Dr. Janeé Steele is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), counselor educator, and has earned the status of Diplomate and Certified CBT Therapist through the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Dr. Steele is the owner of Kalamazoo Cognitive & Behavioral Therapy, PLLC where she provides therapy, supervision, and training in CBT. She is also a member of the core faculty at Walden University School of Counseling where she has served as a counselor educator for the past 10 years. Her scholarly activity includes service as an associate editor of the Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development and authorship of works focused on the areas of CBT, cultural diversity, social justice advocacy, and counselor training. She has published conceptual and research-based articles in peer-reviewed journals including the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, Counselor Education and Supervision, and the Handbook of Counselor Education.
During her senior year in high school, Dr.Janeé Steele did not really have post-graduation plans until her aunt called her and asked, “where are you going to college?” Janeé responded, “I’m not” to which her aunt replied, “yes, you are.” Dr. Steele shared “I’m from a generation where you kind of just do what your elders say. So that was pretty much the end of the conversation. Like literally, she said ‘yes, you are. Ok, talk to you later.’ And we hung up.” She remembers having to quickly figure out where she was going to college. Her aunt was starting law school so she could go where her aunt went to college or where her aunt was attending law school. So, she left Arizona and went to Southern Illinois University where she earned her BA in Psychology. This started her journey in psychology and counseling.
Dr. Steele shared this, and many other, stories related to her academic and professional journey highlighting where she received her degrees, why she chose the schools and programs, and the people who influenced her career. One of the people she mentions in this podcast is a professor named Kevin Cokley. Dr. Steele states, “he was doing a lot of really interesting research related to the psychology of the African American experience. And that was so impactful for me as an African American just looking at ways in which this field can be used to enhance the mental health and the quality of life of people who look like me.”
Dr. Steele stayed at SIU to earn her MSEd then attended Western Michigan University for her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. Throughout this podcast, Dr. Steele shares practical advice for those interested in the field of psychology and counseling and offers suggestions to those interested in opening their own private practice. For example, she states, “if we’re thinking about advice for individuals who are thinking about entering this field, I would really encourage them to anticipate the need to continue your education and to seek meaningful, as many meaningful certifications as they can obtain.”
She believes that her CBT certification and her PhD have helped draw in more clients. She states, “having a PhD affords me a little bit more credibility as these both provide more credibility. And so, I think that as individuals are thinking about ways to make themselves appealing to the broadest number of individuals, they might want to think about things that lend credibility and provide evidence that they have adequate training to be able to deal with the mental health issues that people are bringing into therapy.”
Dr. Steele discusses the impetus for her, and Dr. Char Newton’s, new book Black Lives Are Beautiful: 50 Tools to Heal from Trauma and Promote Positive Racial Identity. There are millions of workbooks and other resources focused on anxiety, depression, or self-esteem, however, there are not as many resources “that people could use to facilitate healing outside of the therapeutic dyad” for the issue of “stigma attached to therapy for members of the African American community that makes them less likely to seek professional help.” She continues by stating, “but we also wanted to provide something for clinicians to guide them in this process for themselves as they’re learning how to recognize and respond to racial trauma in their clients.”
Dr. Steele shares her experience opening a private practice and the challenges she faced. One piece of advice she shares for those interested in opening their own private practice is “my strongest piece of advice would be to continue your education. There’s no way that you can learn everything you need to know in two years and 60 credit hours. Continuing your education is vital to your success as a practitioner and also to your clients’ therapeutic outcomes.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Janeé Steele specializes in racialized trauma for Black women and in the treatment of depression and anxiety. She uses CBT techniques and mindfulness strategies to help her clients challenge negative thoughts that may lead to distressing emotions, behaviors, and physiological symptoms. In addition to earning the status of Diplomate and Certified CBT Therapist, she is also an ADHD-Certified Clinical Services Provider.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology (2002); Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.
Master of Science in Education (MSEd), Educational Psychology (2005); Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Counselor Education and Supervision (2010); Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
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. Janeé Steele to the show. Dr. Steele is a licensed professional counselor and a certified CBT therapist. She has been a professional counselor for over 15 years and is the owner of Kalamazoo Cognitive & Behavioral Therapy. She has also been on the core faculty at Walden University School of Counseling for over 7 years 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, more about her private practice, and discuss her new book. Dr. Steele, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be here today.
