CEO & Founder
Integrated Wellness Group
Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale School of Medicine
Author, Urban Trauma
PhD, Saint Louis University
MS, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
BA, Psychology, State University of New York, Albany
Dr. Maysa Akbar is a psychologist, mother, business owner and entrepreneur. She specializes in the psychology of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and trauma. She has 20 years of experience and clinical training focused on urban and culturally diverse children, adolescents, and families. Dr. Akbar developed the Urban Trauma® framework and the Allyship Identity Model to ensure that professionals in her field have the skills, training and tools to effectively work with communities of color. The framework and model have been groundbreaking in challenging the status quo in the space of DEI.. She has made it her personal mission to break down the destructive effects of structural racism and ensure that her peers have the tools to be part of the change she intends to make. Dr. Akbar received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Saint Louis University. Completed pre and-post doctoral training at the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine. She has also held a faculty positionYale Child Study Center and Yale School of Pediatric Dentistry. In this interview she shares more about her work in the community and journey as a leader.
How has your professional and/or academic experience influenced the way in which you approach leadership? Any specific instances you care to share?
To be an effective leader, you have to understand who you are first. So, early on, I recognized that it was important for me to be anchored in my racial identity. I had to know what my values were (what was most important to me) and how I wanted to show up as a leader. I’ve focused my work on racialized trauma and understanding the intersection of racism and mental health. However, I have always been action oriented and so I’ve worked on identifying the perpetual problem by creating innovative solutions for the future benefit of well-being. One of the primary ways I evaluate situations is looking for the potential for well-being, harmony and collaboration. I am a strategicleader. For my team, students, mentees or anyone that is looking to me for leadership, I tend to focus on meeting them where they are in their development and helping them to understand their strengths and how to lean into their gifts.
Talk about a challenging time through which you had to lead – was there a defining moment? Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
In 2018, my company went through a very difficult period t for the first time in over a decade of being in operation. Frankly, at that point I felt that we were not going to make it. In that time, we were facing external scrutiny that created a lot of negative publicity for us and which led to low morale among my team. I couldn’t see how we were going to survive this tough period, fraught with financial instability. There were moments during that year where the company was unjustly targeted. We faced our lowest point,when we realized that we didn’t get the support we expected from my community. That was a major lesson learned. This situation revealed that often of color are, frequently positioned, by the systems of power, to compete with one another for limited resources or support. That year I learned that 1) there is always a plan; 2) the plan is not always going to be linear; and 3) leaning into the plan won’t hasten the journey but it will teach you key skills that will make you stronger and make it easier to navigate future situations. Throughout that year I continually told myself that it would get better eventually by remembering other low points in my life and how I came out on top in those situations as well.
How do you stay involved in the community? Either in your professional capacity or personal mission.
I truly believe in the philosophy of paying it forward. I stay involved in my community in three ways:
Does your organization do community work? How can others get involved with supporting those efforts?
Integrated Wellness Group does do community work. We are a behavioral health practice that supports those struggling with racial trauma. We are always looking for volunteers willing to give of their time to participate and support the events that we host. We seek to have mental health practitioners of color on our team who see themselves supporting the communities that they come from.
Investing in one’s mental health is even more critical than ever before. Isolation, trauma and anxiety have impacted the black and brown community exponentially. Being kind to one another and supportive is key to navigating through crisis. Our #WCE shares some vital points regarding the care and wellness of self and community and what it takes to invest in both. It can’t be reiterated enough-have a plan, have a desire, be diligent but be fluid. Life throws many curve balls, which may impact the state of mental health. Create the support you need to successful play the field.
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