Not that Kind of Dr.

She has a substance abuse issue, she has anxiety disorder, she had an abortion during the semester (did not tell parents), she experienced sexual abuse by older female family members, she experienced being homeless (on her on) before coming to college, she is escaping a dangerous neighborhood and has lost several friends to gun violence, she has been on anti-depressant medication, she experienced physical abuse by her father, she is having major financial trouble, he is struggling and caring for his mother, he has gone without meals and shelter during college, she has struggled with peers pressuring her about weight, he is queer and has not told anyone and when he is with black students he struggles with appropriate masculinity, she gained weight to keep men off of her growing up and so on…

A few years ago I watched Pariah with CFC members, but now that I think about it Pariah is not the first film to discuss youth “escaping to college.”  Boyz in the Hood is probably the first one I remember seeing back in the day.  But I’m not sure if the academy has been moved by the messages in these films to prepare faculty and staff to provide appropriate support.  I teach in college classrooms for many reasons, but the most important reason is because it allows me to be in the right place when students may need support beyond what the academy provides.   However, after more than a decade of teaching it seems that our colleges and universities are simply not prepared to handle many of the major concerns students are holding when they finally get to college.

Every semester there is a story that gives me pause and sometimes I lose an entire evening processing, crying, and trying to figure out appropriate guidance.  Oftentimes, what I consider appropriate is not readily available or accessible for students on campus.  While there is often counseling and student health centers many of the students I’ve advised reject it either due to prior or recent experiences with counselors because they do not feel a connection.  Having had counseling at three major points in my life: to deal with high school trauma, miscarriage, and being a new parent with a partner, I can truly say that only one counselor, Kesi Miller, helped me to heal and move forward.

Awesome, just not what I am trained to do. I prescribe readings and reiki.

Awesome, just not what I am trained to do. I prescribe readings and reiki.

I remember studying psychology at Spelman College in the 1990’s and asserting that I wanted to do art therapy, dance therapy, and music therapy and getting laughed out of my professors’ offices.  Now after having taught at The Ohio State University, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, and Spelman College, I can truly say that some of the work students, particularly women, may need is not necessarily “head work,” i.e. working through their stories which can re-traumatize, but I believe they need “body work” to help release some of the built up tension, pain, anger, fear and to work on reconnecting with their bodies.

Text and words can only do so much when I barely have words for some of the pain and suffering students share with me.   I’m talking about students here, but there are grown women who experienced trauma in their childhood that was never  addressed, merely suppressed and continues to haunt.  I don’t want this for my students.  So for now I am collecting resources for wellness and affirming doing “bodywork.”

Crunktastic, rboylorn, moyazb, and other CF’s have talked about the importance of self-care and sharing “care” resources.  For my dissertation I studied Sapphire’s Push, particularly the character Clareece “Precious” Jones.  I found four core themes for starting the healing process while still young: a social safety net (a safe place to live and get healthy and be a mom), literacy (ability to read and write with agency ), literature (hearing stories like your own and learning about survival in private), and having a crew (Each One Teach One classmates who know and celebrate you as you are).  As I journey through this process of wanting young adults to start healing while they are still young I think another important part to consider is bodywork such as guided meditation, reiki, massages, and outdoor physical activities.  Here is my list of care resources:

My good friend Lorraine McCall is a certified reiki master in Atlanta, and she offers affordable reiki and readings at the Reiki House.

The extraordinary dancer/instructor Dr. Veta Goler leads guided meditations and retreats at Spelman College.

Giwayen Mata offers African dance and drum classes at Dance 411 every Sunday.

The HEALing Community Center offers affordable health CARE giving patients what they need in the moment and for the long-term.

The Outdoor Activity Center offers regular hikes and service-learning activities in nature preserves and urban forests situated in Black communities in Southwest Atlanta less than 5 miles from the Atlanta University Center.

This is simply a start, but I’m writing this for my colleagues who are wondering what their role is and determining how to best move forward.   Please add resources because it is time we start doing more.

sheridf

22 thoughts on “Not that Kind of Dr.

  1. As someone who’s been to counseling at my school’s student health and noticed the differences in my problems and the “average” student every day, this article rings true to me. “The Academy” isn’t prepared for students with certain backgrounds and problems.

    Most prof’s and staff member’s answer to a student with especially heavy issues is to suggest a counseling session, but not all of the counselors are equally capable or invested. It was exhausting to visit my (very sweet, knowledgeable) counselor for a full summer and have to constantly answer questions to help her remember who I am (no, I don’t have a sister, etc) in our 30-minute sessions.

