Dr. Charmeka Newton, known as Dr. Char, originally wanted to become a journalist so she took communication and writing courses. However, while she was taking these courses, she also took some psychology classes and found that psychology matched her personality more than communication, so she ended up earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication. She recalls, “I think the thing that really sparked my interest [in psychology] was the ability to help people and to make an impact on individuals’ lives.” She followed that interest and passion by attending Penn State University for her master’s degree in Community Psychology & Social Change then followed up by attending Western Michigan University for her PhD in Counseling Psychology.
In this podcast, Dr. Char shares her academic and professional journey and shares the experiences and mentors who helped her find her niche in the field of psychology. She has always loved counseling and psychology, so she knew early on in her career that she wanted to open her own private practice. However, she also realized that she loves teaching and supervising psychology students. She started her own practice, Legacy Mental Health, in Lansing, MI in 2014 and still maintains a case load of clients. Dr. Char is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota and enjoys teaching full-time. She states, “I’m able to supervise people through UND and supervise people through my practice so it was like right now I feel like this is probably the most satisfying time in my career because I found that niche. I found where I, you know, where my passions are, which are teaching supervision, multicultural work, and that’s just it, just feels really good when the work you do brings you joy.”
If you are not sure about which area or branch of psychology to focus on, Dr. Char shares practical advice regarding finding your own niche. For example, in addition to reaching out to people who are doing research in the area in which you are interested, Dr. Char also recommends that you “start networking, start connecting with individuals so that you can begin to distinguish between the various areas of psychology and things you can do within the profession.” She also suggests “joining professional networks” and “student-based organizations” through organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and other local and regional associations. She states, “connecting with professionals in the field that can also help you kind of find your niche and also develop yourself as a, you know, as a professional.”
Dr. Char also shares how her nickname was “Safe Char” until she took a risk and did private practice and teaching full-time and UND. She discusses some of the challenges in taking this risk and provides advice to those who want to open their own private practice. Dr. Char also discusses the stigma around mental health, especially for African Americans and Black Americans. She states, “when we look at the research, we know that it takes African Americans and Black populations longer to enter into treatment and then once they enter in like their retention rate is much lower than white Americans.” She then shares how people and practitioners can overcome, and even change, this stigma.
When asked what she loves most about her job, she responded “One of the things I love most is that I’m able to do stuff that can impact individuals, right, and so being able to like write a book and to know that people have been giving us good feedback…and it’s making the impact like that, to me, is the thing I love most.” You can hear more about her new book Black Lives Are Beautiful: 50 Tools to Heal from Trauma and Promote Positive Racial Identity around the 30-minute mark in the podcast interview.
Near the end of the podcast discussion, she shares her favorite principle and admits that she loves basketball and LeBron James and says, “I always tell people, if I ever met LeBron, I probably would like pass out or something.” She and her brother or husband would play basketball to relax after a hard day of working.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Char Newton specializes in multicultural counseling, research methods, career counseling, tests and measurement, and clinical supervision of master’s-level counseling practitioners and students.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology and Communications (2002); University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, MI.
Master of Arts (MA), Community Psychology & Social Change (2004); Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Counseling Psychology (2009); Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Dr. Char Newton: Psychology Today
Dr. Char Newton: Addressing Race and Racism in Therapy with Black Clients (Webinar)
Dr. Char Newton: Appointed to Michigan Board of Psychology
Dr. Char Newton: Signs you could be suffering from Racial Trauma (Article)
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Char Newton to the show. Dr. Newton is a fully licensed psychologist and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota. She is the owner and executive director of Legacy Mental Health Services in Lansing, MI. Dr. Newton is passionate about mitigating racial disparities in mental health treatment and has recently co-authored a new book called Black Lives Are Beautiful: 50 Tools to Heal from Trauma and Promote Positive Racial Identity. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, learn more about her recent work, and discuss her book Black Lives Are Beautiful. Dr. Newton, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, I.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. One of the fun things about being a podcast host is I get to do all the research on my guests, and I loved looking at your journey. And so, the first thing I want to ask is you received your bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. Tell me what sparked your interest in psychology.
