In the wake of two African-Americans being shot and killed at a Jeffersontown Kroger and 11 people being killed in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Spalding University’s Center for Behavioral Health wants to make the community aware of its specialty clinic that helps clients who have experienced race-based stress and trauma.
The Collective Care Center is the only behavioral health clinic of its kind in Louisville – and one of only a few nationally – that specializes in racial trauma, according to Center for Behavioral Health Associate Director Dr. Steven Kniffley, who developed the treatment model for the Collective Care Center.
“Anybody who has experienced oppression or marginalization because of their identities, we’ll have a safe place for them to come and experience healing and safety,” said Dr. Norah Chapman, Director of the CBH and an assistant professor in Spalding’s School of Professional Psychology. “We just want to get that word out that we are here for anyone who needs a space like that.”
Kniffley said the Collective Care Center’s work so far has focused on African-Americans, but anyone who identifies as a member of a marginalized group or is experiencing identity-based trauma is welcome and may find it to be a helpful resource. The Collective Care Center has four clinicians who evaluate and assess the impact of race-based trauma on clients.
People experiencing race-based stress may include those who have been direct victims of discrimination, targets of racial slurs or witnesses to a traumatic event, such as the Kroger shooting. People can also be vicariously traumatized by seeing disturbing images and news accounts of traumatic events involving race.
“We would ask, ‘When was the last time you experienced a racially traumatic event?'” Kniffley said. “‘How distressing was that to you? In what ways is that distress showing up for you? Are you having a hard time sleeping? Are you feeling anxious … around your surroundings.'”
Kniffley said research has shown that nearly all African-Americans say they have experienced an instance of racism and discrimination.
He said race-based stress is nothing new, but only recently has it been more formally recognized as a potentially serious physical and psychological health factor that might require professional help.
“From a public health standpoint, racism can literally kill you,” Kniffley said, “because it can contribute to depression, anxiety, and it can also lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, low birth weight for kids.”
Kniffley, who graduated from Spalding in 2013 with his doctorate in clinical psychology (PsyD) and returned as a psychology faculty member in August, said the Collective Care Center attempts to help clients develop coping skills for navigating a world in which they have faced discrimination.
The Kroger shooting “hurt my heart,” Kniffley said, and he wants folks in his hometown of Louisville to know that the Collective Care Center is a resource to them if they’re hurting, too.
“It’s so important that this is part of the CBH,” Chapman said. “We see, especially in our climate today, that there are few safe places for people of color or of marginalized backgrounds to feel like they can be guaranteed to feel affirmed for their identity and to make sure they’re seen for who they are and to be able work through a specific trauma.”
How to get help
For more information on the Collective Care Center or any services offered at the not-for-profit Center for Behavioral Health, call (502) 792-7011 or visit behavioralhealth.spalding.edu, where there is an online inquiry and appointment form. The Center for Behavioral Health is located in Mansion East, Room 212A, 851 S. Fourth St.
Sessions are available in person as well as over video counseling or telephone. Chapman encourages anyone facing transportation issues or other challenges in making it to an in-person session to consider the video and phone options.
Cost-wise, CBH services are offered on a sliding scale based on clients’ financial need and ability to pay.
“We’re extremely affordable because we want the work to focus on the healing process and not be a burden financially,” Kniffley said. “We meet clients where they are in terms of what their financial situation is.”
The CBH offers a range of services, including psychological assessments, plus individual, couple, group and family therapy services with children, adolescents, adults and older adults.
Led by Chapman, Kniffley and other School of Professional Psychology faculty, the Center for Behavioral Health also serves as an on-campus training ground of Spalding’s doctor of clinical psychology students.
With the Collective Care Center, Kniffley is hopeful that Spalding becomes the destination for psychology doctoral students who want to learn about treating racial trauma.
Kniffley recently received a multicultural professional development award from the Kentucky Psychological Association. He and two colleagues wrote, “Out of K.O.S (Knowledge of Self): Black Masculinity, Psychopathology, and Treatment.”