PsychoHairpy is teaching stylists to be mental health advocates

POV: You’re sitting in your favorite hair salon with your freshly washed hair and you look at your phone. You see a message that causes some unpleasant feelings of negativity and frustration. Your stylist asks if everything is okay, and you can’t help but start rambling on about what’s bothering you.

Sound familiar? Lots of other people have been in your position (or, chair). In fact, it’s actually quite common to express your feelings to a stylist: One in three people who go to a salon see their stylist as a therapist. However, most hairstylists have no mental health training let alone a degree in psychology.

However, clinical psychologist and hairstylist Afiya M. Mbilishaka, PhD, has all of the above and she has dedicated her life to supporting mental health through hair care ( now has support from Maui Moisture). Mbilishaka said: “I had an important phone call with my aunt Brenda. This phone call helped me figure out exactly what to do after college. “I said, ‘I don’t know if you want to study psychology or hair,’ and my aunt said, ‘Why can’t you study both?’”

Although Mbilishaka’s aunt was perhaps suggesting that she try to balance her two passions, Mbilishaka took it literally and began to find ways to combine them, while also addressing the disparity. on mental health in Black communities.

“In order to engage Black women on a cultural level, mental health providers must acknowledge the importance of hair and take advantage of the existing social support of hairstylists,” says Mbilishaka. hairstylists, natural helpers in the community.

That’s how she came up with the idea for PsychoHairapy. When she reflected on her own experience and sifted through data that showed Black women were more likely to book a hair care appointment than a mental health appointment, she planned equip stylists to support their communities that they might not otherwise. if not received.

“The purpose of PsychoHairpy is to draw attention to culturally and spiritually appropriate treatments in the lives of Black women,” she said. “To reach this large population, PsychoHairapy focuses on addressing the psychological needs of those often left out, by providing accessible options in the safe space of a hair salon. “

The 12-hour skill-based training course developed by Mbilishaka covers three key areas: the history of Black Hair, how to identify, understand, and empathize with the signs of mental illness, and how to respond to it. common customer mental health concerns.

“Hairstylists who took the course became emotional when they realized that their work can have such a far-reaching impact,” says Mbilishaka. “There is no mental health training in cosmetology school, so hairstylists appreciate using language to process the emotions that come up in their chair. Hair designer [also] particularly enjoy learning about the history of our hair and enjoy practicing the techniques … reframe some of the concerns that arise in the lives of their clients.

“PsychoHairpy also teaches stylists how to refer to mental health professionals if a client discloses a concern that necessitates speaking to a professional,” Mbilishaka said.

All the good work that PsychoHairapy is doing in the perm community has caught the attention of curly hair care brand Maui Moisture, whose stated mission is to give curly hair confidence to help improve it. women’s self-esteem in the perm community.

Mbilishaka (who uses Maui Moisture products on her own hair) says: “Psychologists are trained to have quiet conversations about mental health, but Maui Moisture has a reputation for being amplify the most important conversations in the shaggy community.

Since getting a PsychoHairapy certification costs $600, which is a significant investment for many stylists, Maui Moisture has donated $100,000 to PsychoHairapy to assist in training over 100 hairstylists and stylists. barber while helping to expand the program’s reach.

“The possibilities for how mental health professionals can collaborate with hairstylists to step into healthy spaces supported by sisterhood are limitless,” says Mbilishaka. And thanks to the work of both PsychoHairpy and Maui Moisture, the future of turning beauty salons into safe spaces for all looks bright.


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