So originally, I wanted to be actually a journalist, and so my major was originally communications with the hope of becoming a journalist. However, at the same time where I was taking communication classes, I was also taking psychology classes. I found that it really matched my personality more than the communication. And so, I ended up getting a bachelors in communications and also a bachelors in psychology. And I think the thing that really sparked my interest was the ability to help people and to make an impact on individuals’ lives. And so, I kind of went a different route than what I started, but that’s it’s worked out.
Well, I see, and you already mentioned that you did that dual, you know the communication and the psychology, and I see that you after you received your BA you actually attended Penn State University for your Masters in Community Psychology & Social Change. There are many schools in Pennsylvania. And you can see on the screen that I’m sharing now both masters and doctorate level psychology programs in Pennsylvania as well. So, tell us, how did you decide on attending Penn State?
So, it really was the program. So, I was in the Community Psychology and Social Change master’s program because my passion, as I said, was like to help people. And when I saw their program and community psychology is really helping people from like a more macro level and looking at how you can create change from a uhm community perspective, and so the program just seemed really unique to me. And that’s what really attracted me to their program is just doing the research, also on the faculty members that were there and their research agendas. That helped me really nail it down as to where I wanted to go for a master’s program is that there were a lot of faculty who were doing research about creating social change on a more macro or larger scale level.
So, it sounds like the program actually drew you in more than anything.
Yes, most definitely. Most definitely.
And then why did you decide to switch then and go to Western Michigan University for your doctorate in counseling psychology? Did you find that you wanted to switch your area or your focus or you decided, hey, I need a little change of pace. Tell me a little bit more about that.
So, I actually had experience when I was at Penn State. I was a part of a research team that was looking at an alternative school program, looking at the impact of alternative education on at risk study. And when I was engaging in research, I was actually in the school setting, interacting with the students and engaging with them. And one of the things I noticed is that the big focus wasn’t on the individual for the school, it was on changing behavior and they would use like a physical restraint program where oftentimes I walk into the building and kids would be restrained, like face down and it was like it made me upset because it’s like, why are these kids treated like this? Like why is no one you know talking to them? I don’t think they had a school counselor at this particular building. So, it was like I really began to get a passion to want to hear people’s stories and to how to intervene and provide interventions for them versus just, you know, maybe mistreating them. And so, like the research I did many times, the students would say things like it’s a prison, it’s not a school, you know, the difference is we get to go home at night. So, I wanted to create different lived experiences for individuals, particularly marginalized individuals, and individual individuals, at risk for like academic failure. And so that’s what kind of transitioned me to Western Michigan into counseling psychology is the ability to work individually with individual versus systems and from more community perspective.
And you were looking at programs you had mentioned that you were in kind of a study that was looking at those. Anything else that stood out in particular at WMU?
Yes, most definitely. I often say that some of the most influential people in my life were the faculty that I had at Western. I was under the mentorship of Dr., the late Dr. Lonnie Duncan and Dr. Joseph Morris. They are both African American faculty members who are intentional about promoting multiculturalism. And culturally responsive psychology, culturally responsive counseling. And so those individuals, they’re like giants in my life, they’re huge individuals who influenced who I am professionally, and I still have a relationship with Dr. Morris now. I actually just texted him yesterday, so these individuals gave me opportunity and they sold into my life like on a huge level. So, when I think about, like outside my parents, people who have impacted me, like these professors, really, they took time to give me opportunities to present research and to just help me professionally. You know, even sometimes when it didn’t feel good, like just correcting some behaviors that would help me out as I entered into the field like they really took time and interest in me as an individual, and I think what originally got me to Western was just, I’m knowing that they were individuals who were working around issues of race and racism and creating change within the profession.
So, in hindsight, after going through two different graduate programs, two different schools. What advice would you give students who are considering getting a graduate, you know, degree in psychology, and in particular, any advice on how they should select a program, a school? Is it based on, you know, the individuals there? Is it based on what area of study they want to get into? What are your thoughts on that?