Well, I love that you are taking the time out of your schedule to be with us. One of the fun things for me as a host is learning more about our guests and you have a wide variety of experiences and and a a fascinating journey that we want to discuss. So usually, we go in chronological order kind of where you started. I’ll ask you this. You received your bachelor’s degree in psychology at Southern Illinois University. So, tell me more about your undergraduate studies and when you first took an interest in psychology.
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting that you frame this podcast in terms of journeys, because I would say my undergraduate studies were definitely a journey for me. In my senior year of high school, I did not really have post-graduation plans and sometime near the end of the school year my aunt called me, and she said so where are you going to college at? And I said I’m not. And she said yes you are. And I’m from a generation where you kind of just do what your elders say. So that was pretty much the end of the conversation. Like literally, she said yes you are, OK talk to you later. And we hung up. And so, in that moment, I was like, well, I guess I better figure out where I’m going to college. And she was actually starting law school at that time, and so I decided, well, I don’t know anything about college. So, I can either go where she went to college, or I can go where she’s going to school now. So, I left Arizona. I went to Southern Illinois University, where she was attending law school. In high school I always had a really strong interest in psychology, but I thought oh it’s hard, you have to go to school for so long. I don’t really think I can do it. So, when I entered into college, I pursued an elementary education major. But in the process of obtaining that degree, we had to take psychology courses and I just kept taking more psychology courses and more psychology courses because again, that interest was really strong for me. And eventually I was like well I’ve taken so many of these classes I could probably get a degree in psychology, and I did. And in many of my courses, there was a faculty member he was so wonderfully affirming. He really gave me the courage to pursue a master’s degree in this field. And so that’s how I ended up going from elementary education and psychology into my master’s degree, which was in an educational psychology program focusing on school counseling at that time because I thought that would be a nice way to combine the two degrees.
Well, that was a nice summary. Thank you for that. The other thing that I have to follow up on is you know you stayed at Southern Illinois for your Master of Science in Education, actually in Educational Psychology. There are many schools in Illinois that offer these graduate degrees in psychology. What made you stay at SIU?
Yeah, I think that in the time I was there during my undergraduate degree, I developed a really strong connection with Community and then also as I mentioned, there were a lot of really great faculty at SIU at that time. And I’m sure they there still are. But at that time, there was a professor named Kevin Cokley, and he was doing a lot of really interesting research related to the psychology of the African American experience. And that was so impactful for me as an African American just looking at ways in which this field can be used to enhance the mental health and the quality of life of people who look like me.
Mm-hmm. Well, I know we’re gonna get into some of your work and some of your background and your professional experience here in a second, but then you went to Western Michigan University for your PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. What brought you to WMU?
Yeah, in my master’s degree program as part of an ending kind of capstone experience, students had the option to write like a final paper or to conduct some thesis research. I chose to conduct a thesis. I explored differences in the acquisition of multicultural counseling competence among students who had courses that were primarily didactic in nature versus those who were who attended courses that were more experiential. I presented that research at a conference. I met some of Western Michigan University’s faculty. They invited me to apply to the program, and that’s how I ended up there.
Isn’t it interesting when you think back and now you recollect, how did I end up here? How did I end up there? It’s through your experiences and the people that you meet or your parents saying you’re going to school.
Yeah, or a little bit of both.
So, when you did apply at WMU, did you know what you wanted to focus on, or did it kind of evolve and come to you similar to your undergrad?
I think it really did evolve. As I mentioned, my initial area of specialization was school counseling and that was really based on that work I had done in elementary education. And then also I just really enjoy being around children. However, I think as I begin to have my own experiences as a professional, I realized that a much more clinically focused traditional type of practice was better suited for me for my professional life. And so, while I initially started with that specialization and that focus in school counseling I, you know, transitioned into more traditional clinical or community mental health work.
And it sounds like you you kind of found your niche now. What advice would you give or offer students who are considering pursuing a career in psychology and how can they best prepare for success in the field?
