BayCare Behavioral Health's Counseling Services Helps Mom of Eight Thrive, Not Just Survive

May 22, 2024
Black woman holds a long, narrow piece of purple fabric above her head. She gazes up with a huge smile. She is seated in front of a sewing machine.
With the help of BayCare Behavioral Health's counseling services, Latocia Brown has learned to enjoy the simple things in life.


Being the mother of eight children is a lot for anyone to handle. When one of those children has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, it can be overwhelming.  

Latocia Brown is that mom, but she didn’t see her situation as overwhelming. She was doing the best she could do and getting through each day – surviving, not thriving.  

Fortunately for her, one of her parenting tasks included taking her youngest son to see Edwin Jackson, MD, a psychiatrist and BayCare Behavioral Health regional medical director. Dr. Jackson was helping Brown’s son manage behaviors associated with his autism diagnosis.  

One day, Dr. Jackson asked me if I received counseling services,” Brown recounted. Stunned, she asked, “You think I need services?” 

Like countless others, Brown was so concerned about taking care of her family and just getting through each day, she hadn’t taken time to consider that she could be thriving instead of just surviving.  

Though skeptical a therapist could help her, Brown took Dr. Jackson’s advice and made an appointment with Jeanette Kunselman-Issa, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) at BayCare Life Management in Tampa.  

That decision changed Brown’s life. “I realize now I was breathing but not really living,” Brown said. 

Kunselman-Issa suggested Brown have a psychiatric evaluation. Brown resisted. “My family thought I would be drugged, so I said no,” she said. “After the third time, I conceded to it. I began seeing Darina Carcerano, APRN, and am so glad I did. It is great to have a diagnosis and receive the needed medication along with counseling.”  

Brown suffered from night terrors but thought that was just part of her life. Thanks to the medication and her therapist, she no longer suffers through that. 

“I had taken medication to help me sleep before, but it’s the medication with the help of my therapist that has made the difference in my sleep,” Brown said.

Black woman in a blue top and white pants stands beside a young Black girl wearing blue overalls both are enjoying a treat.
Latocia Brown enjoys ice cream with her daughter, Alyssa.


For Brown, therapy has been a safe and comfortable place to talk and learn how to look at things differently.  

“Jeanette (Kunselman-Issa) cares about me. She remembers what I tell her and asks me questions that point me in a better direction,” Brown said. “I tend to think negatively about myself. I blame myself and question what I did to make things go wrong. One day Jeanette (Kunselman-Issa) asked me what’s the evidence of that? No one ever asked me that. It changed how I think of myself and has become a question I always ask when negative thoughts start to invade my mind.” 

Jenny Gonatos, clinical site manager for BayCare Behavioral Health, has met hundreds of people like Brown – individuals who were going through the motions of life but with the help of therapy learned to live life to its fullest.  

“It’s okay to say, ‘I’m not okay,’ and reach out for help,” Gonatos said. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, but unfortunately, seeking help to become mentally healthy often carries a stigma.” 

As Brown can attest, the benefits of therapy far outweigh what others will think. Some of the benefits include:

  • providing a safe space to talk 
  • developing coping skills and strategies 
  • improving relationships 
  • changing negative thought patterns 
  • improving physical health 
  • improving work productivity

Brown learned healthy coping skills, and how to look at things from a new and positive perspective. She is more aware of her needs and how to fulfill them. This helps her be a better mom, fiancée, friend and employee.

“When I started seeing my therapist more than four years ago, I was skeptical,” Brown said. “Now, I am the biggest advocate for therapy. I see Jeanette (Kunselman-Issa) every other Tuesday, and everyone knows that’s my therapy time. I love that time and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
BayCare Behavioral Health is the largest community-based behavioral health provider in West Central Florida, providing services in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties. To learn more about what BayCare offers, or to get help for you or someone you know, go to BayCare Behavioral Health



Featured Video

BayCare Thrives as a Powerful Economic Engine in Florida

Image Gallery

BayCare Podcasts