This Philly Therapist Has Raised More Than $81K to Provide Free Therapy to the Black Community
Saleemah McNeil, founder of Oshun Family Center, is offering free racial trauma counseling to Black folks in and around Philadelphia.
Amid a pandemic that’s disproportionately impacting the Black community, the continued killings of Black people at the hands of police officers, and global anti-racism protests, a Philly-area therapist is using her platform to help the local Black community take care of their mental health right now.
Saleemah McNeil, psychotherapist and founder of Oshun Family Center in Jenkintown, is now offering free therapy to Black residents of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. Through a fundraising campaign with Valerie Braunstein of Philly Psychology, McNeil has raised over $81,000 to provide series of eight, 60-minute complimentary sessions to clients experiencing acute racial trauma. And after participants have finished their eight free sessions, McNeil says her team will offer them therapy on a sliding scale or at a reduced rate.
McNeil, who opened Oshun Family Center in 2018 and focuses on the intersection of racism and maternal health, began the campaign on June 3rd. “Seeing Black people in my community impacted by the pandemic and the racial epidemic, I knew I wanted to support their mental health through all the recent devastation,” McNeil says. Originally, her goal was to raise $5,000, but ended up raising $7,000 in just one day. Soon after, she worked with Braunstein to extend the fundraiser’s reach, and has continued to receive an outpouring of donations. Since the initiative began, over 100 new clients have applied for the free counseling services.
In addition to making therapy more accessible, McNeil has onboarded several culturally-competent therapists — including Philly clinicians Jabina Coleman and Shanna Williams — so that clients can feel better understood and served. “Racially-concordant care is very important for the Black community,” McNeil says, noting the racial injustice that pervades the American healthcare system. “[As a Black woman and mother,] I am able to emotionally understand and empathize with the plight of Black women and mothers specifically. While the sessions do get heavy sometimes, I believe there is power in getting to know the therapist sitting across from you, especially a therapist who understands [or has lived through] your experience.”
McNeil hopes to raise $100,000 so that Oshun can continue offering these free services and remain a fully-functioning, economically-sustainable therapy center in a post-COVID era. In addition to donating to the fundraiser, McNeil encourages community members, especially white people, “to remember that Black lives have and will always matter, and continue supporting Black folks after the protests end.”