So, it’s gonna sound a little weird, but I would say find the thing that breaks your heart. So, when I was working at Penn State for this research team, we were trying to get understanding of the school and the impact of this alternative school setting. It broke my heart seeing the kids being treated like that. So, if you’re in psychology, or you’re thinking about, you know, going into graduate level studies in psychology, I would really start questioning like what breaks your heart. Like, what’s the thing you really want to do something about? And for me, it was making an impact on those students on an individual level on an on a treatment or counseling perspective. And so, I would say start there and then once you find out, like really what your passion is, you don’t have to have it solidified and stay there cause as you can see with my career I kind of want some communications and psychology. It jumped around a little bit, but I think once you find the thing that you’re passionate about, then looking at programs, looking at programs with faculty, who will, you know, take that time to mentor and invest within their students, even emailing reaching out to faculty and seeing how receptive they are to talking about you as a graduate student, I think that’s important. And that’s a key indicator of how this program may interact with you once you’re in.
And you already mentioned something that I was going to point out. You went from psychology and communications to community psychology and social change to counseling psychology. So, any advice on how a student is supposed to decide which area of psychology should I focus on? Or does it kind of come to you in time?
I think have conversations with people like I didn’t know what counseling community psychology really was until I again reached out to some of the faculty members to learn more about their program. And so, I would say if there are people who are already doing the work, start networking, start connecting with individuals so that you can begin to distinguish between the various areas of psychology and things you can do within the profession. You know, even joining professional networks. I know there are, you know, student-based organizations even through like the American Psychological Association, like trying to get connected with student-based organizations, connecting with professionals in the field that can also help you kind of find your niche and also develop yourself as a, you know, as a professional.
And I’d also add that there are not only national and regional and local, you know, associations that you can get involved in. Also, if you’re in, especially in high school, if you have the opportunity to do some research or do some stuff in the field that you’re interested in, not only psychology, but whatever field you’re in. At least get yourself out there and try to expose yourself to something in the field. Any other bits of advice for how students in high school or entering undergrad can best prepare for success in the field or find their field?
Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up. So, this is my first time doing this, but I took on a high school student. They’re actually doing roles, so they’re pretty much a high achiever. They’re in high school, but they’re doing college level courses and they reached out to me, and they were interested in, like just learning more about the field. And, you know, at the high school level, you obviously can’t see clients but what I’ve done is created an internship for this individual where they’re doing research around like they’re interested in sports psychology, possibly art therapy, they’re kind of, they don’t know, so I’ve created like an internship for them this summer, where they’re researching different opportunities within the field and different areas that they can go into. In addition, I kind of also pull them along or products that they can help me with as well. And so, you know, I think reaching out, if you’re in high school and you’re thinking, hey, maybe psychology sounds interesting reach out because this individual reached out to me, and I was like I’ve never done this before in my practice, but I’ll, I’ll give you the opportunity for sure.
Well, you were probably impressed that somebody in high school, it must have been very nerve racking and nerve racking for them to reach out and say, hey, I’m really interested, can you help me out? Is there anything that you could do or work something out with you? So being impressed first of all that they reached out like that and the other thing that I would mention is even if you’re already an undergrad and you’re interested in Graduate School, feel free to reach out to the people that you’re researching on and look at their research and then find out if they’re taking on any grad students at the time and if they’re not, then kind of move forward and plan ahead, but at least reach out and don’t be afraid, afraid to reach out.
So, when you look back at the process related to searching for graduate schools and programs, is there anything that you would do differently and if so, you know, give us some advice on how, for example, high school students or even undergrad students can actually search for graduate programs or schools, any advice for them?
Yeah, I think maybe one of the things, piece of advice I would give to students, either high school or even if you’re an undergrad, is really the there’s power in connecting with people and networking and so to reach out to individuals like the high school student who reached out to me or you know, if you’re an undergrad, even talk to your faculty. One of the things I did in undergrad is an independent study where I had an interest in psychology. I was very passionate about it, so I reached out to a faculty member who I really enjoyed his classes, and he gave me an independent study opportunity where I was able to look at, like behavior modification techniques and it exposed me to the literature and research. So, talk to your faculty about like, if there’s options to do independent study work and that just all it looks good on your resume, it looks good if you’re an undergrad and you’re trying to, you know, get into grad school and it just also exposes you to the research in the field as well as relates to like your interest area.