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think. It’s really important to be prepared, to have a plan, but also allow yourself some space to gain the experiences that you need to inform the decisions that you’re making. You know, starting at younger and younger ages, individuals receive so much pressure to figure out what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on anyone much less than 17–18-year-old. So, I just would really encourage individuals to follow their interests to obtain education, training and things that are related to the interests that they have and as they’re obtaining that training to notice like is this a good fit for me? Is this something that I want to do for at least 8 hours a day, five days a week? And if it is, then feel confident in pursuing that. As I mentioned, you know a limitation I had starting out was that eight years, possibly, or more, of school just seemed like an overwhelming task. But I always tell individuals, if you like it, that time is going to fly by. So don’t let the amount of education that you need to receive in order to work in your desired occupation stop you from pursuing it.
You know a follow-up question you said that you presented a conference, and you met some people that invited you to go ahead and apply at WMU. Were you considering other schools at the time and and kind of bring us back through that process what I’ll lead up to is in hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently regarding that process and, if so, what would that be?
I would say at that point, perhaps my experience worked in the exact reverse from the way it was in high school. When I finished my masters and I decided to pursue a PhD, I applied to WMU, but then I applied to one university in my hometown, in Arizona. And so, I think if I were to give some advice concerning things I might do differently, I just might apply to more schools and to meet faculty in other places to see if I were able to gain relationships that were as positive as they had been for me at WMU.
Very good advice. You know, when I before we started recording, you laughed and you said, yeah, you went pretty far back in my history, Brad. And so again, that was fun for me to find out what your journey looked like. While you were working on your PhD, you served as a counselor with the Gear Up program at Northwestern Middle School and at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services in Western Michigan University. And then after that you worked at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Then at the Child and Family Psychological Services as a licensed professional counselor. So, tell us why you became a licensed professional counselor and what was involved at the time in earning the license.
The reason I obtained licensure as a licensed professional counselor is because that’s the credential that went along with my degree in Counselor Education and Supervision. In Michigan, I think our state is unique in that psychologists are licensed at the master’s level. I know that’s not true in a lot of states, and because of that, psychologists, social workers and licensed professional counselor counselors do a lot of the same work. We have the same jobs; we work in the same organizations. And so, the specific license one has as a mental health professional is not as critical in my state as it is in some others. And so, you know, in terms of advice, I would really encourage students to look at the scope of practice that’s associated with east, with each mental health professional license in your state and really be more intentional in selecting a degree that will lead to licensure that will allow the scope of practice that you hope to work in as a professional. Luckily for me, it worked out, but I think that that could have gone much worse. I did not know anything about scope of practice, licensure, when I was applying for programs, I was just pretty much following my interest and so I would advise individuals to talk to people in the field before you make kind of lifelong decisions about your career.
Well, that’s very good advice. I know that you had. You were very busy, and I’m not surprised that you were just following your passion and and your interest because shortly after you earned your PhD, you started a business called Write On Solutions. I like that play on words Write On Solutions, WRITE right on solutions for which you’re the owner, editor, and statistical consultant of dissertations, theses, manuscripts. So, tell us a little bit more about Write On Solutions and I believe you’re that’s still in existence, so Write On Solutions and its origins, how you came up with that idea.
Yeah, I would say that during my master’s degree program, while I’m not good at math, I discovered that I was all right as statistics that we used for research. And so, in that program, I took all of the statistics courses I could, including those for the doctoral program. And then upon entering my PhD program, I continue to enjoy that coursework and realized it was something that I kind of was able to take to naturally. And then along with that, in the process of writing formatting my own dissertation, I realized that that was another kind of natural ability that I had. In submitting that to my graduate college, the person in charge of receiving dissertations said, like you did a great job. You did this by yourself. Would you want to help other people? And so that’s actually how I started this work on, you know, based on her recommendation. And since that time, I worked with so many students in all sorts of disciplines to help them develop their research ideas, whether that be for dissertation or just, you know, independent research that they might be conducting to edit and then to also determine like what statistical methods which would best answer the research questions.
And so, are you still involved with Write On Solutions or have you hired people to actually help you?
I’m still involved with it, although very minimally because I’m so busy with my my own research at this point.
OK. All right. You’ve been a core faculty member at Walden University for the last 7 1/2 years in the School of Counseling. So, tell us, how did you find this position and tell us what a typical day looks like for you at Walden U.
