With multiple issues plaguing the black community, interest in mental health services seems to have exceeded the number of resources, particularly in our communities. However, two women, Elaine Smith, NCC, LCPC, CCTP and Kres Snyder, PSYD, NCC, LCPC, are working to be that community resource with their organization, Minds Empowered Counseling LLC, an all-black woman owned and operated therapy practice. Minds Empowered, located in the suburb of Homewood, provides therapy for trauma and substance use, couples and families, sex therapy, and domestic violence counseling while utilizing an innovative approach to meet the counseling needs of their clients. Both the practice owners as well as the twelve other therapists in their practice believe in the importance of a healthy mind and encourage those who may be skeptical or interested in learning more about therapy to check out their “Free Therapy Tuesday” where anyone who needs to speak to a counselor can be connected with a free appointment. They also offer free teletherapy via Equality Should Be Normal’s Wellness Wednesday at the Barbara Murphy Community Center. Additionally, the practice develops other counselors and therapists by teaching Counseling Education Certifications so all therapists within the state have a place to stay up to date with their profession.
CG (Chante’ Gamby): So, you both were with an organization previously, but then decided to do your own thing together and created Minds Empowered. What brought you to that decision?
KS (Kres Snyder): We wanted to speak to our people in a different way. We had ideas on how therapists should be and wanted to focus on training them and empowering women. It was important for us to empower women to be their best selves. We also wanted to break the stigma about therapy with people of color in general. We wanted to show people looking like us doing this work.
ES (Elaine Smith): One of the things that I like in our work is that we are talking about those things that are not usually talked about within our community. We are so open that people feel open to sharing knowing that they won’t be judged. We are open to listening to anything, even those things that aren’t usually talked about.
CG: What are some of those things that come up within your conversations?
KS: Everything-we discuss things such as family secrets, LGTBQIA+ concerns, non-monogamy, sex therapy, women and self-worth, etc. Trauma is also a major focus. As a community, we think we should just go forward and pray about it the trauma. Trauma is not okay, and we don’t want to normalize it as just something that we as black people have to live with-we want to address it.
ES: That is very important. Sometimes we blow up is because we are angry and have unresolved grief. That unresolved grief can lead to trauma. A lot of times we as a community don’t know what trauma is. We work with our clients in identifying and overcoming that trauma.
CG: For years, mental health has been something that has not been discussed within the black community. How does Minds Empowered responding to this?
KS: We believe in prayer and therapy. Everything has its space. It is difficult to take away the spiritual aspect in this work. We incorporate the mind, body, and spirit within our work. Whether it’s through meditation or something else. Therapy is not always about problems-it is also a space to help you reflect grow, emote, and just be without the pressure. In our community, we live with pressure. It is really nice to have a space where it is quieter and lighter. I think all of us need that.
CG: How are you normalizing therapy within the black community?
ES: We lessen the concerns about labels. We say if you have a moment and just want to talk, we are here. A lot of time people are worried about the labels. We are less concerned with labels and more concerned with what your concerns are at this moment and meeting you there.
KS: Therapy is more about the whole person, less about the diagnosis. In this adulting world, it is more and more important that we create that space to just be, and I hope that we are normalizing that rather than anything else.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
KS: We immediately went into telehealth-we had to learn to meet people to meet in a new way immediately. We learned how to keep Zoom fatigue down and be creative with that space. With the social unrest and racial tension-now we can talk about it. We can’t talk about it at work or with certain groups of friends. So now you have a space where we understand because we look like you. I feel more convinced that therapy is even more important now because you need to be able to speak to those things. I can’t imagine having everything that has happened in the past year bottled up.
ES: This time we are seeing that we can no longer bottle these things up. I know I have to face these things because there is no other way to run from them. With this space, people have time to address some of these unresolved issues. They feel so much more empowered.
CG: What recommendations would you have for someone who knows someone who might benefit from therapy, but may be hesitant to engage in that work?
ES: I’m not going to judge you-we all have things that we are working on. You have a space to be you because I am going to be myself with you. Whatever you think a therapist is, throw that out the window, because that’s not what we do.
CG: In honor of Women’s History month, what words of wisdom would you pass on to women today?
KS: Do not minimize yourself for the sake of other people. Allow your light to shine no matter where you are. Be who you want to be and be comfortable in that space.
ES: Find your circle of excellence. We do so much on our own. We need to have a group of women who moves us in ways to bring our spirit to a place of peace. It is important that I am a part of another woman’s success and that I have women who help me be the best version of me.
For more information about minds empowered visit their website here.
Chante’ Gamby is a writer and therapist passionate about social justice and empowering others to live their best lives. You can follow her on Facebook at Fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, or on her website, www.fringefam.com.