After you received your PhD, you were a psychologist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for about 10 1/2 years, and then you were also an instructor at Western Michigan University for 11 years. You then became the Owner and Executive Director of Legacy Mental Health in Lansing, MI in January 2014. So first of all, tell us a little bit more about your experience as a psychologist, fresh, you know, after receiving your PhD, at Pine Rest and then kind of talk a little bit about how did you find that position at WMU and your experiences there?
So I was when I was at Pine Rest, that was actually like it was very new, very green to the profession and that experience, it taught me a lot that I didn’t know about psychology like that you don’t learn in classrooms like how to manage your caseload, how to avoid burnout, how to even schedule your clients and do make sure you get everything done with your case notes and your treatment planning in a timely fashion, timely fashion. And so, it taught me a lot of things and even just, you know, how to, you know, maintain professional relationships and good relationships with your colleagues. How to collaborate with individuals so it taught me a lot of positive things that I I didn’t get just by, you know, textbook and also told me, you know, just taught me about how to manage your practice, which then caused me to branch off and establish my own practice, Legacy Mental Health. So, it taught me the skills about billing, about how to, you know, navigate your caseload and create balance for your work life and personal and so I think starting at Pine Rest it was a a good start for me, but I knew that I wanted to eventually own and do my own private practice. And so, I think it taught me the skills to kind of branch off and to be able to be a business owner and to be independent. And that’s been a positive thing because it’s also taught me as an employee like ways that I like to be treated and ways I want to treat my employees and a lot of valuable lessons. As far as with Western Michigan University is actually like I mentioned, my mentor, Dr. Duncan and Dr. Morris, who gave me the opportunity who was like, you know, Char, are you interested in teaching for us? And I think my first class I taught was a research methods course and I was like, sure, I’ll do it. And that’s why I also found my passion. So, I found my passion is teaching and supervision of students and so it’s just been very rewarding when I was at Western.
It sounds like you like the academic world, and you like the private practice world. So how did you decide, hey, I’m going to go ahead and just go into my private practice. Focus on that for a while. I knew that you just mentioned that you knew you wanted to start your own private practice, and there were probably challenges you already alluded to, a few of them you had to balance your caseload and be able to manage your time. Do some of the accounting in the booking. You probably had to deal with insurance. Did you do all of that yourself or did you eventually hire some other people to come help you?
Yeah, actually I had to bring in some other individuals cause you have to kind of know your strength area. So, I had to bring in a filler to help marketing of your practice, marketing of yourself as well. So, kind of knowing your strengths at you’d have to bring in additional help and that has been a tremendous benefit is having people who have those skills.
So, if somebody were listening right now and they are almost done with their PhD and they want to go into private practice, any advice to that person who does want to start their own practice, any challenges that you had to overcome? Any bits of advice for them to make that transition easier?
I think for me, as I think about that question, my nickname is safe Char. So, my husband jokes with me, he calls me safe Char. So, I stay connected, you know, just being transparent to Pine Rest for a long time. And again, I had a lot of positive growth, positive experience from them. But it was always within me to just branch off, but because I’m safe Char, I’m like I’m 401K and I have a a dental plan and a health plan. And you know, if clients show up and they don’t show up, I get paid. Private practice is a little bit more risky when you know if client doesn’t show up, you don’t get paid that hour, right? So, I think one of the biggest things is to think about your long-term goals that you have for your life and your plans. And to really assess that and believe in yourself, like believe that you can do it like I was like I said, I stayed attached to Pine Rest probably for a little bit too long before branching off. But I took that leap and decided to just do full-time practice on my own and then since that time I’ve been able to bring in two other clinics. And and that’s a blessing to be able to provide job opportunities for people and to supervise them because they’re at the master’s level. So, I think the thing is to really work with your own thoughts, like if you’re questioning your ability to do it. I do think there are perks or you know, benefits to staying connected with organization because you kind of learn the ropes and you learn the side of things. But then also you know you really have to gauge; you know when when you need to make that move or when you should make that move.
Well, you decided to go ahead and make that move. And you, you. I think you did it back in January, I said of 2014. So, it’s been over 9 years now, I’ll share my screen and you have a a personal website and you also have your business website. So, the personal website should be popping up now. Here is drcharnewton.com. Nice website tells you a little bit about you, tells you a little about your C-Suite Start Learning and some of your latest work, and then how to contact you. What I liked about this is it it you you have links here that actually just talk about each of the different things that you’re promoting and you’re actually covering, but specifically consulting and coaching as well. And so, I’ll switch. Here’s your Legacy Mental Health website as well. And of course, when we go live, I will post both of these up there so everybody can see this. So, tell me about your practice and tell me about what you particularly like focusing on. I mentioned a couple things in the intro, but I wanted you to have some time to talk about your practice and what you are passionate about.
