Healing Charlotte Podcast: Reia Chapman, Mental Health & Social Justice Advocate

Today, we have the pleasure of meeting Reia Chapman, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is the founder and an outpatient therapist at The Center for Family and Maternal Wellness, founder of the Social Justice Emotional Response Collective, and an inspiring writer and content creator for Decolonize Psychotherapy. She has a strong background in reproductive health rights and justice and regularly engages in public speaking and keynote engagements as well as facilitates trainings and workshops. She received her Master’s degree from Savannah State University and moved back to Charlotte to work in crisis intervention community services. She found the work to be challenging due to the bureaucracy. She discovered that her clients and families were not responding well to the service because it did not center their needs. She recognized the disconnect between the policies, laws, and rules to culture, poverty, and intersections. At this point, she realized that graduate school did not prepare her to work in marginalized communities. Since then, she has found that many in the mental health profession are unaware of the background of racism that makes us complicit in the suffering of people. This awareness informs her work with Decolonize Psychotherapy. With this series, she helps address the academic and education sector as well as corporate sector with workshops based on what the need is now to retain staff of color, how to create spaces that are safe, and protocols that could help clients feel seen.

“It is the work that I love to do. I love direct practice work and I think as I’ve evolved as a clinician, I’ve seen a greater need for me to contribute to the discourse and to the profession in ways that inspire and mold the next generation of Social Workers.”

Reia’s private practice, The Center for Family and Maternal Wellness, opened in 2016 and has great racial and gender diversity, helping those with mood and anxiety disorders, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, couples therapy, and support for Queer and Transgender populations. Her work with the Social Justice Emotional Response Collective officially solidified in 2016 after the murder of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, but had it’s beginnings when she was organizing emotional support efforts in Ferguson, MO after the death of Mike Brown. Reia was in Alaska during the uprising in Charlotte and kept wondering who was responding to the emotional needs of the community.

“I remember looking at the news and imagining the trauma that these folx must be experiencing when they were facing huge militarized police force. I thought about what it was like to be gassed or dogs to be used on people. I thought about seeing tanks and being hosed and I thought ‘what would that do to a person’s psyche?”

The works she does with SJERC is an act of resistance for her and an act of love and deep respect for the community. SJERC is a mental health mutual aid program which reconvened after the death of George Floyd. During this response, the Collective has added a 24/7 hotline staffed by mental health clinicians, created a website to submit appointment requests and donations, and increased visibility with lime green t-shirts. They have connected with other organizers such as Jail Support. The Collective has continued to offer professionals in the wellness space a place to donate their time to help those who are protesting as well as pro-bono services to those who need emergency emotional support.

Alisa Roth’s book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness” has been influential in her work with SJERC. Reia wants to heal Charlotte because she recognizes she does not have a choice in the matter. Since childhood, she was the one who people came to for support, guidance, comfort, and love as well as her fight for others her entire life. She cannot separate herself from healing. In the Charlotte community, she is inspired by many including Kass Ottley and Kristie Puckett Williams at Jail Support as well as the content creators and writers who are documenting the story. She continues to be inspired by those who have found ways to forgive and have difficult conversations to push past their pain to educate.

Find the Social Justice Emotional Response Collective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or call the hotline at 704-659-4997.