Black Mental Wellness Intern
Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?
My academic and professional choices thus far have been driven by my desire to create space for Black people to receive culturally informed, community engaged and class conscious, resources and care. Following undergrad, I made the decision to pursue a degree in clinical mental health counseling to learn inclusive therapeutic skills and provide support and advocacy to marginalized communities. Along the way, I have trained in psychiatric hospitals, schools, college counseling centers, and children’s treatment centers to investigate ways to uplift, empower, and encourage Black communities. During my clinical training I learned to operate from a feminist, relational-cultural theoretical framework. As a researcher, I am also interested in how additional layers of marginalization (i.e women and femmes, poverty, chronic illness, and queer identity) impact Black mental health and wellness.
What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?
I view Black Mental Wellness as both a constant goal for our community at large as well as a personal journey that Black people experience in unique ways. BMW requires Black people to have access to resources and support to foster resiliency and healing from the many obstacles that our community faces. My personal understanding of BMW stems from multiple experiences in my life and training. I grew up in a predominately Black, low-income neighborhood in Houston called Sunnyside. Growing up, an important part of my journey towards wellness was having access to community care. My idea of BMW often manifested through engaging in culturally enriching self-care strategies, like reaching out to social networks and sharing similar experiences; turning to spiritual and religious practices; and engaging in self-expression through dance and art. With that in mind, I believe my understanding of BMW is ever evolving and expanding but always tied to our desire to heal and experience joy and understanding.
What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise?
I have a deep interest in mental health research and clinical work focused on community care and empowerment, particularly for Black women and femmes. Clinically, I have focused on empowerment and de-stigmatization as guiding practices of my therapeutic work. As a researcher, I am interested in community partnered studies as I believe that mental health research should be inclusive, accessible, and engage Black people, who are often underrepresented within the field of study. Additionally, I enjoy volunteering for non-profits in Houston aimed at providing resources for marginalized communities. This has allowed me to network with other Black advocates and provide service to those in need.
How do you make time for your own wellness and self-care?
Self-care in general is an ongoing practice and skill that evolves with each person’s life journey. Personally, I have found that prioritizing my wellness requires maintenance. I have definitely faltered in my self-care practices at times. However, I make it work by forgiving myself when I stumble and continuing to nurture healthy habits. A part of my process has been learning to pay attention to what my mind and body need and staying mindful about those needs. Prioritizing my own wellness and self-care has also meant establishing healthy boundaries by truly taking time for myself. As a helping professional and Black woman, there are times in which I have had to be assertive in advocating for myself. I learned to not feel guilty about doing so. I sometimes think of prioritizing my wellness and self-care as “taking care of my inner child.” It is definitely important to acknowledge when you need help or support from others. However, making a personal commitment to also take care of yourself is a radical act that deserves time and attention.
Robyn Douglas (she/her) is a program manager at a mental health policy institute, psychology researcher, clinician-in-training, and aspiring psychologist. She completed her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Houston and an M.A. in Counseling from Sam Houston State University. Robyn engages work surrounding the intersections of Black identity and poverty, racial equity, intra-community care and widening access to health and wellness resources for marginalized communities. She has a professional & personal commitment to bringing Black voices to the frontline through research, advocacy, and education.