By Angela Braggs, MS
As an early career mental health professional, I was on a quest last year as a new graduate to be linked to a mentor within the field. I understood that becoming a “licensed professional” wasn’t going to be good enough for me. For the sake of my work and my future clients I needed to become a competent provider that could provide services through a different lens. My spirit told me in order to travel down this path, I needed mentorship. I recognized that it was important that I find a mentor that looked like me.
Early on in my graduate program, I began to struggle with the “Western theories” that were being taught. According to Wade Nobles, an authority on African Psychology, “Psychology has been around for thousands of years, and dates back to KMT (African-Egyptian) civilizations.” Nobles reminds us that, in its truest form, psychology was defined by Ancient Africans as the study of the soul or spirit. With that being said, where was I to find someone or an organization locally that promoted black mental health? I found that in the Mary Ellen Strong Foundation.
I reached out to inquire about their Professional Development Program which includes mentorship. I have been affiliated with the program for about a year and have been honored and blessed to have been receiving mentorship from one of its black, licensed mental health professionals who has years of experience. My mentor is ethically grounded within the profession and endlessly works to assist and develop the next generation of black mental health professionals. She has genuinely provided me with support, encouragement and guidance.
I can’t begin to describe the psychological benefits of being mentored by someone that looks like me and is able to identify with the mental health struggles within the Black community. MESF also provided me with a grant which enabled me to take Dr. Joy Degruy’s online graduate course entitled African American Multigenerational Trauma and Implementation Models of Change.
Taking this course was an amazing experience which taught me more in one course about working in the Black community than I learned during my graduate program. Being connected to MESF has solidified my desire to work with my people without feeling guilty about wanting to become an African-centered practitioner.