STORY BY KACIE FREDRICK. PHOTOS BY JAN OSBORN.
Nicki Allen, of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, is a Licensed Professional Counselor certified in Expressive Arts Therapy and Dancing Mindfulness. Her background in the fine arts community inspired her career path of using her passion for dance, music, and art to help others process trauma. While completing her master’s program at Texas Woman’s University, Allen completed an internship with Friends of the Family, Denton’s domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy agency. It was the time she spent with Friends of the Family that inspired her journey of advocating for sexual assault survivors.
When it comes to raising awareness of domestic violence, Allen stresses the importance of standing up for those in our community that have suppressed voices. Through Allen’s time volunteering at Friends of the Family, she worked with many children, adolescents, and women who had been impacted by domestic violence. As a volunteer sexual assault survivor advocate, Allen met individuals at hospitals to help advocate for them while they underwent medical care after a reported assault. In her work, Allen also has partnered with Planned Parenthood in their community workshop series, providing empowering education to individuals.
“It is something really, really close to my heart,” shares Allen. “I find that doing whatever I can, even just connecting with community members who are jaded against therapy, is really helpful. To help them understand that there are therapists who really care–not only to be with them once a week in therapy but who want to advocate for them too. To give individuals that support and education so they can also empower themselves.”
Through her non-judgmental expressive arts-therapy approach, Allen employs yoga, journaling, dance, photography, poetry, music, and visual art. As a member of the Ukrainian community in Dallas, Allen also works as the co-director of the folk dance group. The dance group receives invitations yearly to perform at church bazaars, cultural festivals, and weddings. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the folk dance group has given more performances pro-bono and welcomed many refugees into their community.
In Allen’s war-reducing efforts, she has worked with organizations such as the Ukrainian Cultural Club of Dallas. The nonprofit operates out of a clothing store called Ukie Style. Now, the store functions as a hub center for individuals to volunteer or bring goods to send directly to Ukraine. In June, Allen hosted a day-long donation-based training for the mental health community on Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT-S) for war reduction efforts. During her training, Allen asked solely for individuals to give to the Ukrainian Cultural Club of Dallas.
Currently, Allen holds a standing invitation to the Ukrainian community for their children to receive up to ten pro-bono, play therapy services if the war has impacted them. Allen is also passionate about Ukrainian American Society of Texas — an organization centered around war relief that has coordinated protests, fundraising events, and collection drives in DFW.
“Mental health care is not something that’s very normalized in Ukrainian culture,” shares Allen. “And I really wanted to help therapists be aware of certain cultural norms to understand these people seeking refuge from the war are in crisis. They are traumatized. They’ve had to leave their home potentially forever.”
Rates of domestic violence and sexual assault increase during times of war. Specifically, refugees are at a higher risk, especially women and children who are currently escaping Ukraine. Because of Allen’s background in advocacy work, her mind immediately jumped to domestic violence when realizing how severe the war is. The same thing had happened when the pandemic started. In 2020 when therapy was primarily virtual, many of Allen’s clients had shared how much harder it was to leave an abusive relationship at that time because there were fewer resources then.
“There’s so much suffering. There’s so much need for community connection and community care,” shares Allen. “At the beginning of my career, I felt pulled in all directions. Every time there was a need, I felt I had to respond. And over the years, I’ve learned there must be a balance between caring for myself. Making sure that I fill up my cup before I can pour into others.”
At this time, Allen asks that if you feel called to donate to any of the organizations, she is passionate about, please consider donating to one of the following nonprofits: Friends of the Family, Denton’s domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy agency. Genesis Shelter is a nonprofit that provides safety for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Safe Haven is the only state-designated family violence center in Tarrant County. As for war reduction efforts to support Ukraine at this time, the Ukrainian Cultural Club