Spalding University Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Steven Kniffley, a faculty member in the School of Professional Psychology and the leader of Spalding’s Collective Care Center behavioral health specialty clinic for racial trauma, was recently honored by Louisville Business First as a 2021 Health Care Hero.
Kniffley is a scholar and frequent public speaker on matters of race and racial trauma and has given dozens of presentations, interviews and seminars on those topics.
Dr. Kniffley, who is a graduate of the Spalding PsyD that he now teaches in, was also recognized last year as a member of Louisville Business First’s Forty Under 40 list of outstanding young professionals in Louisville and received a MediStar Award from the Medical News for his work in treating and raising awareness for racial trauma.
A list of all 2021 Louisville Business First Health Care Heroes can be found here (subscription link), and the honorees will profiled in the April 9 issue of the publication.
During a moment in which the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others have renewed and heightened the focus on racism in America, a specialty clinic at Spalding University’s Center for Behavioral Health has served a unique role in raising awareness and providing therapy for victims of race-based stress and trauma.
The Collective Care Center, which is a division of the comprehensive Center of Behavioral Health psychological services and training clinic, is the only mental health clinic in Louisville – and one of only a few nationally – that specializes in racial trauma.
Over the past several months, in the wake of the killings of Taylor and Floyd, the Collective Care Center has offered free telehealth services to dozens of clients during the pandemic, helping them process and cope with the racial trauma they’ve experienced throughout their lives.
The clinic fills a need in a country in which 96 percent of Black citizens report daily experiences of racism and discrimination, said Spalding Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Steven Kniffley, who leads the Collective Care Center while also serving on the faculty of the School of Professional Psychology.
“We do the work that we do because we recognize that there’s this unique form of trauma that Black and Brown folks are experiencing that can’t be explained away by (more commonly discussed forms of) physical trauma or emotional trauma,” Kniffley said. “And we recognize that the earlier that we can intervene, the better support that we can provide.”
Kniffley is a frequent public speaker who leads talks and seminars explaining racial trauma, estimating that he’s given more than 100 community presentations since March. Since June, about 400 clinicians, including ones in Africa, England and the Caribbean, have participated in training workshops developed by Kniffley on racial trauma and therapy.
Kniffley said socioeconomic status and educational status do not provide buffers against the experience of race-based stress, noting that in Louisville, Blacks have about the same life expectancy regardless of if they live in the West End or East End.
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. 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?’”
He said race-based stress is nothing new, but only in recent years has it been more formally recognized as a potentially serious physical and psychological health factor that may 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.”
The Collective Care Center is able to offer free therapy services through the support of community partners. In one such partnership, Heine Brothers’ Coffee recently donated $1,212 to the Collective Care Center as one of its 2020 Social Impact Partners. For several months, Heine Brothers’ contributed $1 of every bag sold of its Mountain Dream coffee to the CCC.
The CBH offers a range of mental health services to the public at an affordable rate, using a sliding scale based on income and home size. The clinic offers psychological assessments and individual, couple, group and family therapy services with children, adolescents, adults and older adults.
Over the past two years, visits to the CBH have more than quadrupled, now averaging about 115 per week, according to Dr. Norah Chapman, Director of the CBH and Associate Chair of the School of Professional Psychology.
The CBH, located in Spalding’s Mansion East complex at 851 S. Fourth St., continues to offer in-person assessments while conducting therapy sessions exclusively via telehealth during the pandemic.
“I think now, more than ever, people are isolated and anxious in the uncertainty of our times,” Chapman said. “Receiving mental health care and just having somebody to (help people) feel less alone or maybe validated in the experiences that they are going through is crucial.”
Chapman said the CBH is developing a specialty clinic for women and families dealing with the emotional toll of infertility, pregnancy loss and other postpartum issues. One in four women have experienced pregnancy loss, and it can be exacerbated for women of color, she said.
“Fertility counseling and post-partum counseling are not widely talked about in our field,” Chapman said, “and it’s not readily accessible to a lot of folks because of cost. It’s very expensive to go through that process. These experiences can be really painful for a lot of people, and especially if that care is not available to them, the psychological ramifications of that are paramount.”
Chapman said the CBH has probably become the largest PsyD practicum site in the city, with students gaining the experience of working with clients while under the supervision of Spalding faculty members who are licensed clinical psychologists, such as herself and Kniffley.
“I have tremendous pride that Spalding University is behind the CBH and the CCC in our dual mission of training doctoral students and working with underserved communities, including ensuring that racial trauma treatment and healing are offered in our community,” Chapman said.
