The Hosford Clinic launches The Healing Center, providing psychological services for Black-identifying clients of all ages

Thursday, December 17, 2020
Jason Fly

Jason Fly, one of the doctoral student therapists

The Hosford Counseling & Psychological Services Clinic, based at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School, has launched a new service, The Healing Center. The Healing Center is a specialty clinic that provides psychological services to Black-Identifying clients of all ages. In addition to general stressors and life issues, the Healing Center acknowledges the effects of racial trauma, marginalization, and injustice on social and health disparities among Black communities. All services are provided by Black therapists who have an interest in addressing the negative toll of anti-Black racism on Black residents in our local community.

The Healing Center launched in October thanks to a generous gift from Carrie Towbes and John Lewis. The murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, among many others, and the activism of #BLM this summer drove Towbes to look for a place to take action, and she turned to Healing Justice Santa Barbara, a Black led and Black centered organizing collective that aspires to build resilient communities for the African diaspora and other marginalized people along the Central Coast. Specifically she talked with Jordan Killebrew, co-leader of Healing Justice and Director of Communications at the Santa Barbara Foundation. Killebrew pointed out the pressing need for Black therapists in the Santa Barbara community, especially during the pandemic and ongoing anti-racial upheavals of 2020.

“I’ve always been bewildered by the separation of town and gown we have here,” Towbes says. “I look at UCSB as a resource for the community. Making the connection between Jordan [Healing Justice] and Steve [Smith, Director of the Hosford Clinic] seemed logical. It’s really exciting for me as a funder—it’s often just getting the right people talking to each other.”

Smith was eager to help have Hosford fulfill the Black community’s need for culturally appropriate therapists. Not only does the Hosford have four Black-identifying doctoral student therapists ready and able to provide services to the Black community in all of California (since all sessions remain on Zoom during COVID-19), but the Clinic is also developing webinars about racial stress and other topics. Smith also turned to Department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology colleague Dr. Alison Cerezo for help in launching the new clinic.

“I am honored to help get the Healing Center off the ground,” Cerezo says. “In 2020 alone, we witnessed several high-profile murders of Black Americans related to police brutality, part of a much longer history of anti-Black violence in the US. At the same time, Coronavirus put a spotlight on the ongoing health inequities that disproportionately affect Black communities. What’s worse, there has been little to no formal efforts at the federal level to stop these injustices.

“Healing Center aims to provide a safe, culturally responsive space for Black residents to get mental health support, and for that support to be provided by Black therapists who have a keen understanding of the ways anti-Black racism operates in US society. Further, it’s critical that Black psychologists-in-training have a community of Black therapists with whom they can learn from and thrive.”

Those looking to receive services from the new Healing Center—named to reflect its connection to Healing Justice Santa Barbara—should email the clinic at hosford@ucsb.edu.

The four doctoral student therapists are all eager to begin this crucial work. “The mental health of Black-Identifying folks has always been a focus of mine and to finally have a space to do some much-needed work for the community is very exciting,” explains Jazzmyn Ward, one of the four therapists at the new Center. “This space has been curated to serve those that have been systematically and historically excluded from so many spaces. I firmly believe that we all have divine power within us despite our circumstances, and with great honor I look forward to supporting those in the community in accessing that in order to continue to heal.”

Jason Fly, MA, another of the therapists. added, “This unprecedented time of stress and trauma in our communities has further exposed the inequities endured by Black people in our country and around the world. For too long, we have been expected to bear the burdens of racism that manifest in direct violence, health and economic disparities, and the psychological consequences of chronic stress. I am humbled to have the opportunity and privilege to do my part to create a therapeutic environment for the Black community and provide service through the Healing Center with empathy and compassion.”

Isabelle Fleury, M.Ed., and another of the therapists said, “I am excited about the Healing Center and the opportunities for providing accessible and sustainable mental health care for the Black community in Santa Barbara. In a beach town like Santa Barbara⁠—which has always had a Black community⁠—it can be easy for folks to convince themselves that we live in a ‘post-racial’ society. Over this year, this illusion has finally begun to fade and it has become painfully clear that racism is a public health issue. For far too long, the mental well-being of Black people has been overlooked or dismissed. I see the establishment of the Healing Center as a critical step in repairing the devastating effects of injustices that Black people have had to endure for many generations.”

And the fourth therapist, Ginette Sims, concurred with her colleagues, “I am looking forward to the opening of the Healing Center and having the opportunity to serve the Black community in SB and beyond. Given the realities of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic that is systemic racism, Black communities deserve to have their mental health and wellbeing prioritized and it's my privilege to be a small part of changing the tide and addressing the mental health needs of the Black community by providing therapeutic services via the Healing Center.”

The Hosford Counseling & Psychological Services Clinic is a university-based community clinic that is designed to provide culturally sensitive, low-cost individual, couple, family, and group psychological treatment to the entire Santa Barbara community. It serves the general public as well as students, faculty, and staff from local universities/colleges. The Hosford Clinic serves as a training site for doctoral students in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology (CCSP) of UC Santa Barbara.

[Steve Smith, Alison Cerezo, and the clinicians of the Healing Center are available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at george@education.ucsb.edu]