Art Therapist Spotlight

Tuesdai Johnson, ATR, LPC-R

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Closing the Gap

Hey ya’ll, I want to be completely honest when I share my coming to story with you guys. To utterly understand the value, significance, beauty, and need for a business like Closing the Gap, I must do something I do not enjoy; especially as a Black female art therapist, published author, and business owner to celebrate myself while I have the opportunity. I must share my story, or at least what I feel comfortable sharing because boundaries, right!

 

To quote the great Erykah Badu, “Now, keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my…” If you know, you know.

 

As a Black girl from Petersburg, VA who moved to Clinton, MS as a teen, life was not always kind to me. I have experienced things that one can only imagine spanning from cultural shock, racism, and being the “other” to give you an idea of what I feel comfortable sharing. Take my word for it, that is just the tip of the iceberg but trust me it goes even deeper. Let’s just say lived experiences tested my faith often, taught me to navigate spaces that were not inclusive, and to not only survive but to thrive. This was not an easy journey as I am sure some of you can imagine, but I acquired a tool bag along the way that holds what I believe is a major key for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s (BIPOC) success.

 

What is Closing the Gap?

Closing the Gap is a business that I started with lived experiences and research conducted in mind. The primary focus is BIPOC mental health and wellness. Closing the Gap is more than a business to me, it is my offering of healing to the underserved, often undervalued, and “invisible” BIPOC communities. Closing the Gap is the answer to the questions I asked when faced with adversity. Closing the Gap is everything I needed while navigating spaces where I was both desired and undesired. If you know me

(depending on who you are), you are probably finding it somewhat hard to believe that I could be in space(s) where I am not desired. Here’s the thing, no matter what I have accomplished in life, as my introduction to self reflects, I am Black first and as such, being in those spaces are included free of charge. Closing the Gap was established to assist programs, organizations, businesses, and institutions in offering BIPOC support for BIPOC individuals facing adversity, and racial issues and concerns. With racial injustices on display and the constant murders at the hand of police on the rise, Closing the Gap’s offerings in its timeliness can guide the journey to healing.

 

For those who want a simple bullet point list to the offerings, Closing the Gap offers:

Mentoring – Individual and small groups mentoring. This is important as cultural and background differ even within one race, and individuals may or may not be as comfortable sharing lived experiences in a group setting.

Mental Health Services – Short term therapy, mental health assessments, and referrals. Therapy in BIPOC communities have been viewed as a taboo, or mental health professionals are often unrelatable. At Closing the Gap, we understand the importance of representation and so resources are offered by BIPOC mental health professionals, as well as our Community Partners who are Licensed Clinical Social Workers.

Workshops and Training – Improving diversity and inclusion in Mental Health Education. With research in mind, it has been stated many times that there is a lack of diversity in mental health programs and the profession. Implications from the research I conducted could prove to be influential in assisting programs with support for BIPOC students, staff, and employees.

 

I mentioned research as a contributing factor for the creation of Closing the Gap. Johnson et al. (2021) provided a space not only for BIPOC students (current or recent graduates) to share their lived experiences while attending or having attended one graduate art therapy and counseling program at a predominately White institution, but the study also allowed the participants to contribute to ways in which experiences for BIPOC students could be improved. Research has shown that representation matters whether in the capacity of mentoring, mental health provider(s), supervisor(s), and in the capacity of spreading awareness. Closing the Gap is a step in the right direction towards BIPOC healing.

 

For more information about Closing the Gap and how we can assist you, contact me at

Tuesdai@closingthegapva.com, or closingthegapva@gmail.com.