By Micha Green
As women who were already “woke,” about the importance of prioritizing mental health care after experiences of their own Starr Barbour and Sasha Nicole teamed up to bring awareness to the Black community- that collaboration turned into Amerikan Therapy Podcast and now the HBCU Mental Health College Tour.
Starting with the idea and launch in March, Amerikan Therapy Podcast brings together Barbour, Sasha Nicole and psychiatrist Dr. Tanya A. Royster, who specializes in Adolescent Medicine and Psychiatry.
Amerikan Therapy is led by a trio of busy bosses in their own right as Royster is owner of A Better World with a private practice; Sasha Nicole is a Senior Contract Specialist for the Government and Project Management Professor for Georgetown University who works to uplift and champion women who have battled postpartum depression; and Barbour is a policy advocate who raises awareness for both Mental and Maternal health disparities within the Black and Brown communities, creator of mental wellness solutions for corporate and community initiatives, founder of a D.C. based startup STILLGOING, and a trained Yoga and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) instructor with a book soon to be published.
Despite their busy schedules, the three women meet every Thursday to record the Amerikan Therapy podcast.
“The goals of the Amerikan Therapy Podcast are to: 1) Normalize the mental wellness conversation in the Black community by bravely bringing a relatable approach on a variety of tough subjects with empathy, humor, and honesty. 2) Provide our audience with expert clinical insights and resources on a variety of relevant topics. 3) Become a resource for mental health clinicians seeking to develop a greater level of cultural competency and comfort in treating African Americans. (4) Curate honest and respectful discussions that facilitate a deeper level of personal understanding,” said Sasha Nicole in an email interview.
The show features guests who specialize in mental health subjects or contribute to conversations pertinent to their weekly topics. Guests have included, AJ Johnson on Episode 31- What’s Eating You Part 2: Nutrition and Wellness; Dr. Wesley Muhammad on Episode 6-Cannabis Controversy; Jet Setting Jasmine on Episode 19- Sexual Compatibility; Madam Money on Episode 3- Mindful Money; OG Shabazz on Episode 4- Deconstructing Black Men’s Pain, Dr. Bahiyah Muhammad on Episode 7- Community Policing; and on their Power Session Interview, Penny Hardaway, Flex Alexander, Ms. Diddy LA and Chris Spenser.
Called the “definitive podcast on all things Black mental health,” through the conversations between Sasha Nicole, Barbour, Royster, and guests, myths are dispelled, stories are shared and audiences receive meaningful lessons.
The “K” in the show’s title emphasizes the bold declaration that the show’s focus is Black mental health.
“We often joke that the “K” is up for the audience’s interpretation, however there is definitely a meaning,” Sasha Nicole said. “While mental health and wellness impact us all, there is the impact of living in a White supremacy centered world that is daunting on all that are marginalized under its oppression. Black Americans know this all too well as we navigate through our daily lives being reminded via both macro and micro aggressions.”
Sasha Nicole said the podcast is gaining a following by attracting fans on the airwaves through influential topics.
“We are now frequently approached locally by people that love the show. Recently a listener in Detroit noted that she likes to listen with a pen and paper so she can take notes on specific topics,” Sasha Nicole said.
Even those in the mental health field are taking note and finding lessons from Amerikan Therapy.
“Dr. Royster teaches and speaks all over the country and recently she’s been approached by her peers regarding the show and how they are starting to use the show as a way of gaining greater cultural competency as clinicians,” Sasha Nicole said.
Part of the group’s success as hosts of Amerikan Therapy, was their ability to adapt and communicate in a way that is didactic, entertaining and effective.
“We’ve personally shifted our own communication style with each other to focus on understanding rather than agreement, leaving space for more synergy and honest,” Sasha Nicole said. “I think we are each becoming more aware of our own behaviors, actions and the energy that we are putting out rather than what others are doing to us. It is a powerful shift to become accountable for your own energy frequency and how you move in the world. If you are hurt, then you typically have the power to find and use the resources available to you to move toward becoming well. We have an enormity of untapped healing power within us.”
That healing power has led to them to Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Barbour and Sasha Nicole saw a need for more empowering and impactful conversations and experiences about mental health awareness and launched the HBCU Mental Health College Tour.
“As two HBCU graduates, we recognized the power of reaching back to students and helping them address any trauma and mental health issues they may be currently facing or give them tools and resources on how to deal with any experiences they may incur in the future,” Sasha Nicole said.
Personal experiences also contributed to the entrepreneurs and mental health champions to take their passion and a facet of their podcast to college campuses.
“We both came to school with our personal issues, never in fact understanding that those very same issues would have an immense impact in our everyday lives after college. It’s obvious that the generations are different, but what’s been made even clearer is that our young people are hurting, and they need help. They need an outlet that allows them to express themselves without judgment and have hope that there can be a better tomorrow no matter the circumstance.”
The two kicked off the tour, “during the fall semester with a stop at Tennessee State University,” Sasha Nicole said.
Next semester they are following up with: North Carolina A&T State University, Howard University, Hampton University, Florida Memorial University, Claflin State University and Tougaloo College.
Even with their busy schedules, Sasha Nicole said Amerikan Therapy and the HBCU tour would continue and grow.
“We plan to expand the podcast to a larger medium like radio or TV, where the message can have a larger reach. The tour is something that we are also planning to expand,” she said.
In addition, the mental health advocates who have taken to HBCU campuses were shocked to learn that their messages are sought out at predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).
“We have recently been approached to come talk to the Black student organizations at some of the larger PWIs about mental health and the stresses that they are currently facing on their campuses,” she said. “This is something that I don’t think we initially expected to hear as HBCU graduates.”
Sasha Nicole emphasized that their hard work is to serve a much grander cause.
“We hope this show will be a catalyst to heal and bring light in to a world so many often see filled with darkness,” she said. “We are extremely hopeful that we can help be part of bridging the divide in our community. We’ve taken traumatic personal experiences and turned it in to a passion and dedication of helping others.”
For more information on Amerikan Therapy visit: https://linktr.ee/amerikantherapy.