“We’re doing something novel to really meet the needs of the times and to really help to facilitate access to quality behavioral health care while also making sure that our students are getting training before they go off independently to create their own ripples in the world.”
Spalding University has named School of Professional Psychology faculty member Dr. Steven Kniffley – an innovative therapist and researcher on matters of race and racial trauma – as the university’s Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
Beginning in January, in his new role as Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Kniffley will be a member of President Tori Murden McClure’s senior leadership team – known as the Operational Council – and will take on a broad role across campus in promoting best practices and developing initiatives that advance diversity as a critical component of social, academic and intellectual life at Spalding.
Working out of the President’s Office, Kniffley will support Spalding’s mission to be a “diverse community of learners dedicated to meeting the needs of the times” while promoting peace and justice. He will actively engage students, faculty and staff to further behaviors, attitudes and policies that support diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, he will also represent Spalding in the community on matters of diversity and inclusion and serve as a point person in developing partnerships related to those issues.
“Dr. Steven Kniffley is a rising star on the faculty at Spalding and is a perfect choice to become our Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer,” McClure said. “Through his work in the Collective Care Center as well as through his teaching and scholarly work, he has demonstrated a deep understanding of issues of race and inequity in society. Moreover, through his public speaking and service work, he has demonstrated a passion and skill for raising awareness and turning conversations toward the need to promote justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and cultural competence. On a range of day-to-day and long-term issues at Spalding, our students, faculty and staff will be well-served by hearing his ideas and advice.
McClure continued: “For decades, Spalding has been committed to the promotion of social justice in downtown Louisville, and throughout my term as President, adding diverse voices to our university leadership and continuing to advance our diversity and inclusion efforts have been a priority of mine. Elevating Dr. Kniffley to this role is another step in showing that commitment while expanding Spalding’s history of promoting diversity and inclusion. During a year in which the attention of our city and our nation has focused sharply on justice and equity, there has never been a more important time to emphasize that commitment.”
“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead Spalding University’s justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts,” Kniffley said. “As chief diversity officer, I will work to enhance Spalding’s impact as an anti-oppression institution through meaningful policy, results-oriented programming, and capacity building through the development of community partnerships.”
Off campus, Kniffley serves as a research consultant for the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Synergy Project, which aims to improve relations between residents and the police. He is also a member of the City of Louisville’s Citizens Commission on Police Accountability.
He was recently voted the President-Elect of the Kentucky Psychological Association.
In addition to publishing numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, Kniffley co-authored the book Out of K.O.S. (Knowledge of Self): Black Masculinity, Psychopathology, and Treatment, and he co-edited the book Black Males and the Criminal Justice System.
Kniffley has given dozens of public and professional seminars and presentations, including a 2019 lecture series for the Louisville Free Public Library titled Mental Health and the Black Community.
Earlier this year, Kniffley was named to Louisville Business First’s Forty Under 40, honoring outstanding and service-minded young professionals in Louisville, and this month he was honored by IGE Media and the Medical News as the recipient of the 2020 MediStar Healthcare Advocacy Award for advocating for increasing culturally competent care for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, and for more education, training and service provision for the experience of racial trauma.
In 2018, he received an award for multicultural professional development from the Kentucky Psychological Association.
Kniffley is a graduate of the Spalding PsyD program. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit leadership from Wright State University and a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Louisville.
Kniffley did a post-doctoral fellowship in child and adolescent acute services with Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts. Before joining Spalding’s faculty, he was on the faculty at Wright State from 2014-18.
A Spalding University psychology doctoral student who aspires to provide therapy to Black people involved in the criminal justice system – and to understand how their lives have been affected by racial trauma – has been chosen for a prestigious fellowship from the American Psychological Association.
“When I got the news, I was very excited and surprised,” Ford said. “It was difficult to breathe for a minute.”
Ford’s PsyD concentration is forensic psychology, and she is currently participating in two Spalding practicums.
Her assessment practicum involves working with Black inmates at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Oldham County. She is conducting research to understand how racial trauma may contribute to persons of color becoming involved in crime and their likelihood of recidivism.
In addition, Ford is conducting her clinical therapy practicum at Spalding’s Collective Care Center – a division of the SOPP’s Center for Behavioral Health that focuses on treating race-based trauma and stress. Ford works with eight clients at the Collective Care Center, including a therapy group that processes racial trauma and microaggressions.
