Passionate About Social Justice in Seattle

racial therapist specializing in racial trauma

Photo Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

Many people wonder how they can get involved in social-justice movements. There are many ways to show support in your local community, but Ashley McGirt is a prime example of someone using her professional experience to make a difference. She wears many hats when it comes to social justice and brings awareness to mental-health issues that the Black community faces. She is a psychotherapist, nonprofit organizer, author, hospice clinician, world traveler and more. She is also an international TED speaker.

Recently, McGirt founded the Washington Therapy Fund Foundation, based in Seattle. Police brutality against Black people is a national crisis, and Ashley sought to apply her experience as a therapist to make racial trauma therapy more accessible. Thus, the nonprofit organization was born. She is currently working on bringing a similar foundation to California.

I interviewed McGirt so people all over the country can learn about her experiences as a racial-trauma therapist and why she started her nonprofit organization aimed at social justice.


CircleAround: What social cause are you most passionate about?
Ashley McGirt: I am passionate about social justice and advocating for mental-health resources, especially among marginalized communities. It is through my upbringing and commitment to social justice that I was drawn to social work and psychology. Having witnessed firsthand the impact of racism and oppressive systems, I knew I had to work relentlessly to make as many changes as I can.

CA: What urged you to start the Washington Therapy Fund Foundation?
AM
: In an effort to eliminate some of the barriers to Black healing, the foundation was birthed out of a direct response to the incessant police brutality and anti-Blackness seen and felt across the globe. The mission is to alleviate the burden of cost to both Black clients and the therapists who serve them. The Washington Therapy Fund Foundation seeks to grant free therapeutic services to those within the Black community who are in need and suffering from racial trauma, anxiety, depression, and other ailments due to systemic oppression, economic sufferings, and intergenerational trauma that has not been addressed in the past.

CA: Why is there a need for more representation when it comes to mental-health treatment and racial-trauma therapy for the Black community?
AM: There is a long oppressive history when it comes to the Black community and mental health in this country, beginning with slavery, wherein enslaved people were not allowed to cry or be sad. This trait of not showing any emotion — post-traumatic slave syndrome — has been passed down among many Black families. We also have to consider finances. The cost of treatment is too expensive for many, so if they do find a culturally responsive therapist, they have to then figure out if they can afford them.

CA: How has your local community responded to the Washington Therapy Fund Foundation?
AM: My community has supported me in ways I never expected. The outpouring of love, support, donations, and just willingness to support the foundation has been amazing. I cannot thank everyone enough. The Seattle Storm, our local WNBA team, recently recognized us as their community champion.

CA: What can people do in your local community and beyond to help?
AM: Donate, continue to spread awareness, have conversations about mental health, race, social justice, and equity at the dinner table, and remember to take care of yourself and be well. Also, follow us on social media @watherapyfund and @therapywithash.

CA: What would you say to someone who feels inspired by your accomplishments but does not know how to get involved?
AM: Everyone can do something in this world to make a difference. Don’t let your age, race, gender, or anything ever impact your willingness to do something. I believe in you, and if I can do great things, I know you can do even greater!


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