Black Mental Wellness 2019-2020 Mentee: Kimberly Stokes

Updated: Apr 7



INTRODUCTION

Kimberly Stokes is a Ph.D. student in counseling psychology at Wayne State University as well as a former elementary school educator. She is a co-investigator for the Detroit Family Resilience project lead by Dr. Erika Bocknek. Her research interests are related to social-emotional growth in Black children and self-care practices for Black mothers.







SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?

I am a first-year doctoral student in Wayne State University’s counseling psychology program. Currently, I am studying how Black mothers explicitly and implicitly use verbal and nonverbal messages to teach their young children about race. Research shows that forming a positive racial identity at a young age can lead to better health and academic outcomes for youth. Prior to going to graduate school, I taught for a total of five years in Berkley, MI, and Brooklyn, NY. I am a proud graduate of Howard University where I received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master's degree in elementary education.

I first became involved with Black Mental Wellness when my friend and soror Dr. Danielle Busby invited me to volunteer for Black Mental Wellness’ workshops through Detroit Public Community Schools Districts' “Saturdays in the D” program. To me Black Mental Wellness is a prime example of why representation is so important! With the lack of psychologists of color in the field, receiving guidance from the Black Mental Wellness founders, who are each successful, service-oriented Ph.D.-level psychologists has been invaluable. Dr. Busby was extremely helpful while applying to graduate programs, and as a mentor Dr. Jessica Henry has been very supportive during my first year of a Ph.D. program.

How can we encourage more people to seek mental health treatment?

Wellness in the Black community begins with awareness of our collective mental health. I believe the expansion of safe spaces in which Black people can talk about mental illness and well-being will further healing in our community. As we become more vulnerable about our experiences with mental health, it will spark a much-needed dialogue within our race. We have to be more creative about how Black people can access mental health treatment too — for example, providing services in everyday places such as barbershops, hair salons, community centers, and churches. Most importantly, there is a need for more Black clinicians who can authentically relate to clients.


SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?

I am a first-year doctoral student in Wayne State University’s counseling psychology program. Currently, I am studying how Black mothers explicitly and implicitly use verbal and nonverbal messages to teach their young children about race. Research shows that forming a positive racial identity at a young age can lead to better health and academic outcomes for youth. Prior to going to graduate school, I taught for a total of five years in Berkley, MI, and Brooklyn, NY. I am a proud graduate of Howard University where I received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master's degree in elementary education.

I first became involved with Black Mental Wellness when my friend and soror Dr. Danielle Busby invited me to volunteer for Black Mental Wellness’ workshops through Detroit Public Community Schools Districts' “Saturdays in the D” program. To me Black Mental Wellness is a prime example of why representation is so important! With the lack of psychologists of color in the field, receiving guidance from the Black Mental Wellness founders, who are each successful, service-oriented Ph.D.-level psychologists has been invaluable. Dr. Busby was extremely helpful while applying to graduate programs, and as a mentor Dr. Jessica Henry has been very supportive during my first year of a Ph.D. program.

How can we encourage more people to seek mental health treatment?

Wellness in the Black community begins with awareness of our collective mental health. I believe the expansion of safe spaces in which Black people can talk about mental illness and well-being will further healing in our community. As we become more vulnerable about our experiences with mental health, it will spark a much-needed dialogue within our race. We have to be more creative about how Black people can access mental health treatment too — for example, providing services in everyday places such as barbershops, hair salons, community centers, and churches. Most importantly, there is a need for more Black clinicians who can authentically relate to clients.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

Do you have an experience with seeking mental health treatment that you would like to share with the Black Mental Wellness audience?

Teaching had been my passion for many years, and I thought it would be my life’s mission. I did well at it and enjoyed working with my amazing students and colleagues. No one was more surprised than me when I started to realize after five years in the classroom that teaching no longer felt like the right fit. I felt extremely guilty when I started thinking about leaving the field. While I was contemplating my career change, a romantic relationship I was in came to an end too. Overall, I knew I could benefit from a space to process it all and hone my sense of clarity. I thought therapy may be a helpful outlet to think things through, but most people I knew who had sought it out did so to address issues related to a formal psychological diagnosis, and I wasn’t sure if my issues were “valid” enough. Soon after starting therapy, I realized that it is a beneficial tool for anyone regardless of what your stressors are in life. Going to therapy was one of the best decisions I had ever made! Therapy gave me a space to learn about myself and discover what I was truly passionate about.

I strongly believe that anyone working in a service position (i.e. teachers, mental health professionals, public servants) should have affordable access to therapy because in these positions you are constantly considering and holding others' emotions. However, as the saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It is so important to seek a space where you can recharge yourself. When looking for a therapist I knew it would be beneficial to have a Black therapist. In our daily lives as minorities we often find ourselves “code switching” and that was the last thing I wanted to have to do in therapy too! I knew I wanted someone who I could be myself around and who would understand the cultural nuances in our community. In our community, we are raised to be strong and to learn how to handle it all. What we don’t always realize is that exercising self-care and putting healthy boundaries in place is part of being strong. After starting therapy, I encountered countless people who wanted to go to therapy too but did not know how to access a clinician of color. Some helpful tools I found were websites like Psychology Today (African-American therapist search) and Therapy for Black Girls (Therapy For Black Girls clinician search). As young professionals, the cost of therapy at first glance can be a barrier but don’t lose hope! It may be less expensive than you think. Many insurance companies cover services and many clinicians have sliding scales to accommodate your income level.

What are your top 5 favorite wellness and self-care strategies?

1. Mindfulness Meditations- Meditation is a great tool to reduce stress and increase awareness. I think meditation often seems intimidating but meditations can come in many different forms so it is all about what is the best fit for you! Personally, I enjoy doing guided meditations techniques such as loving-kindness, body scans, and reflection. I love the mediation apps Calm, Abide, Headspace, and Daily Calm.

2. Journaling- Throughout the years I have found journaling to be a helpful way to cultivate self-reflection. I have utilized scripted journals focused on gratitude or prayers in addition to free writing. I have found scheduling a few minutes to journal prior to bed is a great way to unwind before going to sleep. It is also fun to look back at your journal entries later and compare what you were feeling at one time to where you are currently.

3. Exercise- Different forms of exercise have been a stress release for me during graduate school. In addition to the health benefits it brings, it’s also fun! I find the discipline that it takes to workout consistently improves my overall productivity.

4. Spending time in nature- Taking a mindful walk to notice how things in nature flow and the connectedness of all beings is always a helpful reminder that there is a much bigger world around me. There is so much beauty in nature and it can have a very calming effect on my mind.

5. Taking breaks- Having a supportive group of friends is a must for me! Regardless of how busy our schedules become, my friends and I make sure we make time to do prayer calls, Facetime catch-up sessions, and just hang out. I always think to myself: Years from now, what will matter most? For me spending time with friends and family will always be worth it, and it is important to schedule breaks to enjoy the now.




Guest Contributor


Kimberly Stokes is a Ph.D. student in counseling psychology at Wayne State University as well as a former elementary school educator. She is a co-investigator for the Detroit Family Resilience project lead by Dr. Erika Bocknek. Her research interests are related to social-emotional growth in Black children and self-care practices for Black mothers.




#BlackMentalWellness #MentalHealth #Therapy #Coping #Wellness

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