Counseling Center introduces racial trauma therapy

Written By Nardos Haile, For The Globe

Point Park’s Counseling Center will facilitate Healing Through Hearing, a racial trauma therapy group for black students this year.

The group came to fruition through Kim Champion, a doctoral student working for the counseling center. When writing her dissertation, Champion found research about racial trauma. While her research and this group are separate, the research helped spark the inspiration for the therapy group.

The therapy group’s main concern is how to have effective dialogues about racism in America while also opening up a safe space for students to freely speak about their experiences with racial trauma.

Champion hopes to explore some themes of silencing, guilt, internalized racism and more. She would teach adaptive coping methods along with the conversational themes.

A certain obstacle the group faces is membership. Healing Through Hearing has not had its first meeting yet or any feedback from Point Park students.

“In our efforts to lower access barriers, my sense is [that] the particular needs and style and personality of a university population that is Point Park is unique,” Director of the Counseling Center, Kurt Kumler said. “We are always looking to reduce those barriers. I think any group of oppressed individuals need space that they find comfortable to think together, talk together, find voice. My hope is what Kim’s trying to put together could offer some of that.”

Nami Talbot, Vice President of Black Student Union, said that she believes the lack of feedback is due to the center not reaching out through the right channels.

“I think a great way to help is to reach out to organizations like BSU and within COPA. We have a strong community of black people, Talbot said. “Reach out and let the departments know that there is this thing.”

Talbot said that the lack of visibility Healing Through Hearing received within the black student community on campus also involves nuances and stigmas perceived around counseling services.

“My experience talking to a lot of black students on campus is that it’s no secret that mental health and counseling is a no-go in the black community,” Talbot said. “I think it’s helpful this is an introduction around like people. Sometimes it can be hard, I’ve asked so many black people to go to therapy and it’s hard because you think that there’s something wrong with you.”

Kumler stated all students are in need but that there are barriers to treatment that differ between a wide variety of groups, which includes the black community.

“There’s a greater likelihood of thinking ‘mental health treatment – not for me,’ ‘counseling center – not for me.’ We still see stigma differences by gender. I think the African American student population needs and deserves to have barriers dropped as much as possible,”  Kumler said.

Talbot attributed the therapy group opening up this year to changes in the political and social sphere.

“Everybody wants to be seen and heard,” Talbot said. “And I think the less accepted population on campus are the black students. And that’s not to say there aren’t any other students of color who feel [this way].”

Ultimately, the goals of Healing Through Hearing is to listen to black students and create a space for them to openly communicate their experiences without judgement with one another.

“As we learn more about the experience of racial trauma, one important part of the solution is to find community, to find that voice to understand something of togetherness, to not suffer alone,” Kumler said. “Suffering with others can render suffering growthful, can help us survive it. The toughness of life is rendered not just more tolerable but more useful when we are going though it [with someone]. [It] might be family, it might be Point Park, whatever the community you experience.”