Ford was awarded the APA’s Interdisciplinary Minority Fellowship, which is supported by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The fellowship is awarded to students ” who commit to significantly improving the quality of care provided to ethnic and racial minorities who have a mental or cooccurring mental and substance use disorder,” according to the APA.
School of Professional Psychology Chair Dr. Brenda Nash said she was “thrilled but not surprised” that Ford received the APA Minority Fellowship.
“According to APA, the awards are offered to about 5% of the hundreds of doctoral students who apply, based largely on their potential as future leaders in ethnic minority psychology,” Nash said. “Lashawn exudes such potential. She exemplifies the excellence of our PsyD program and our mission to grow students into being agents of change. I cannot wait to see how Lashawn changes the world!”
Earning the APA Minority Fellowship is the latest accomplishment in Ford’s exceptional academic career. She is a former Fulbright Scholar who earned four bachelor’s degrees (in psychology, sociology, philosophy and criminal justice) and a 3.96 GPA in four years at the University Louisville before earning her master’s at the University of Kent in England.
Her accomplishments are all the more remarkable given her personal story. Ford is a first-generation college graduate whose father was incarcerated on drug charges. She has two uncles who are currently in prison for murder. Her personal experiences have contributed to her interests in forensic psychology and race-based trauma therapy.
Ford said it is important to increase the number of African American mental health care providers.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people who are struggling with mental health are people of color, and there are not enough clinicians who look like them to help,” she said. “People of color are also disproportionate in the prisons.”
Ford said the country’s focus on racial injustice the past several months in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others has also raised awareness about racial trauma.
“This trauma that Black people and people of color have been experiencing all their lives is now being brought to the forefront,” Ford said. “That can be very damaging for people to realize and have to live it over and over, like, ‘Wow, I’ve been experiencing this my whole life.’ They knew it, and they’ve been living in it, but it might have been something that was more suppressed. … But like any trauma, it’s important to process it and learn strategies to help deal with it. I get to be that person for a lot of people and help them get through it.”
Ford is the second student ever from the Spalding PsyD program to earn the APA Minority Fellowship, following Steven Kniffley, a mentor of Ford’s who is now on the Spalding faculty, is the head of the Collective Care Center, and is the Associate Director of the Center for Behavioral Health. Kniffley is the person who encouraged Ford to apply for the APA fellowship.
“He’s my mentor, and he got it, and now I have it,” Ford said. “It was a really good moment to share the good news with him.”
Ford said she has enjoyed training at Spalding under a range of faculty in a range of settings – under Kniffley in the Collective Care Center, under Forensics Program Director Dr. Ida Dickie at the prison, and under Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth in cultural humility training groups – who are all carrying out a social justice mission.
“These are separate professors and clinicians who are serving the same kind of purpose but doing very different things,” Ford said. “And it’s very powerful.”
Spalding University School of Professional Psychology Assistant Professor Dr. Steven Kniffley was recently honored by Louisville Business First with inclusion on its 2020 list of Forty Under 40 – recognizing a group of the city’s most outstanding and promising young professionals who excel both in their careers and in service.
The 35-year-old Kniffley serves as Associate Director of Spalding’s Center for Behavioral Health while leading the Collective Care Center, which is a specialty clinic within the CBH that specializes in treating race-based stress and trauma. The CCC is the only behavioral health clinic in Louisville – and one of only a few in the nation – with a focus on racial trauma.
At a moment when the nation has been focused on issues related to racism and social injustice, Kniffley has established himself one of Louisville’s leading experts on race-based trauma.
He is a frequent public speaker who has led dozens of seminars and talks on the issue this year, and through his work with the Collective Care Center, he has helped assess and treat victims of race-based trauma. Since June, about 400 clinicians, including ones in Africa, England and the Caribbean, have participated in training workshops developed by Kniffley on racial trauma and therapy.
Kniffley is an alum of Spalding’s Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology program, of which he is now a faculty member.
He responded: “I am an innovative, courageous and committed leader willing to leverage my time, talent and resources to uplift marginalized communities and create spaces of healing for the oppressed. This is reflected in my work as an assistant professor, where I mentor, educate and train the next generation of culturally humble psychologists to work with diverse and underserved populations; (and) in my work as an associate director for our community-based mental health center with a mission of providing affordable and compassionate care.”
Kniffley said his work as coordinator of the Collective Care Center reflects his belief “that access to mental health services is a social justice issue.”
Kniffley was recently interviewed by the Frazier History Museum about a range of topics related to racial trauma. You can watch the interview below or at this link.
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.