Seeking mental health services is not a thought that crosses the minds of many in communities of color. We are conditioned from a young age to push through the pain and/or to pray the anger and hurt away. All good advice however, seeking the assistance of a psychologist is something we should encourage. Especially, as we adult because we all know adulting can be quite challenging at times. Equally important is speaking with a practitioner that is culturally competent to treat our specific issues and experiences.
Meet Dr. Tyffani Monford Dent an African-American psychologist helping people live their best life and as a result, hone their own dreams.
We asked to share her story.
1. Tell us your story. What inspired you to choose the field of Psychology as your profession?
In the 8th grade, I watched the movie Sybil. Seeing how the mind works in coping with trauma, and how it manifests itself in mental illness made me want to not only learn more about trauma but also, how I could assist those who have experienced difficult life situations. In my research, I decided that I wanted to focus more on talk therapy and assessment than medication management, psychology vs. psychiatry. Yet, I would have never guessed that trauma work would play such a major part in most of the aspects of psychology that I do—specifically in sexual violence prevention/intervention as well as supporting youth survivors of human trafficking.
2. You started your own company providing Consulting and Psychological services, what made you take that leap of faith?
I would say it was not a “leap” as much as a “strong push” by my husband. I had talked a long time about not feeling as if I was stretching and growing as a psychologist in my role at that time. My husband insisted that I stop thinking about what I wanted to do and actually begin to do it. With his support of my moving from full-time to part-time employment, I was able to make time to begin to explore contract positions. Although, I continue to work part-time as a Clinical Director, I am excited that I have been able to diversify in the work that I do. Specifically, I have areas of specialization (sexual violence on the entire continuum, juvenile justice, and working with youth and adults of color) that are in-demand.
3. What would you say is the core mission statement and/or set of values present at Monford Dent Consulting & Psychological Services? Why were you passionate about this?
As a Black Female Psychologist, I have often been “in the room” fighting to make sure that services met the needs of people of color. I am very passionate about this as I am fully aware of how western psychology has failed to take into account the intersectionality of people of color in determining treatment interventions and even location of services. It is because of this that my mission/value is: “to provide culturally-relevant resources/workshops to those providing mental health services to adults and youth. To encourage the implementation of culturally-relevant interventions to populations of color”.
4. As a psychologist, you hear a lot of emotional stories how do you cope and rebalance after a stressful day at work?
This one is always a struggle, and I must say I am a “work in progress” in this area. However, I recognize that people are entrusting me with their difficult life experiences and they deserve for me to be fully present ad not “in my own feelings”. After work, I try not to watch television shows or read too many news stories that are covering the same types of issues with which I deal with in therapy.
5. What has been the most challenging aspect of running your own business?
Every day is a challenge, but a rewarding one. Yet, I am privileged that the challenge of the moment is deciding which unpaid opportunities were good for exposure and later on, beginning to say no more frequently to those that do not offer compensation. When you are passionate about your work, you want others to hear what you have to say—to learn from you. However, being a business, I had to realize that it is a business and I have to begin to financially profit from it. On the other end of the spectrum, still saying no when compensation is offered but the time investment required is not “worth” the compensation (too much travel time, etc)
6. What are three best practices you have learned as an entrepreneur?
Specialize—you can’t be a “jack of all trades” as it waters down your expertise;
Network—strategically choose what you will do solely for exposure. Connect with others in the field doing other aspects of the same work; and
Market—this was the hardest one for me as I am a natural introvert. Yet, I found being present on social media, including my social media contact info at the end of presentations, contacting entities to request to submit information to be a presenter, etc. have greatly increased my exposure and opportunities.
7. How would you like to see your businesses evolve in the next five years?
More opportunities to work on federal and state grant projects as well as being asked to present at more conferences. In addition, I am considering venturing into trying to become a media expert (Yes, Essence magazine, Teen Vogue, etc.) on mental health issues.
8. Best thing about your journey thus far?
Stretching myself. Going outside of my comfort zone and seeing that I am impacting the work others do in this field.
THE OSOW FAST THREE!
1. What is your favorite song at the moment?
316 by Jacqueline Constance—and pretty much anything else she puts out. She is this amazing artist out of Philly whose voice is just beyond words!
2. If you could have lunch with any person, who would it be and why?
Hmmm…it would be between Angela Rye as her commentary on social issues/social justice are fascinating, and Ntozake Shange whose choreopoem “For Colored Girls” inspired my love of writing and the need to make sure that women of olor have a space to tell their stories.
3. What’s your overarching vision for your field of Psychology especially for people of color?
A decrease in the stigma around seeking mental health services.