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Life & Work with Stephanie Fjetland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Fjetland.

Hi Stephanie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’ve lived in Austin, TX for six years now. I’m originally from Amarillo, TX. I graduated from West Texas A&M University with a degree in social work and went on to be certified as a Family Development Specialist doing self-sufficiency case management for a community action program designed to move families out of poverty and into a livable wages and insurance navigator, and benefit eligibility specialist.

I had never set foot in the city until I got here. I was at the end of a terrible divorce and looking for a change for the better in opportunity when I chose to move here in 2016. I went on to practice clinical social work as a psychiatric hospital therapist, discharge planner, and court liason for inpatient mental health hospitals and civil mental health courts in both cities.

I started making novelty t-shirts and set off to start and finish writing a novel as my passion on the side. I worked at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center as a social worker. I went on to work as a therapist and court liason at Austin Oaks Hospital here in

I was getting really burnt out at my job at the hospital. My sites were set on private practice licensure that would allow me to work independently and remotely. I have five children that live in Amarillo after a floor in my rental house left me unable to continue housing them in Austin.

I was certain after two years of clinical hours I would be able to open a remote and flexible solution for my family. We began plans to open a private outpatient mental health program based on expressive arts and music.

My sister, a lifelong painter and pianist moved down to the city to pursue her creative dreams and help me build a future for all seven of us. She was originally living in a sober living home and was active in the local recovery community. She enrolled in college to work towards being an expressive arts and music therapist while painting and working at the Goodwill Boutique on Far West in North Austin.

In March of 2018, we were getting ready to start our new future when she was murdered. She was shot multiple times and left on the side of the highway in Parker County, Texas. It devastated my family, my finances and left me unable to keep working as I had very suddenly.

I lost our apartment and moved into another one but never financially recovered. I registered Four Letter Names as a company here in Travis county in 2018 but my credit prevented me from being approved for financing. I began working from home reselling any goods I could find and started creating a branded product line and website site.

Being in my thirties and of no prior technological education, that has been a really intense learning curve in itself.

I finished my clinical hours to take the licensure exam and started my private practice shortly before the Covid-19 Pandemic Disaster. I took another hit when instead of taking my clinical exam, the then “Texas Board of Social Worker Examiners” decided to suspend my license to practice for forgetting to update my mailing address over four years prior to their devastating my career. I was unable to continue working and denied unemployment shortly before Covid-19. I have been working my way out of it almost two years now.

My apartment filed for eviction in March of last year and I continued to be denied disaster relief funding or financing due to my credit score or not meeting revenue requirements. My partner, a local musician, lost his employability in the pandemic as well. To top it off in September of 2020, my mother died suddenly and my father remarried even faster.

With all the poor practice and social welfare upheaval, I started working on a mental health program for individuals to use at home. I started creating “Kinda Unprofessional” a homebased workbook series for those without access to care. It is still in development.

My mental health declined drastically under the last few years of pressure. I was hospitalized in the summer and came home to start creating my at home programming to preserve my own sanity while running out of options.

I started designing products using my sister, mother, and daughter’s original artworks to sell in their honor. It took a lot longer to get my store active and start networking than I ever thought it would. I still don’t have much traffic or any sales but I am only now finally really able to dig into networking and building credit for financing. It’s going to be a while before that happens. I

I have lived here six years but I lost all my professional network when I left social work. Hospital life left me without time or energy to make friends otherwise and then my family started passing away. I don’t have any real network or community in the city or anywhere else for that matter. I considered leaving but financially deciding to work for myself was so freeing that I decided to go ahead and jump in rather than go back to anything else.

Right now, I am working to promote traffic and the sales needed to keep moving forward on my start up and begin more development on my other projects.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Not at all. I have lost everything, everyone, my sanity, and I am still fighting eviction while I continue to startup networking and try to build my life forward anyway.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a social scientist and author by trade. I published “In the Shambles” in 2017, a book of poems and “Crisis Management” this year. As a new and very small business owner, the fact that I am still hanging in there and feel like it’s finally my time to start progressing is the best I could ever hope for.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love the energy of the atmosphere in the city. The positivity and humanitarian are genuine here. I’ve never met people as nice as I have here. I’ve never felt as at home anywhere else even in poverty and facing homelessness. I am excited to see a future of jumping in and exploring it rather than slaving away in a hospital. I have to say that I hate the traffic but as a small-town girl that is probably to be expected. It took me a long time just to learn not to block the box.

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Stephanie Fjetland reserves image credits for all images.

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