Evans proves ready to address mental health
- Aurelia Spaulding
- Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
WKU’s conferral of degrees means the successful completion of requirements for all graduates. This action also means the addition of Darrian Evans, an African American woman, to the mental health counseling field - now ready and equipped to address mental health stigmas in all populations, and especially those in underrepresented communities.
Evans, from Louisville, explained her research while in WKU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program taught her, “The number of therapists of color serving as psychologists, counselors and social workers as a whole is less than the number of clients of color that all three fields serve. In other words, there aren't enough therapists of color to serve the needs of underrepresented populations.”
Evans’ qualitative study titled Therapist of Color pulls information from the Health Resources and Services Administration and data from a combination of other sources.
“A lack of therapists of color may perpetuate the stigma of mental health in underserved communities as well as deter potential clients from seeing a therapist when needed. Lastly, when there is a lack of representation in the field, the mental health crisis will continue to increase rather than diminish without a variety of ethnicities serving,” Evans said.
Serving the underserved will remain part of Evans’ path, a path that further developed during her two graduate years at Western Kentucky University.
“In my program, I have assisted Dr. Lacretia Dye, my faculty mentor and Todd Noffsinger, TFCC supervisor in serving populations who are historically underserved. Under their supervision, I have learned what I truly have a passion for. My work will continue to assist in advocating for the rights and the overall wellbeing of underrepresented communities,” Evans said. Dye, serves as an Associate Professor in Counseling and Student Affairs, while Noffsinger works as the Clinical Director for the Talley Family Counseling Center (TFCC).
The Talley Family Counseling Center provides professional counseling services to individuals, couples and families at no cost. Counseling interns from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at WKU serve clients. Evans began interning at TFCC in 2019, seeing clients during the summer, fall and spring. She continues to see clients virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Talley has provided me with the opportunity to partner with public schools, students and faculty on WKU's campus, as well as other professionals in the community to tap into my innovative skills to create group counseling for students of color or events that give light to mental health and the work that we as counselors do,” Evans said.
Dye acknowledged several qualities that Evans possesses as important to the field of mental health counseling. “I appreciate Darrian’s ability to attentively listen to the needs of others while engaging in genuine, practical and useful feedback. I believe Darrian would offer this same care and concern for clients within a therapeutic relationship as well as individuals across cultural communities. She has a genuine presentation that is important for communicating, counseling and teaching,” Dye said.
With the assistance of Noffsinger and Dye, Evans created, co-created, or facilitated several programs for youth including Black Minds Matter, My Minds Matter, Behind the Mask, Still I Rise, and Identity Literacy and Yoga (I.L.Y). Black Minds Matter consisted of a six-part workshop series that addressed the experiences and realities of black boys and men in education. My Mind Matters offered a six-session experiential course developed to enhance the educational experience of African American students. Behind the Mask provided a space for students to participate in table talk to explore historical and generational trauma in the black community.
“Perhaps one of Darrian’s most rewarding and awe-inspiring activities is her current enrollment in a yoga teacher training in Indianapolis, specifically to tend to the mental health of people of color. This teacher training is focused on social justice through mental, physical and emotional healing,” Dye said. “Darrian desires to bring this type of practice to communities of color, especially those communities at risk of exclusion.”
Evans will complete her Yoga Teacher Training certification in November and plans to use yoga as a therapeutic tool for clients in the field of counseling. Evans expressed, “One day, I plan to teach and continue to serve underrepresented communities whether it is with yoga, counseling, or with family and friends.”
Over her time at WKU, Evans also led an event through the Black Graduate Student Association discussing transgenerational trauma in the black community and remained active in the Omega Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota honors society serving as president. “I, along with other members, have had the opportunity to utilize our organization as a platform to recognize and acknowledge scholars, develop professional identity and network amongst other students and/or professionals in the community through events that we hold as an organization,” Evans said.
To close out her time at WKU, Evans recently created two online social media communities promoting mental wellness. The communities share experiences, resources, and love in regards to professional work and identity, as well as focused conversation on mental health, wellbeing and power.
WKU Counseling & Student Affairs Department Head Dr. Jill Duba Sauerheber said, “Due to her authenticity and sincere compassion for others, Darrian will show clients that there is hope, that they each other have internal wisdom and strength, and that their dreams are possible. She also has demonstrated that one need not reach greater heights alone.”
“I chose WKU because WKU chose me,” Evans said. “Sometimes we have a set mind on where we want to be in life, whether that means our jobs, city/states, or just life in general. However, life has a funny way of putting us right where we need to be.”
Evans explained that among her choices for graduate schools, choosing WKU proved to be the best decision. She recognized the faculty’s diversity of research interest and connected with their character and their work.
“There was a subtle, genuine and helpful energy being in the presence of the faculty and other students in the room that was not offered anywhere else. WKU offered me a family, friends, love, support, mentorship, scholarships and networking opportunities. As an African American female, WKU - in particular the Counseling & Student Affairs program - offered a space that allowed me to be myself.”
The Counseling & Student Affairs program faculty unanimously nominated Evans as the Spring 2020 Outstanding Graduate Student in the Clinical Mental Health Program.
#WKUGrad series: As part of our #WKUGrad series, articles on graduating students are shared in the weeks leading up to Commencement. See all of their stories at https://www.wku.edu/news/articles/index.php?view=default&categoryid=799&multinewsid=187