I found this position, if I remember correctly, through Higher Ed jobs, I think it’s .com, and when I initially started there, it was as contributing faculty. The thing that interested me in the position at Walden was that the program is entirely online, so I would be able to be faculty, engage in teaching and research, but not have to kind of uproot my life and relocate. And so, I initially started as contributing faculty and then joined on as core faculty and I’ve been doing that ever since.
And so, a lot of people don’t understand the difference between contributing faculty and core faculty. Tell us briefly what the difference is.
Yeah, really, it depends on your university system. So, some universities have something called tenure and they might have various levels of professorship (assistant, associate, full professor). My university does not have a tenure system, and so everyone who comes in is either a full-time faculty member which is called core faculty, or they’re a part time faculty member which is called contributing faculty. And at universities with tenure systems, that person might be called a part-time instructor and adjunct faculty.
OK. Thank you. And then to bring us up to speed with what you’re doing now, almost three years ago, you started your own private practice called Kalamazoo Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy. So, at what point did you know you wanted to open your own practice?
The opening of my practice entirely coincided with the pandemic. Prior to opening my practice, I was part of a very large and wonderful group practice in my community. However, once the pandemic occurred, I wasn’t able to go into the office anymore. I wasn’t able to, you know, have relationships with colleagues, to chat with people in the hall to consult, and so since I was doing work by myself in my home online anyway, I figured I might as well keep all of the profit for myself and and that’s pretty much how I decided to open the practice.
Well, as you’ve been talking, I’ve been sharing some of the pages on your website. Good background information on you as well. I do have a a follow up question. So, on your main page it shows that Kalamazoo CBT is proud to be the Kalamazoo Regional Clinic of the National Social Anxiety Center. So, tell us a little bit more about this. I haven’t seen this before.
Yeah, the National Social Anxiety Center is an organization that consists of either individuals who are affiliates or clinics that are affiliates of the primary group. It requires an individual to have CBT certification, either through the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies or through the newly minted Beck Institute of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy through their certification. I think individuals can also have the A what is it? A triple B, E triple P? The, the…
I think it’s E triple P, yeah.
Yes, the thing that colleges get and and then it also requires presentation of your work in the area of social anxiety and then a vote and unanimous approval of the National Social Anxiety Center Board of Directors.
OK. And I and I like the fact that you are the regional clinic in NSAC and so I’m probably going down a rabbit hole here, but it’s just curious to me. I’m very curious about it. So, did you have to compete for that? Or I know that you have to be licensed in CBT and some other things. So how did you apply for that? Or did they approach you and say, hey, I see that you have all these credentials and these licensures, would you like to be our regional clinic in this area. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Yeah, as part of my certification through the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies, there’s a lot of networking that occurs and so as I mentioned, individuals have cross memberships in both organizations. And so, I was able to connect with some NSAC members through my affiliation with the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. And I learned of the opportunity to become a regional clinic affiliate through that organization. Once becoming a regional clinic affiliate, it means that other individuals within a certain mile radius aren’t able to.
OK. Well, thank you. I, I hadn’t done as much research on that. So, thank you for exploring that a little bit further with me. So, when you decided to open up your own practice through the pandemic or as a result of the pandemic, what were some of the original challenges that you had to overcome that you didn’t really anticipate? You thought, well, I might as well open up my cause. I’m doing it all. Anyway, what were some of the biggest challenges that you experienced when you opened up your own private practice?
I think the major challenge which I honestly anticipated, and I think most people do, is being paneled on insurances or with insurances. It was just a much longer and tedious and complicated and confusing process than I had even imagined based on what I had heard, and even though I had people assisting me with that process, it was still even difficult, you know, in the communications with that group that I had hired to get me paneled just because there was so much going on that I didn’t understand. So, at times I found it difficult to even answer questions or anticipate what their needs were just because the process is so convoluted.
It sounds like there were a lot of hoops that you had to jump through and a lot of information in order to be seen as a recognized, you know, through insurance being able to do that. Do you handle the books yourself or at what point did you decide, hey, I need to pass on some of this. You already mentioned one to help you get you know that that overcome that challenge. Are you are you having anybody else do anything else for you? The record keeping, the insurance, advertising, scheduling. Tell me a little bit more about KCBT.
