This week let’s learn from the amazing Nikki Coleman, Ph.D. Nikki Coleman has dedicated her career to examining how relationships and cultural context influence mental health, particularly for Black women. When she’s not conducting therapy sessions and workshops, she’s shaping young minds as a college professor. I find her innovative and unique approach to mental health, as well as her dedication to serving her local community, truly inspiring.
Nikki’s fascination with psychology and mental health started at a young age:
“Funny story. I decided to become a psychologist in 9th-grade Geography class. My Geography teacher was also the Intro to Psychology teacher so, he would frequently start putting his notes for the Psych class on the board while we were working independently on our Geography lessons. Geography was cool and all but I was intrigued by the Psych notes and terms I saw. It was an upper-level course, so I wasn’t able to take it until two years later. In the interim, I was the friend who everybody went to with their problems, the one on three-way phone calls late at night mediating folks relationship drama. So, becoming a mental health professional has always been a clear career path for me.”
What is your personal philosophy concerning mental health?
I believe our relationships as human beings are the most precious and important part of our human experience. We learn, evolve, thrive, and are hurt in the context of our intimate relationships. Therefore, helping people to understand their relational patterns – their functions and dysfunctions – is where I think there is optimal potential for growth and mental well-being.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I’m particularly invested in the well-being and empowerment of women, specifically, Black women. So, anytime I can contribute to, facilitate, or bring about healing for Black women’s self-concept, wellness, and success I am rewarded.
What are some specific ways in which you contribute to greater mental health in your community?
While I maintain my license as a psychologist, my primary job at this point is as a University professor. As a result, most of my contribution to my community is indirect through training of developing counselors and psychologists and research on the mental and sexual health of Black women. More directly, I engage in consulting and workshop training on various mental health topics throughout the Houston area.
What are some reasons to consider therapy?
First of all, because it works. Research consistently demonstrates that talk therapy has benefit for people’s mental wellness. Also, I think a lot of people are walking wounded from a mental health perspective; people operating at some minimal level of capacity but not thriving in their lives at all. Living is filled with strife and challenge, people should consider therapy as a means of support from a skilled and trained professional to help one move through those times of pain. If one doesn’t address their mental blocks and challenges, it becomes a drain on their entire system that eventually has negative impact on other aspects of their lives and those intimate others around them. Therapy is tool that can help someone clear out the clutter and find ways to operate at a higher capacity for their own good.
Describe your unique approach to treatment or any specializations that you might have.
I use an Interpersonal Process Theory approach embedded in a framework that values and takes into account the client’s cultural context. This means that I help people look at their dysfunctional relational patterns within the boundaries of their cultural background to help them develop and maintain mental health. Though this can happen in an individual therapy format, my strong preference is to work in a group therapy format. Group therapy is a deeply enriching and, oftentimes, more efficient method of discovering and working through one’s dysfunction.
I don’t know about you, but Nikki Coleman just gave me a whole new outlook on therapy and the importance of maintaining good mental health!
Learn more about Dr. Coleman and her work by following her on Twitter @DrNikkiKnows