.

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