Yeah, I handle most things on my own because it is a small practice and I do consider my full-time work to be as a counselor educator, so I see probably about 10 clients a week and at various points over the past three years, including now I’ve had up to one other person working with me in the practice. And so, it’s been. Possible for me to manage things on my own. Psychology Today is a great tool for advertising. I haven’t really found that I need to advertise much more beyond that. Although I will say I think that something that makes my Psychology Today profile more appealing to potential clients is the fact that I am certified in CBT. And so again, you know, if we’re thinking about advice for individuals who are thinking about entering this field, I would really encourage them to anticipate the need to continue your education and to seek meaningful, as many meaningful certifications as they can obtain.
So, I’m sharing your Psychology Today profile right now. The telephone number is on there. The e-mail link is on there as well. Let me give you one one more question regarding your private practice. Some private practices focus on focus on certain clientele, others focus on certain types of specialties or therapies so kind of high-level view, what do you what are your specialties and therapies and and talk about your clientele?
I focus on the use of CBT, so supervision and training in addition to practice, of course. I have been using CBT for a very long time. I would say the majority of my caseload was African American and I think to that speaks to the need of mental health providers from various racial groups in order to meet. In order to increase comfort for members of those groups to seek counseling or therapy, however, recently I’d say that my caseload has become much more diverse, and I at least racially, I see members from pretty much all racial groups on an even basis at this point.
You know, one thing that occurred to me while you were talking is there are certain racial groups that may have a higher stigma associated with going to therapy than others. Do you find that’s the case in in some groups?
I do find that’s the case. You know, and African Americans are one of those groups. And I think that that is part of the reason why, you know, for a very long time, my caseload was heavily African American because part of the stigma is the belief that the provider you’re seeing won’t be able to understand your lived experience and so finding someone who looks like you increases the chance that you’ll have someone who’s able to better understand your lived experience. And so, I think that that has contributed well, you know, it did contribute to the large number of African Americans on my caseload and and the reasons why African Americans may be reluctant to pursue therapy.
And and if we take race out of the equation for a second, just the the gender may come into play. I I would imagine that when I was going through school and I was reading some of the material, it it did indicate that males are more not averse but more reluctant and accepting of going to therapy than females, and I’m not sure if that’s still the case today, but if you combine that with some racial, you know, groups as well as gender as well as. Where you live it, it becomes more and more of a topic of discussion and a challenge to try to get people to come in and we feel OK coming in and seeking that therapy so.
Yeah, yeah, I think men are interesting. I might have more men than women at this point, but I think that there are a couple of factors that have influenced that over time. One has been obtaining my PhD and two has been obtaining the additional certification in CBT. So, CBT is, you know, really considered a gold standard of care and there’s a lot of research and scientific evidence to back up use of that particular modality. And then along with that having a PhD affords me a little bit more credibility. And so, I think that as individuals are thinking about ways to make themselves appealing to the broadest number of individuals, they might want to think about things that lend credibility and provide evidence that they have adequate training to be able to deal with the mental health issues that people are bringing into therapy.
And you brought up some good points where people do look at your education, your degrees, your licensure, and the more that you have, the better. But they should be targeted. Just don’t get a license just to have it on the wall so you can increase your your caseload, utilize that, yeah. What do you find the most fulfilling about your work as a licensed professional counselor?
I find being able to help individuals deal with the trauma that has occurred specific to race very fulfilling, you know, just broadly in counseling, psychology, social work program and although we have an emphasis on obtaining cultural competence, there still seems to be a breakdown in the ability of practitioners to translate what they learn in the classroom into clinical practice and as a result, clients are often underserved in this area. And so, I’ve had, you know, I think quite a good deal of success in being able to help individuals articulate and resolve the pain that has come from these experiences, and that’s been really fulfilling because I know that that’s probably difficult for them to find in many other practitioners.
You mentioned the challenge that I was going to ask you about in a second is. You can learn the academic, you know, portion of therapy, but the practice of that may be difficult for others. So, my follow up question is what skills or knowledge do you feel are important for students to develop in their academic and their clinical work and how could that help them?