So, my passion really within my practice and within Legacy is multicultural competency and being culturally responsive. So, a lot of the work we do around do at Legacy is about helping people to heal from things such as racialized trauma and build positive racial identity. We do tend because I am African American, we do tend to attract like a, you know, large population of people who want help in healing from things such as discrimination and racism and building up positive identity. And so, we specialize in things like such as self-esteem, and then we also, you know, we deal with depression, anxiety but we always do it within a cultural responsive lens in the work that we do, we treat clients across the lifespan.
Now after you more recently I should say you became a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota or UND. I believe at one point you were the Director of the School of Counseling program in the College of Education and Human Development at UND as well. Tell us more about what you do at UND and how you found that position.
So, I’ve been at UND two years in August and through that position I have been able to teach as well as provide them, provide a lot of their practicum and supervision experience. I also serve on a couple of different committees, including our Diversity Equity Committee, as well as our missions committee for that. And so how that occurred because my career has gone through transitions is that I enjoy working with clients. That’s my passion, right. But my heart is really training individuals and particularly training master’s level individuals and so what ended up happening was through networking, that’s why I keep saying networking, a colleague of mine is Dr. Nelson, who’s also at UND, she went to Western Michigan University. She reached out to me, and she told me about the opening for the assistant professorship, and I was like for sure I’m there like, yes. So, you know I applied. And so now I really find that the work that I’m doing is bringing me joy because I have a small case load at Legacy. But I’m teaching full time at University of North Dakota for their online remote program, and I’m able to supervise people through UND and supervise people through my practice so it was like right now I feel like this is probably the most satisfying time in my career because I found that niche. I found where I you know where my passions are, which are teaching supervision, multicultural work, and that’s just it, just feels really good when the work you do brings you joy.
Well, it sounds like it, it sounds like you found your niche. As you said, you’re able to do both academic work and teaching and training as well as your practice. I actually finished my undergraduate career at the University of North Dakota myself in broadcast communication. Did you have the opportunity to visit the campus?
So last spring I went to grad, was able to participate with our graduation, so I was able to see the campus and that was a really great experience.
So, you you talked about your, you’re kind of settled in and you’re in a good place in your career right now. Can you think of a time in your career when you faced a significant challenge? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
I think one of the challenges with psychology is that people become attached to you, right? So, you have your clients, some of the clients I was seeing at Pine Rest I’ve been seeing for years who they were, some of them were on maintenance, they were just maintaining the behavior that we had worked on, some with new clients. And so one of the challenges I had was when I left was some of those clients, you know, those relationships were terminated, not everyone decided to follow me to my practice and so that was difficult and I think termination is something that we as psychologists have to deal with and but at the same time I think we as professionals have to do what’s kind of also in our interest to grow and our interest to make an impact for the profession so we can help more people. And so that was a challenge for me, taking that step, not being safe Char anymore, but taking that risk to do private practice and to teach full-time.
So, I do have a question that I wasn’t planning on asking you, but you brought it up. A lot of times, when you leave one practice a shared practice, a group practice, and you go into your own practice sometimes there are agreements in place when you get hired at that practice, that says if and when you leave, you cannot bring over or bring your current client base over until six months or a year after. Tell me how that worked in your case.
Yeah, so that’s what created challenges that, you know, the organization I was with did have like clauses in there and they weren’t, I’ll just say, as supportive of bringing clients, you know, with me. At the end of the day, clients have the free will, as they should, to choose where they go. So, some of my clients and, you know, they know how to Google they know how to, uhm, they know how to stay in contact and so some clients did transition with me because that’s their right as a client to receive treatment from whom they want to. But some some people do have clauses in place. Same thing with opening up a private practice. The reason why my practice is in Lansing and not where I was at with Pine Rest is because there was a clause in there. That you couldn’t practice so many you know, miles from them so, you know, I respect the rules.