    Then, to top it off, talking about the problem wasn’t what I needed help with. Dealing with it wasn’t as simple as setting boundaries and talking things through. I needed community – something I’ve never fully felt in my undergrad career. (There is a big, seemingly close Black community on campus, but it seems centered around greeks and religion, neither of which interests me.)

    I received plenty of help from individuals which was life-saving, but required telling my stories repeatedly over four years. It’s hard not to feel like a charity case when the only time you can speak your truth is to explain a need. What I would’ve given to be able to bring my full self to a circle on a regular basis – one that eventually wouldn’t need me to re-introduce myself and my pain.

    • You’ve pretty much written my experience to the letter. Wow.

      I’ve been lucky enough to make one or two good friends, but I need a social support network who accepts me for who I am. I tell people again and again that I’m looking for community. Why is it so hard to find?

  2. Thanks for sharing. I was 12 yrs old the first time I picked up a telephone book and dialed the number of the first “child psychiatrist” I saw. Since then I’ve often sought therapy to deal with life’s traumas and post-traumas. I’ve been fortunate in that I have found caring, nurturing people to help me during undergrad, grad, and now Ph.D. school. I also have a naturopath and acupuncturist who has an amazing treatment for stress. I may go see her this week but I may not because she seems to think my “chi” is stronger than usual.

    Many of the young people I’ve taught are afraid of being labeled or stigmatized. Art students are hypersensitive and I know how important it is to stay balanced and centered during trying times. I was so young when I sought help that I didn’t know of such fears. I needed help, so I sought it out.

  3. Kung Li and crew’s Queerfit http://queerfit.org/ (which many of you may already know but warrants another plug!) is a really thoughtful, welcoming and empowering environment – putting together peer support with really intense training for all experience and skill levels.

  4. This is wonderful! I am working in a direct mind-body therapeutic way that connects the trauma stored in the mind with the trauma stored in the body. This work is especially indicated to help people re-enter their body safely and powerfully. I’m so glad to see body/mind gaining ground. Thank you for the article.

  5. This is wonderful. Please keep the resources coming. I’m glad to hear from you all.

  6. I have not been able to find the words that will accurately express how moved I am by reading this post or how “on time” this seems . . . I was tagged to this post on facebook by a friend of mine that apparently intuited that it was for me to read. It caught my attention even more with the references to Atlanta, as I was just informed earlier today I will be moving there in less than one week’s time from today. In the process of looking for those of like-mind to connect with, I find it truly interesting that my friend tags me to this post “out of the blue.” I would love to connect with you personally, sheridf. A lot of “shifting” has been taking place, and I just have a “feeling.”

    Atlanta has been calling me for several months now, and the messages have become louder and louder everyday. I was already looking into somehow connecting with someone in the area of “higher learning” facilities to see if I could find a way to connect with students, as well as open-minded teachers, in order to make certain information available for those of us that need it the most. Currently I provide healing sessions in person, or distance healing sessions to anywhere in the world, but my main passion is teaching/educating. Not just teaching what I am familiar with in terms of Energy Healing, and our Energy Anatomy, but teaching things that involve areas of information that most people are afraid to go into. There is definitely a call out from our younger brothers and sisters for people who are willing to “go there” with them, and break things down in a way that is relatable for those of us that are highly sensitive, and already tapped into higher levels of awareness without the guidance to accompany it.

    Please visit my website, http://ShamanHands.com for more information about me and the work that I am involved with.

    I also work with a team of healers, life coaches, etc., many of which are already in the Atlanta area, and we host a line-up of radio talk shows where we address the youth, wellness, healthy food, organic gardening, balancing yin and yang energies, relationships, the shifts in consciousness we’re all experiencing, etc. and the response has been fantastic!

    Archives for these shows can be found, and listened to or downloaded immediately, at the following two websites:

    1) http://www.blogtalkradio.com/livingaligned

    2) http://www.blogtalkradio.com/livingalignedradio

    There is also a link for “Living Aligned Radio” in the horizontal menu bar at the ShamanHands.com website for convenience. Be sure to check out the different episodes of the show entitled “THE ANCIENT YOUTH: Ancestors Have Arrived” . . . I’m sure this will give you a much more thorough idea of what we are about. Thank you SO MUCH for this post! NAMASTE!