I really think that for me, a foundation of cultural competence has been theoretical knowledge, both of the counseling theory that I’m utilizing and also of the cultural groups that I’m working with. I work primarily with African American clients and then also with white clients. And so, it’s really been important for me to understand and be knowledgeable about an African centered worldview, but then also about aspects of white culture as well. It’s been really important for me to understand aspects of white cultures because that tends to be less articulated in our society. It’s kind of more ubiquitous, and we might even consider it being American, and we don’t really like label and express explicitly express what that consist of. And so, I’ve had to have an understanding of those ideologies and then be able to integrate that with my theoretical approach in order to help my clients like understand and interpret their experiences and then have the skills to exact change when those experience lead, experiences lead to psychological distress.
That’s a good point. I almost didn’t really think about that as the the the white experience almost sometimes equates to the American experience, but you you don’t really target it as much as some other experiences for other races as well. I read some place that you specialize in racialized trauma for black women and in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Is that still the case?
It is still the case, yes.
OK, OK, I did see, and I’ll share it on the screen here too. Instead of me talking about it, let me go here. So of course, when we go live, I’ll share some of your social media, but here are some of the recent ones and we’re going to talk about this. Your book in a second here, but I also found another one that was some time ago and this was interesting to me, so this was a case, and I don’t want to speak for you, but it it seemed like you were involved as an expert witness and you wanted to give expert testimony on this case, but you weren’t able to, the court said no, we’re not going to allow that, so I’m not sure if I’m bringing something up that you may not remember as much, but. I I find it interesting that would this have been different if, you know, I don’t want to get into race too much, but would it be different if it was a white person versus an African American that was involved in this case? So, tell me kind of high level, what you recall about you offering your expert testimony. And why you couldn’t give or offer that testimony? I’m putting you on the spot. Maybe I should have checked this before, before I brought it up.
Yeah, well, I’ve actually, never seen this post. I don’t, you know, want to talk about this case specifically, but I I can say broadly that a problem in our criminal justice system is that individuals are often penalized for the trauma that’s inflicted upon them. And so, individuals may experience trauma due to undue police silence, but also individuals may go into experiences with law enforcement with pre-existing racial trauma that exacerbates the interactions between the two. So, in both instances, racial trauma is a factor, however individuals, as illustrated in the post that you brought up, are often not allowed to state that case in a court of law. Whereas individuals might otherwise be able to use trauma due to violence, particularly as a mitigating factor in their actions, for instance, in the case of domestic violence.
I probably should have checked that before we talked about it, because if you haven’t seen that, then you can’t really speak to it, and you’re probably not allowed to speak about some cases anyway. So, I I just found it interesting because everybody. When I first read that, I thought to myself, Janeé, you know, why wouldn’t they allow expert, you know, testimony in this case? But there’s always a reason, and there you have to be the business case behind it. And then it comes down to, you know, the either the litigators or the judge to allow or disallow certain testimony as well.
And can I say that this speaks to a need for advocacy in our profession? One problem as it relates to this issue, broadly, is that racial trauma is not formally recognized in the DSM, and so individuals who experience racial trauma may also develop PTSD symptoms and qualify or meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, but individuals don’t always meet that criteria because the trauma might not be due to an injury or sexual violence or death, right? So sometimes it’s more of a prolonged exposure to racism that is the cause of the trauma, and especially in those instances, like the psychological distress and resulting mental health issues that occur are not might not be recognized outside of our own psychological community, because there is no formal diagnosis for it.
I’m glad you brought that up. I let’s hope and pray that they do bring that in to the DSM and I, I can’t remember what version we’re on, DSM-5 I think we’re on now. Because if you talk to people, people would obviously agree there is stress related to racial trauma and and that kind of is a good segue to my next topic and few weeks ago congratulations, you and Dr. Char Newton released a new book called Black Lives Are Beautiful: 50 Tools to Heal from Trauma and Promote Positive Racial Identity. So, tell us a little bit more about the book and why both of you wrote it.