A no compete clause with a certain area or geographic location, so you know some students that are going through their undergrad or even going to grad school still haven’t decided if they’re going to stay in the academic world, or if they’re going to go into private practice or if they’re going to go elsewhere. You can go into government work and go into social work. Many different areas. So, for those who are interested in pursuing a career in the academic world, do you have any thoughts or advice for them and how to better prepare themselves for a career in the academic world if they wanted to stay in that realm?
I think researching researching what role you want to have in academia. For example, I’m a Clinical Assistant Professor, and so while I do research, it’s not mandatory or part of my contract to necessarily do research. I’m more clinical focus, so that’s why I talk about the supervision and practicum piece. So, I think doing the research and also finding out like what the university is really about, that you’re looking into like if they have a huge research agenda, if they’re gonna be expecting you to, you know, pump out large grants you know each year or however so often. So, I think it’s important to look at you know if it’s, if it’s a research-based organization. And also define for yourself like if you want to go clinical or if you want to, you know, do more research, tenure track, uhm, and again that just meets you know your need or what fits you as a individual.
And you bring up a good point. A lot of research institutions. Back in my day when I was going to grad school, there were research one, two, and three institutions and depending on which one you were teaching at, they had higher levels of expectation on POP (Publish or Perish), and then more nowadays you know applying what you’re researching to the general public and being able to apply it that way. So, keep in mind the expectations of the department and that that school that you’re applying to.
I think that’s yeah, most definitely.
Now I notice that you’re a member of the Michigan Board of Psychology. More recently, in 2022, you were honored with the Distinguished Psychologist Award by the Michigan Psychological Association for your work on mitigating racial disparities in mental health treatment. First of all, congratulations. Second, can you talk about some of the most significant disparities you’ve observed in your work? And then how, how can we or what can we do to actually address them?
I think one of the biggest disparities around help help seeking behavior, when we look at the research, we know that it takes African Americans and Black populations longer to enter into treatment and then once they enter in like their retention rate is much lower than white Americans. And so, I think that’s one of the biggest disparities because there’s a lot of stigma around mental health. Uhm, particularly like Black Americans, the stigma may be well, you just, you be strong and or just trust God. And those aren’t those aren’t, you know, hopeful messages when people are struggling with, you know, things that maybe they do need mental health treatment for. And so, breaking down the stigma, I think is one of the biggest things, and the disparity is just that help seeking behavior like how do we get individuals in the door, but how do we now get them in the door, but we honor them and treat them with culture humility once they’re there.
So, I was going to say, is it stigmatized, you know, stigmatism and a lot of it sounds like it is how how can we help them, and the general public and the practitioners help overcome or even change that stigma.
I think one of the things is partnering with credible sources within these communities. For example, for black Americans, the Black Baptist Church is a credible source. Many people seek out that source for help, and so if mental health professionals are able to partner with if that’s putting on programming or speaking and building relationships, then that may break down some of that stigma. And then also, I think just on individual level is us breaking down those messages that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes, you know, because you don’t always have to just be tough in the strong person. Refuting those messages within our own groups or your own friendship groups, family groups even if you feel comfortable sharing your story about if you’ve sought out mental health treatment before, that can help breakdown stigma.
And I was thinking take race and color out of the equation for a second. You talk about gender and a lot of times men have that stigma that no, I’m supposed to be the strong, powerful one. And I’m supposed to be the one that shouldn’t need that help. So, you’re if you combine that and then we can talk about all these other groups that you combine, you know 3-4 different, you know, perspectives and it can be challenging to overcome that stigma and not only that, but overcome your fear of how people are going to look at you if they find out that they’re actually that you’re actually going to a psychologist.
Right. Right. And it’s so it always just fascinates me. If you say you’re going to the doctor for your and annual exam people don’t look at you you know weird. But if that’s you taking care of yourself, so I think we have to, you know, really look at how we frame mental health.
Yeah, we have to look at psychological and mental well-being the same as we look at our physical well-being as well. And so, once we get there, then most of this should dissipate or at least decrease. I’m going to share my screen again here, but a little over 2 weeks ago, you and Dr. Janeé Steele released a new book called Black Lives Are Beautiful: 50 Tools to Heal from Trauma and Promote Positive Racial Identity. So, tell us more about this book and why both of you wrote it.
