Lee Lynch is a therapist by day and a TikTok video creator by night, advocating for diversity in literature. On top of this, she is a mother of two.
Growing up, Lee had a difficult childhood, and she remembers having negative experiences with social workers. This was the catalyst for her to pursue a career in social work and therapy, to help those who may come from similar situations.
“As I was growing up, I thought about wanting to help other people who came from similar backgrounds to my own,” Lee says. “I didn’t know how that looked or what that would be, but I knew I wanted to do that.”
Lee went to college to study psychology, and one of her advisers told her she would be a great social worker. She learned that she could work as a therapist with her social work degree.
She continued on to earn her Master of Social Work degree and since then, she has worked in schools, in hospitals and recently within the last year, in private practice.
Lee works specifically with Black and indigenous people of color and marginalized communities with the goal of making therapy more accessible and affordable for those with socioeconomic disadvantages.
For Lee, the most rewarding part of her career is being an impactful part of her clients’ lives and helping them during their most vulnerable times.
“It’s such a rewarding thing to have someone trust you and to let you hold space for them for challenges they have in their lives, and specifically people from marginalized backgrounds with mental health having so much stigma connected to it,” she says.
Lee says it can often be challenging to work in a system that does not always favor people of color. She aims to provide more access to care and education for people — “to fight up against a system that wasn’t necessarily built with these types of people in mind,” she says.
“Social workers do so much more than people realize,” Lee says. “We work in hospitals, we work in schools, we are therapists, and so I think a lot of people aren’t aware of that. We are such a healing profession.”
When Lee was home on maternity leave with her second child last year, she was doing a lot of reading. She started posting videos about the different books she was reading on TikTok, not expecting many people to see them.
However, Lee’s account has grown to over 42,000 followers since last year. On her page, she highlights the importance of diversifying our reading and highlighting books from underrepresented communities.
“I didn’t necessarily have a goal in mind with my videos — I was just doing it for fun,” Lee says. “Then it turned into this bridge between my social work, my mental health and my reading life — pushing people to diversify their reading, pushing people to see books from different communities that you might not see because the publishing industry is largely white, heterosexual, cisgender individuals.”
Lee started a series on her page called “Reading Across Africa,” where she challenged herself to read one book a week from every country in Africa by the end of this year. Each week, she shares a review of each African book she reads and encourages others to read it too.
Because the publishing industry is predominantly white, we often read stories from the perspectives of white people. Lee encourages people to read books by Black, indigenous and Latinx authors.
“Not only are you able to kind of get a little window into other people’s lives, but [diversifying your reading] builds empathy,” Lee says. “It lets you see individuals from other communities. I just think that it’s important overall for everyone to be able to see themselves in books. It’s important for everyone to hear all different types of stories, not just one singular story.”
Though Lee has a large following who loves her content, it can be a challenge to make sure her videos are seen. TikTok operates on an algorithm that tends to show people what is most popular and trending.
Often, TikTok will recommend popular books by white authors rather than the books that Lee is reviewing on her page. Despite this obstacle, Lee continues to post her videos with the hope that more people will see them.
In the future, Lee will continue with her therapy career. She hopes one day to train other therapists about equity and diversity within the mental health field.
Another goal for Lee is to write a book, either fictional or based on her experiences in the mental health field.
“If there’s a goal that you want to reach, it’s OK if it’s going to take you a little bit extra time to be able to reach that goal,” Lee says. “Give yourself grace and slow down to just enjoy the moments.
“I think that you can be whatever you want to be. You can be a mom and you can have a full-time job, and that doesn’t make you any less of a mom. You can stay at home with your kids and that is a full-time job and that’s awesome. When I hear ‘[she can be both],’ I hear ‘Don’t let society box you into anything. Be what you want to be.’ And I love that.”