Flint, MI—Jill Odette has always had a heart to serve those in need, even from a young age. 

“It’s always been in me,” she said. “I always help people. I just jump right in … I grew up a preacher’s kid. That was just something that I grew up watching—my family was always involved with people who needed help, whether it be at the hospitals or [if] they needed food or clothes.” 

Odette channeled that passion toward pursuing a career as a mental health counselor, and recently, she established her private practice, Be Still Counseling, in downtown Flint’s Plaza One Financial Center to provide mental health services for the community.

Be Still Counseling focuses on helping people through challenges in life, whether those be navigating trauma, relationship problems, anxiety or depression, Odette explained.

She said her therapeutic approaches include counseling on communication techniques, parenting skills, self-care as well as emotional identification and regulation.

“I would just like people to know that it’s okay to ask for help,” Odette said. “If you’re struggling, feeling [your] energy draining, or you don’t want to leave home as much anymore or you stay home so long you don’t know how to get back into society, any of those things can be talked through.”

Jill Odette, the founder of Be Still Counseling, is reflected in a mirror in her office in downtown Flint, Mich. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Odette, a board-certified, licensed professional counselor, began seeing clients at her new practice in November 2022, but she’s already looking ahead.

She is collaborating with YWCA Greater Flint to serve as the organization’s referral therapist for people at its Safehouse Shelter, which provides temporary shelter for survivors of partner violence and sexual assault, along with their minors. 

In further collaboration with the organization, Odette is also planning to co-facilitate mental health workshops for women and children in Genesee County at the YWCA’s Women’s Empowerment Center. 

A mini zen garden rests on a shelf in the relaxation room of Be Still Counseling, a practice founded by Jill Odette, in downtown Flint, Mich. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

After receiving a master’s degree in counseling at Central Michigan University, Odette worked as a mental health counselor at the Michigan School for the Deaf (MSD). 

Over the course of a decade counseling MSD students, she learned what it means to stay open to people’s experiences, and that the simple act of listening can go a long way—lessons she has taken to Be Still Counseling, Odette noted. 

“I went in thinking I had to be this hard shell … and that I could solve everything for everybody and fix everything,” she said of joining MSD as a counselor. “Those kids taught me to stay vulnerable with them.” 

That comes with a balance, she said, but being vulnerable is a cornerstone to fostering meaningful relationships, in therapy and beyond.

“I believe that both people—the therapist and the client—are charged with bringing a piece of themselves to the relationship in order to build that trust, that rapport, that safe place,” Odette said. 

Jill Odette fills out paperwork on her laptop at her office in Be Still Counseling, the practice she founded, in downtown Flint, Mich. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

In 2018, Odette left MSD to spend more time with her two daughters. She said she prolonged her break from counseling when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in order to take care of her daughters as they learned from home. 

Amid the pandemic, however, Odette saw the growing need for mental health services. Increased levels of social isolation, anxiety, depression and domestic violence are among the challenges that people have faced during COVID, Odette said. 

“In the beginning of COVID, I told my friends and family, ‘This is going to result in a mental health pandemic. [It’s] not just the virus pandemic,’” she said. “And it’s true, I see so much backlash from COVID and what it has done to people.” 

Over time, Odette’s loved ones reminded her of her gift in connecting with others and in helping those who are in crisis, which helped inspire Odette to return to counseling and establish her private practice. 

“It was friends and family who kept encouraging me that I had a gift and that people needed my gift,” she said. “I saw what the needs were and they all kept encouraging me to be part of the solution.”

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...