Black-owned health services support racialized communities

Two former athletes start healthcare clinics in Kingston 

Image by: Herbert Wang
ELA Psychology and JD Physiotherapy offer mental health counselling.

Sometimes, when clients find it hard to express their feelings, psychologist E.L. Adams will switch on a song.

Adams told The Journal he grew up listening to ’80s music, country, and Motown. He uses music in his practice to help clients to delve into past experiences and connect with others.

“It can be difficult to see, reframe, or feel connected—given people’s circumstances,” he said. “A lot of times with mental health, people feel like their situations are unique, and they feel isolated, they feel ashamed.”

He thought of implementing music into his sessions while writing his thesis. Dissecting the lyrics of a song can lead to bigger conversations without making someone feel spotlighted in sessions.

Adams said many people gravitate towards music. It’s the “common denominator” that connects us—it’s a unifying art form. 

He started as a marketing major at St. Francis Xavier University, but he said after taking a mandatory forensic psychology course, a light bulb went off. His interest in hearing peoples’ stories made him switch his major to psychology. While completing a master’s in education and counselling psychology, Adams realized he wanted to support young people in challenging situations.

“Growing up, I had a tribe and a crew around me, like a real village that raised me,” Adams said. “We never had riches. But I always had the currency of love and unconditional support. I didn’t realize a lot of people didn’t have that.”

Adams started his clinic, ELA Psychology, in 2019 to have more flexibility and creativity in his work. Jonathan Daniel, MSc ’07—Adams’ best friend—started JD Physiotherapy in 2014. When treating a patient for physical ailments, Daniel usually chats with them to see if there are any other root causes of the injury that are inhibiting recovery, such as a mental block. 

Seeing the need for Black-owned mental health services in Kingston, Daniel encouraged Adams to move and join his wellness clinic.

“I thought [ELA Psychology] would fill a lot of gaps, especially in the Kingston community, just to make people feel more comfortable if they want to chat with a person of color,” 

Daniel told The Journal.

According to Daniel, there’s an underrepresentation of Black-owned mental health services in Kingston for many reasons. When BIPOC students see professionals in roles they aspire to take on, it becomes more possible for them to achieve those goals, Daniel said.

“It strengthens the whole community to have Black business owners—especially mental health is so needed [right] now,” he said.

For clients, being able to speak with someone they feel comfortable with is important, Daniel says. He believes making healthcare as inclusive as possible will benefit the whole community.

“I’m really passionate about getting these Black-owned businesses out there and making people realize that we’re here,” Daniel said. “It’s not just about servicing other Black individuals. That’s not what it’s not about at all […] We want to serve as the community, we love this community, [and] we want to make it as strong as possible.” 

He believes if Kingston improves its diversity, it will also strengthen Queen’s. JD Physiotherapy and ELA Psychology currently work with Student Wellness Services at Queen’s to provide healthcare for students. In tandem with Black-owned health services, Daniel said Queen’s is moving forward.

“Queen’s is changing and championing these businesses and supporting their alumni who own these businesses,” Daniel said.

As a Black mental health care professional, Adams said he relates to the experiences of Black individuals—but we all come together when working through mental health issues. 

“Given there are different perspectives to our lives, it is possible for us to point out different approaches that might be helpful for those of the same race or colour, and also for those who are not,” he said.

Each person comes in the door with a blank slate, regardless of race or identity. Adams is African American and said his Black experience differs from other Black individuals’ experience. He emphasized the importance of understanding, listening, and leaving your assumptions at the door.

According to Adams, mental health hasn’t always been a trusted practice in the Black community. Providing representation is important to allow everyone to see themselves in whatever role they want to be.

“We’re all united in our mental health. We experience it very differently, but I think the unity of our trials and tribulations really helps us connect and understand one another.”

Anxiety is very common among university-age students, and Adams addresses anxiety by trying to find the root cause. From grades to future ambitions to family issues, it can be hard to pinpoint a direct source of anxiety. 

Low self-concept—which encompasses self-image, confidence, and esteem—is also common among university students, he said.

Adams sees many athletes struggle to balance the work and school load in his counselling sessions. As a former collegiate athlete himself, learning when to “push through” and when to take breaks helped him not become overwhelmed in his work life. He said he learned time management and how to be task-oriented through sports.

According to Daniel, they work together to help injured athletes in the healing process, where physical ailments are heavily related to their psychological state. 

When Daniel speaks with his physiotherapy clients, he assesses whether incorporating mental health counselling into the healing process would be beneficial—especially as Adams works primarily with children and young adults.

Continuing to be a place where people can truly benefit and grow is what Adams wants ELA Psychology to be going forward. 

Being non-judgmental is a big pillar of Adams’ practice—as is firm honesty.

“People are coming, they’re trusting that they can open up and be transparent and be themselves without the judgment,” he said.

Providing a space where people can be “real” with themselves and replace their old habits with new ones to better themselves is how Adams fuels the support he received growing up into 

his practice.

“I think growth comes from clarity, change in comfort. If you talk long term, I would hope people could grow from their experiences and their sessions with me in some way, shape, or form.”


black history month, communities, Healthcare, racialization

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