So, this book is really geared towards mental health professionals who work with Black American clients and is also geared towards the Black American community. What caused us to write this book is that we often from our like clinical experience we have seen individuals deal with racialized trauma and it impacts your body like on a physical perspective. I’ve had clients describe like being hypervigilant or having, you know, increased heart rate. Like there’s research that supports this, so this book is designed to provide individuals with tools and clinicians with tools to help people heal as it relates to racialized trauma, promote self-esteem, and empowerment of the individual and what inspired it was just our desire to help individuals be liberated or freed from the bondage that comes from things such as like systemic racism and intergenerational trauma.
Well, as you can see, this this book is from Taylor and published by Taylor and Francis an informa business. And I’ll put this website up there as well because this gives a little background as to why you guys put this book together and brought it out there as a helpful tool, as you just said, and a resource.
Because a lot of times we talk about, you know, the hurt, right, we talk about the pain, but we need some tools that are going to help people to to deal with the pain. And so that was the inspiration behind writing it.
Both of you actually also had a peer reviewed article called Culturally adapted cognitive behavior therapy as a model to address internalized racism among African American clients. A mouthful there, but it was published back in April, about a year ago, in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling. And at the end of March, in 2023, I noticed let me bring this up if I can find it, here it is. Back in March, you also had a webinar that you guys did at the end of March, March 30th. You actually had a webinar and “this webinar provides participants with theoretically based strategies to broach, conceptualize, and address race and racism with Black clients. Culturally adapted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is explored as a means to enhance treatment.” So, what were some of the key takeaways from this webinar?
So, what we did was we like to do activities within our webinars that allow people to to really practice the skills for clinicians to practice. So, we did a lot of work around broaching where we talked about strategies on how to broach, what that looks like and participants were also given the opportunity to practice within small groups a lot of times Dr. Steele and I would do breakout groups where individuals can practice the skills. So, because again, looking at the research, we know that a lot of times clinicians aren’t broaching race, ethnicity and culture because it may create guilt or unpleasant emotions. And so, we talked about broaching and also some other tangible skills that clinicians can use.
So how do you stay current and informed in your field? You know, there are many different resources out there, but what resources or strategies do you find the most helpful keeping up with the new developments in this area?
So, I love to read, so I’m a big reader. Right now, I’m reading a lot about, uhm, liberation psychology and doing some work around personal work around liberation psychology. So, reading but then also engaging with professional communities. This summer, myself and some colleagues will be presenting at APA Division 14’s Society on race, we’ll be presenting, but then also I’m very excited to be attending a lot of those workshops and panel discussions to hear from scholars within the field. And so that’s what I do. I got a little reading and I think also just attending conferences whether it be, you know, big conferences or even, you know, at your state level, I think that that’s important.
So, what do you see are the biggest challenges facing the field of psychology right now and kind of relate it back to our students, our audience? How can students, researchers, and even practitioners work to address some of these challenges?
I think one thing is for a long time, the field of psychology has been very Eurocentric, and I think decolonizing the field and incorporating things like the book that we wrote, like Black Lives Are Beautiful into curriculum and into, you know, training of clinicians. And I think getting out scholarly research that is diverse is so important. Uhm, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is how do we include voices at the table that often may not be heard, that can help shift it from like a more, you know, Eurocentric viewpoint to things that are more adaptable to diverse or racially diverse cultures.
So, when we look at where you’re at right now, you’ve already mentioned you found your niche. What do you love most about your job or jobs?
I think one of the things I love most is that I’m able to do stuff that can impact individuals, right, and so being able to like write a book and to know that people have been giving us good feedback on that book and that they’re saying, you know, they’re reading it and it’s making the impact like that to me is the thing I love most. I also love part of my job now with my private practice where I only have that handful of clients, but I’m able to supervise and to sow into other like master’s level conditions same thing with UND like the is this that common link of being able to do work that I know that you know someone else is going to carry it on because as I mentioned earlier, Dr. Duncan and Dr. Morris like they sewed into me. And so now I’m doing it for someone else and so that’s what is impactful for me.