    - Stilts “Shaman Hands” Goldman

  7. I am so glad that so many people are feeling this and responding. After reading the post again I want to clarify that “appropriate masculinity” does not mean I think there is a such thing, but that this is how it was represented to me by a student.

  8. I love this post.

    It’s only been within the past two years that I’ve been learning just how many memories my body holds onto that can’t be conveyed or really healed through regular talk-therapy and the more I experience it the more excited and optimistic I become about my future as a counsellor.

    Thank you

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  10. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I relate to this post; although my story is a bit different. While I was still training as a Counselor during my masters program I recognized my strong connection to “body work” and began to infuse it into my therapy sessions. I took play therapy art therapy, sand tray, any kind of nontraditional classes, courses, workshops etc. that I could get access to, and then I opened the door for my clients (College students) to use them in our sessions. It’s the way I operate and its the way I best operate therapeutically. Not solely in the body, but not solely in the head. My preference is always “both, and”. Love the post!

  11. I have had really good experiences with Rosen Method bodywork (www.rosenmethod.com). It’s a combination of gentle massage, physical therapy, and conversation. It has helped me access things that years of talk therapy didn’t reach. Maybe there are some practitioners in Atlanta? For me, serious trauma and pain have built up in my body like an actual physical substance. Talk therapy has helped me see and understand a lot of my patterns and history, but understanding is not releasing. Bodywork helps me actually get it OUT, or at least moving. I think you are working on something that is really important.

    I also seriously agree with your sense that academia is not equipped to help people with difficult backgrounds and ongoing life circumstances. In my experience college support systems are designed for things like test anxiety and eating disorders, not incest, homelessness, or systemic gun violence.

  12. Thank you for posting this. There are so many times when only time walking through trees or digging in the dirt can help.

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  14. I think that this is very important. There are a lot of women who are dealing with problems that they may not be comfortable talking about, so providing them the opportunity to deal with those emotions in a healthy manner means a lot to them, I’m sure. It interesting that I read this post because my teammates and I had to watch a video about sexual assault and the influence that alcohol can have on the situation. Most women or people in this situation feel as though they have lost control of their bodies, and need a space where they can get that feeling of control back. I think body work is great because they are able to demand control over their bodies once again, which can be difficult for women to do after such a traumatizing event. I also think it is very important to address the issue of students not feeling comfortable talking to someone about their experiences. The great thing about the idea presented here that the student can deal with the problem without feeling uncomfortable, judged, or unconnected in any way. I believe that if we are able to help these women (and men) heal, it will allow them to be better mothers, sisters, and friends in the future. Hopefully this is something that can be available to students on every campus across the nation. This can be a very effective tool to allowing students to overcome obstacles and live to help another overcome theirs as well.

  15. Great to see all this interest in self care, and for all you “teachers” out there, especially dealing with younger aged adults, I believe we will see a large increase in mental health issues over the next years, if you aren’t already at your school. A wonderful resources for activists, organizers and others is http://mindfuloccupation.org/ a collaborative work on Rising Up Without Burning Out. It is a wonderful guide to study and share with others.

  16. I think there is a lot to be said about healing. The problem resides with the resources to healing can be achieved and maintained. I think this is where black women have the hardest time accumulating in which they bear their pain and sorrow in their lonesome. I want to talk about the author’s four core themes to begin healing. Social safety net: is among one of the biggest parts of someone’s lives. For this reason having a social safety net aids you in the ability to actively express yourself and gather healthy critique and support. Literacy is a must for the black woman. This gives her the ability to tap into information that can offer her wisdom and perspective. It also gives women the ability to articulate and map out their emotions. I think literature is a biggie. To be able to read material that fits your life can mean all the difference in a space that ignores your existence. Literature can be a friend when you don’t have one. It can be a teacher, mentor and parent wrapped in one. Lastly, having a crew gives black women the privilege to have a support group and friends to share great times with. They can serve as the rock to your social foundation, always there for you through thick and thin. Why is this important to black women? It is because black women live in a world that exploits and marginalizes their existence. It is important for black women to have agency and friendship for which social foundations are apparent. It is important for black women to find like-minded and like-experienced people to endeavor in their lives. It is important for black women to read and write about things that can reverberate in their life.

  17. Makes me sad to read this story.

    But it seems this happens way too much in our society today.

    Praying for the best for everybody, and I hope she won’t give up.

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