Yeah, I think you know the impetus for the book was really born out of both of our experiences as clinicians and then also as individuals. You know, as you and I have been discussing, the ability to accurately assess and treat racial trauma may be limited because individuals don’t receive as much training about how to do that during their graduate program. And so, you know, as professionals, Dr. Newton and I recognized that there were so many resources available to others to deal with other types of clinical issues. You know there are a million workbooks focused on anxiety or depression or self-esteem or you know like all of these other issues that people come into therapy with, but not as many things that people could use to facilitate healing outside of the therapeutic dyad for this issue specifically. And so, we really wanted to develop something that individuals could use on their own, especially knowing that there is some stigma attached to therapy for members of the African American community that makes them less likely to seek professional help. But we also wanted to provide something for clinicians to guide them in this process for themselves as they’re learning how to recognize and respond to racial trauma in their clients.
You guys, ever since the book has come out, you guys have been busy doing webinars as well. And so, I noticed that at the end of March 2023, you and Dr. Newton had a webinar on Addressing Race and Racism in Therapy with Black Clients. And then more recently, I believe it was last week, May 11th, you and Dr. Newton had another webinar called Black Lives Are Beautiful: Strategies for Promoting Positive Racial Identity in Black American Clients. What were some of the key takeaways from that webinar?
Mm-hmm. I think for me, part of the key understanding as it relates to the treatment of racial trauma is acknowledging that racial trauma is a form of trauma, and so treatment should be grounded in what we know about best practices for treating trauma. That means responding to both on the cognitive and the physiological symptoms that might develop in response to racial trauma. But in addition to that, it’s also important that we do this utilizing frameworks that are congruent with the worldviews of the individuals that we’re working with, so if we’re talking about African Americans doing treating racial trauma in a way that is also congruent with the African American experience or an African centered worldview, that meant going beyond some of our traditional approaches to intervention like maybe CBT, which we definitely incorporate in this book, or you know body centric strategies like mindfulness, meditation, breathing, relaxation, those are all important, and they’re they’re addressed in the book but we also wanted to incorporate things that black people also find healing. So, we also talk about community. We also talk about empowerment. We also talk about resilience, recognizing that liberation and empowerment can be cathartic and a strategy for healing of racial trauma in itself.
One of the challenges that we talked about earlier was getting people to overcome that stigma or getting people in to seek therapy. So, what advice do you have for individuals who may be hesitant to seek therapy or who may not know where to begin their search for a counselor?
Yeah, I’d say that, you know, I just want to encourage people that seeking therapy does not mean that there is something wrong with you, or that you’re crazy. You know, for most people, therapy is a way to pursue personal growth and development so you can learn strategies for coping, and you can begin to resolve some problems that may have been, you know, in development since childhood, but because it’s been with you for such a long time it’s just become part of the way you live. Therapy provides a lot of benefits for individuals and so there’s nothing to be ashamed of and you know it’s you should feel comfortable to go to therapy if that’s what you think will help you.
If you were in therapy yourself, describe your ideal therapist.
Well, I’ve been in therapy myself. I think it’s, you know, important. I really would recommend that everybody go to therapy at least, you know, for some portion of their lives because I don’t think any of us have lived perfect experiences on this earth and so there’s always something to work through. I would say a good therapist is someone who is able to help you articulate your own world views, your own set of values, and then use that world view and set of values to help you develop goals and strategies for coping that are consistent with who you are, but also increase your ability to go right. Because if your values and your pre-existing with coping were good enough like, you wouldn’t need therapy, right? So, there is some growth there, but the therapist shouldn’t be working with you in a way that’s just completely contrary to who you are as an individual. There should be some cultural sensitivity and relevance there.
Very good advice. A final question kind of looking forward, looking at the challenges, the challenges that exist right now, what do you see as the most important challenges facing mental health professionals in the coming years, and how can students or even for that matter, researchers or other practitioners, best prepare themselves to meet these challenges?
Yeah, I think that technology is presenting a new host of challenges for mental health professionals because it’s changing the way that people interact with each other and even with themselves I think to some extent. So, like, I think, you know, much more research is needed about the psychological effects of technology, and then theories are needed to articulate ways we can best respond to those changes in self and interpersonal dynamics.
OK. A final overall question kind of I mentioned that you are core faculty and so give us a typical day or a typical week. How many days per week are you kind of working on, you know your, your responsibilities as core faculty at Walden versus working at your private practice. So, kind of give me kind of your a typical day or a typical week and how how, how do you spend your time?