The last thing I’ll share on my screen here is social media. Of course, we’ll put all your social media accounts up here when we go live as well. Psychology Today has a good write up on you as well, and then you have LinkedIn has a good write up and I’m trying to reach this other one. Here’s a nice one from 2019 and…
Ohh yeah, Pine Rest.
This is when you were appointed on the Michigan Board of Psychology, so it was kind of nice to see that on Facebook. Now one thing that I did uncover was your about nine months ago, you posted a message in support of, I believe the Future 4 Teens. Tell us a little bit about this if you don’t mind.
Future 4 Teens is actually a colleague of mines, Dr. Brandi Pritchett-Johnson. She started Future 4 Teens. I think actually, you know, when she was back at Western and her doctoral program. And it’s makes an impact on youth in the community. And so, she reached out to me to do the video. And I was like for sure because I’m all about supporting individuals that are positive and that are making an impact on future generations. And so that was a video, I think for a campaign that she was doing for Future 4 Teens, which helps with, I think, social, emotional support for youth, that may be, you know, more marginalized.
OK. And then I will also include some links to the University of Michigan Dearborn, your undergrad and then your master’s at Penn State and then Western Michigan University on as soon as we go live as well. So, near the end of our podcast, we usually like asking our guests some fun questions. So, the first one I usually ask is tell us something unique about yourself.
OK, so I love LeBron James. I love basketball. So, I always tell people, if I ever met LeBron, I probably would like pass out or something. So, I’m a basketball fan, but I think that’s just connected to my self-care. It’s a way in which, like with my brother or my husband, that we just kind of relax after, you know, hard day of working. And so that’s something that you you’re really in my inner circle, you know, I kind of have this thing for LeBron. I think he’s like, one of the best players.
That’s great, that’s great. Now within academic field or outside of it, what is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
I think it connects back to the liberation psychology. This idea of self-consciousness and raising individual’s self-awareness about themselves so they can address systems of oppression. So those sort of concepts connected to liberation psychology is some of my favorite concepts is self-empowerment as well as critical consciousness.
What is something new that you learned recently?
Something new that I’ve learned recently. I have learned it’s gonna sound weird, but I have a 1 1/2 year old and I have learned just how to be silly, really, because he likes watching Mickey Mouse house and they have, like, little dances on Disney Channel. And so just to be free and be silly, it’s something he brings out my inner child every day, and so that would be something new that I’ve learned about myself is just releasing that inner child. I think it’s self-care and healthy.
Well, it sounds like it. You know, as soon as you have a child and you, you look at life a little differently. You have a different perspective, and you prioritize things a little differently as soon as you have a child. Any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
I would just encourage individuals to really do the research, look into various aspects. It’s OK to change your mind. I hope that’s what you took from my interview, because you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be and to trust yourself. You know, I was a safe Char, but I trust myself and have had success with it. So, you know whether that’s if you’re in undergrad, you’re like, I don’t know if I can go to grad school, you know, trust yourself. Like if it’s in your spirit trust that you have the ability and look for support. You know, for first generation college students, there usually are places on campus that will support you through the journey, so you don’t have to go it alone. I mentioned several people throughout this interview who have supported and uplifted and mentored me. Find those connections and supports as well.
So instead of safe Char, we could say push yourself, trust yourself, Char. One final fun question. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
Ah, and that’s. I went to Europe with my siblings a couple years ago and I want to go back to Europe again because it was a kind of a short trip, so if I had the money or time, I would just do like, I don’t know, I think like a very long time in Europe, just like because I enjoy experiencing different cultures. And it’s like there’s just so much more that I could have learned or exposed myself to, because I think just being America, we’re kind of encapsulated, but just learning different nuances. So different cultures interest me.
So, it’s great. And I I talked to some people who’ve never traveled outside of the United States. And I say try to do that if you have any chance to do that because it opens up your eyes a little bit more of what other people are going through, how they live. And that puts things into perspective. How well you may have it here in the United States. Now, I’m not arguing for US over other countries. I’m just saying it opens up your mind when you see other people living in different environments, different worlds, different cultures, and you can incorporate that into your everyday, you know, conversations with others. Char, is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up in this podcast?
No, I just really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and thank you.
Well, I appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and your journey with us. Char, thanks again.