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Educator opens counseling center

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Dr. Lisset Pickens of McDonough left her job as a school counselor to pursue opening child counseling and parent resource center in Stockbridge.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Dr. Lisset Pickens of McDonough left her job as a school counselor to pursue opening child counseling and parent resource center in Stockbridge.

STOCKBRIDGE — Children already seem at home at Kidz First Counseling Inc.

Artavia Spriggs is teaching students math at the child counseling and parent resource center, which opened June 7. Fifteen kids have enrolled so far.

The owner is Dr. Lisset Pickens, a licensed professional counselor who is making one of her dreams come true through the center.

Kidz First is designed to help children and their families navigate through issues that may impede the child’s academic progress.

Pickens said some families, for example, have issues arise when they become blended families. Those issues sometimes turn into behavioral or academic problems for the anxiety-ridden children.

She said the center offers tutoring, counseling services and other resources to help those families cope with the anxiety.

“If we’re going to help the child, we’ve got to help the entire child,” she said.

Pickens said she arrived at the viewpoint over an 11-year career, which started out with the Department of Family and Children Services.

“When I graduated from undergrad, I worked for Fulton County DFCS and I saw a lot of that time was spent help people who just needed to be better educated,” she said. “Education was the key to empowering people and showing them how to empower themselves.”

Pickens said she decided after nearly two years with DFCS to pursue making a difference in the classroom.

She taught second- and third-graders in Clayton County Public Schools over the next four years.

“Then I saw the need to address the psychological issues,” she said.

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Photo by Johnny Jackson Artavia Spriggs is teaching students this summer at Kidz First Counseling Inc.

Pickens spent the last six years in Henry County Schools as a school counselor. But she saw gaps in what students needed and limits in what public schools were able to do for families.

“I wanted to bridge those gaps, (because) it’s really all connected,” she said. “I always saw that there was a gap between the schools and the community. But there is only so much you can do in schools. So one day I decided to step out on faith.”

Having come full circle in experiencing the challenges and struggles some families go through daily to educate their children, she began working in 2012 to get Kidz First up and running.

“It was like a growth process,” she said. “I worked hard and went through the process until I couldn’t go farther.”

Her latest venture serves both adults and children as young as 3.

Kidz First offers family counseling, parenting workshops, group therapy, tutoring and teen pregnancy support.

“We’re mostly solution-focused and we work on plans with the parents,” said Pickens. “It’s not just a child thing, it’s a family thing.”

Her staff includes seven tutors, four interns, two educators, a licensed associate professional counselor and a front office manager.

Yolanda Goodrich of McDonough is office manager for Kidz First.

Goodrich was a parent and mentor at Pickens’ former school, Tussahaw Elementary in Henry County. She decided to leave her job in the human resources department at a local store to join the center. She said she believes in its mission.

“I love it,” Goodrich said. “It’s awesome to be able to step out on faith and serve in the community.”

Pickens said the center is a for-profit business, but is actively pursuing grants and doing fundraisers to help supplement costs for needy families who use the counseling services.

“The goal is that it will grow and catch on,” she said. “We want to be able to educate the community. It’s about giving back. Instead of complaining about society, we’re trying to do something about it.”

Kidz First, at 1129 Hospital Drive in Suite 1A, is adjacent to the Piedmont Henry Hospital west campus in Stockbridge. Office hours and appointment information are available at www.kidz-first-counseling.com.