Yeah, I think because Walden is an online program, students don’t have the option of catching you in the hall and asking a quick question. So, e-mail communication is really important and because of that, I’d say I, you know, do work related to Walden on a daily basis, not the weekends. Try not to do it on the weekends, but you know, Monday through Friday I’m working in some way for Walden, so whether it’s responding to student or colleague communications via e-mail grading papers, responding to discussions, making announcements, trying to stay connected with students on a daily basis is really important to me. And then beyond that, there are other things like reviewing admissions files and attending monthly faculty meetings or meetings or other types of committees that you might be a part of of as well. So, I’d say the work at Walden is pretty consistent with any faculty job other than it’s done online.
OK. What do you love most about your job or jobs, I should say.
I really like helping people be better. So, part of what I love is that there are lots of ways to do that. I can do that in my individual sessions with clients. I can do that with students as a faculty member, and I can even do that through my research and writing. So that’s my primary goal. Just to make things better. If I’m doing that, then I’m happy.
At the end of our podcast, we usually ask some fun questions. So, the first one I usually ask is tell us something unique about yourself.
OK, so you I should have anticipated this, but I didn’t think about an answer. Something unique about myself. I don’t know this is I. I really love young adult novels. I love Harry Potter. I love anything that’s young adult fantasy fiction, particularly stuff that’s focused on some type of mythology.
There is a really new great series of books by an author, Tomi Adeyemi, who the first book in the series is called Children of Blood and Bone, and it’s wonderful. It’s a really great way to gain exposure to another cultural world of view, whereas most books are focused on Greek mythology, this is focused on African mythology and so it’s pleasurable, but I also think that reading for pleasure can inform and just broaden your perspective outside of what you’ve been exposed to in your own life.
I’m a firm believer in traveling outside of the United States and and getting that experience as well so going along the same lines. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
I like CBT. I like it.
Was going to. I was going to guess that.
I like it because as an office counselor, well, let me, as a student, I actually found CBT to be a little bit offensive and I was like people’s feelings like it’s the feelings that count. And then I became the counselor. I actually started doing the work, and I was sitting there with my person-centered skills, feeling completely adrift. So, I said I need to find something that’s going to be more active and directive in my work with clients and that’s how I eventually found my way to CBT. And it’s done everything I’ve I’ve needed to do it’s it’s. I’ve needed it to do it’s, it’s provided me with direction. It’s given me a way to explain things. It’s provided a way for clients to interpret what’s going on in their lives for themselves. It’s it’s just been really wonderful for me as a practitioner.
And as you mentioned before, and I’ve heard this multiple times with other guests, it’s an it’s an established form of practice that has been shown to be effective when you follow it. And so, it’s it’s one of the you I think you called it the gold standard and I’d agree with you, it’s been out for such a long time. So, uhm, we joke about it, I could have guessed that you would have said CBT, but there’s rightly so that’s why. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology or those who are thinking of opening their own private practice?
Yeah, I think as I’ve said earlier, my strongest piece of advice would be to continue your education. There’s no way that you can learn everything you need to know in two years and 60 credit hours. Continuing your education is vital to your success as a practitioner and also to your clients’ therapeutic outcomes. So, get training, get good training. If you can try to find jobs that will support that, because training is also expensive, it can be kind of onerous in that regard. But as much as you can, continue your training throughout the entirety of your career, I continue to receive training to this day, even in CBT.
One final fun question and think about this one for a second. If you had the time and money to complete one project, or go on one trip, what would you do?
For fun or for work?
OK, I really like to travel too, so if I had all of the money that I could have that I would need, I would travel and then also focus much more of my time on conducting research.
OK, sounds good. Is there anything else that you want to bring up or discuss on this podcast?
No, I just would like to thank you for inviting me today and say it’s been wonderful talking to you.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk about your journey. I’ve enjoyed learning about your journey, and I’d say to everybody who’s listening or watching the podcast, check out her website, check out her Kalamazoo website, her Psychology Today, and then check out the new book. It seems like it was a fun book to put together and it’s more of a practical guide to help people overcome some of the trauma that they’ve experienced. So again, thank you for your time.