Lessons from the USA for improving wellness in black communities

Published: 21 Sep 2016

Author: Erica McInnis
Lessons from the USA for improving wellness in black communities

Dr Erica McInnis, an African-centred Chartered Clinical Psychologist from Stockport, recently returned from a month-long trip to Washington D.C., USA, where she researched integrating African-centred psychotherapy to improve wellness in black communities. Her travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.

Erica chose to use her Fellowship to identify practices which particularly focus on meeting the mental health needs of black people.  This is because in the UK black people are over represented as recipients of the most restrictive forms of mental health care.  Indeed, compared to other ethnic groups detention rates under the Mental Health Act during 2012/13 were 2.2 times higher for black African, 4.2 times higher for black Caribbean and 6.6 times higher for black other ethnic groups1.

While in the USA, Erica attended the International Association of Black Psychologist’s annual conference, giving her the opportunity to learn more about approaches highly relevant to black people. A highlight of her trip was meeting founding members of the African-centred psychology movement in the USA and visiting emotional wellness services operating from an African-centred perspective. These services employ the best of African culture as a template for healing and wellness for diverse members of the community.

“Too often black people directly or indirectly experience unique psychological traumas. We cannot stop attacks on our sense of self, but we can empower ourselves to become more resilient. Healing which incorporates knowledge of our African self, history, culture, origin and spirituality is key for some people. Through my Fellowship I gained confidence in applying such approaches within the community” –Dr Erica McInnis, Chartered Clinical Psychologist

On her return to the UK, Erica, originally from Longsight in Manchester, immediately put into practice a model of emotional care and well-being she came across in the USA, by organising the first Emotional Emancipation CircleSM (EECSM) ever to take place in Manchester. EECsSM are facilitated self-help support groups in which black people use specific African-centred techniques to work together to overcome, heal and overturn the devaluing of black lives. Erica’s first EECSM sparked so much interest a waiting list is in place for the next.

Erica will co-facilitate courses in African-Centred Counselling and Psychotherapy in order to disseminate learning from her Fellowship to others and equip them with skills useful in working with diverse members of the African Diaspora.

1. Care Quality Commission (2014) Monitoring the Mental Health Act in 2012/13. London: Care Quality Commission

Notes to Editors

Contact: [email protected]

Pictured: Dr Erica McInnis (right) with Dr Na’im Akbar, former president of the Association of Black Psychologists

For more information on African-Centred Counselling and Psychotherapy courses, contact Alicia Mike: [email protected]

Emotional Emancipation CirclesSM

Emotional Emancipation CirclesSM (EECsSM) were originated by Community Healing Network, Inc. (CHN), and developed by leaders of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) in collaboration with CHN, and are a part of the global grassroots movement for emotional emancipation being spearheaded by CHN to help Black people heal from and overturn the lies of White superiority and Black inferiority.


Please note:  Emotional Emancipation CirclesSM, EE CirclesSM, EECsSM and related copyrights, marks and logos are copyrights and service marks owned exclusively by Community Healing Network, Inc., and are used with its permission. Local EECSM trainers, facilitators, hosts, organizers, and others in similar roles are independent, and are not employees, agents, partners, or corporate affiliates of Community Healing Network or The Association of Black Psychologists. Emotional Emancipation CirclesSM are psycho-educational and are not intended to be -nor should they be treated as -a substitute for professional counseling, advice, or therapy. Participants are urged to seek the help of qualified mental health professionals, if and when it should become necessary.

The Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation believes that with the right support and guidance millions of people can avoid developing mental health problems - with enormous benefits to them, their families, friends, communities and the nation as a whole. The Mental Health Foundation is supporting Fellows with advice, and ensuring the lessons learnt are shared with policy makers and other relevant groups and individuals.