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Pioneering Advocacy & Change

How Kiara Owens Gained Therapist Licensure and Established Her Own Practice

Kiara Owens headshot
Kiara Owens, LMFT

The bond between Kiara Owens and Lisa Xiong is a significant aspect of Kiara's journey towards becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Kiara had long aspired to fulfill her dream of entering this profession, but she knew that there was a lengthy path to achieving full licensure after completing her Master's degree in 2020.

To become a licensed therapist, one must accumulate four thousand hours of supervised work under the guidance of a Board-approved LMFT supervisor and pass national and state exams. Meeting these requirements seemed daunting, but Kiara found invaluable support through Change Inc.'s Cultural and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure Grant (CEMIG).

CEMIG is a grant program provided by the MN Department of Human Services, with a primary objective of diversifying the mental health workforce. For the past eight years, Change Inc. has been a grantee, utilizing the funding primarily for workforce development. CEMIG focuses on assisting mental health professionals and practitioners from cultural and ethnic minority backgrounds in obtaining supervision hours, meeting licensure requirements, and attaining certification to become qualified mental health practitioners, professionals, or clinical supervisors.1 The current communities of focus for CEMIG include African, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Lisa Xiong, the Director of Clinical Services at Change Inc., played a pivotal role in connecting Kiara with the opportunity to participate in CEMIG. The two initially connected through a BIPOC Therapist Facebook page and quickly formed a strong bond. Recognizing Kiara's potential, Lisa encouraged her to apply for the CEMIG grant, which Change Inc. offered, to support her journey towards full licensure.

As a participant of the CEMIG grant through Change Inc., Kiara received invaluable assistance for her professional development. This support included financial aid for testing fees, exam preparation classes, course materials, clinical supervision under a Minnesota Board Approved Supervisor—Lisa Xiong—and access to various training opportunities. Kiara expressed that the guidance and supervision provided by Lisa were the most valuable aspects of her CEMIG experience. "Lisa and I had one meeting where we got to know each other and discussed values and passions. From that initial meeting, there was an instant connection between her and me because of our shared dedication to serving the BIPOC community and providing ethical and legal services to them," explained Kiara.

Thanks to the support received through CEMIG, Kiara achieved her goal of becoming fully licensed as a marriage and family therapist in October 2022. Since then, she has established her own private practice, which has been operational since 2020. Kiara's next objective is to expand her practice into a group setting. "As an MFT supervisor candidate, I aspire to provide supervision services to practicum-level or clinical trainees. My hopes and dreams revolve around cultivating an inclusive wellness center for individuals who identify as BIPOC or come from underserved populations," shared Kiara.

Reflecting on her relationship with Lisa, Kiara expressed deep gratitude for the impact she had on her journey. Lisa became an essential source of support during a challenging period for Kiara, who was dealing with systemic, racial-based trauma in her previous workplace. Kiara felt at times that she was being tokenized and lacked adequate resources within the organization and the broader community. Lisa became the foundation that provided Kiara with a safe space to be her authentic self and encouraged her to embrace that authenticity.

In the mental health field, there is unfortunately limited research dedicated to people of color and the treatment they receive. Lisa stepped in to fill this gap, providing Kiara with relevant resources and studies that allowed her to gain insights and learn how to be the best provider for BIPOC individuals. This guidance also led Kiara to become a certified trauma-informed professional, equipping her with the understanding of racial-based trauma and systemic trauma necessary to better assess and care for her patients.

Lisa's unwavering support served as a catalyst for Kiara, motivating her and instilling confidence to advocate for individuals who share her background and ensure they receive ethical services. Lisa encouraged Kiara to pursue her dreams of creating an inclusive space for all. "I'm just very grateful for that," expressed Kiara.

When asked if she would recommend CEMIG, Kiara wholeheartedly endorsed the program. "As someone who identifies as BIPOC, I know how isolating it can feel, as if we are on our own without any resources. Change Inc. is completely different in this regard. The organization comprises individuals from diverse backgrounds who are deeply passionate about social justice. I would absolutely recommend that people leverage CEMIG and the resources offered by Change Inc. on their path to licensure or a career in mental health."

Kiara's dedication to mental health services and her commitment to providing ethical care that embraces the cultural backgrounds of BIPOC individuals are evident. Currently, she is focused on expanding her practice and wellness center, searching for the ideal location, and seeking out the right providers to join her team. To learn more about Kiara's work, visit her website at

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