Loosely translated, the Zulu word ‘ubuntu’, means ‘I am because we are.’ This is the motto at the heart of Ubuntu Counseling and Wellness, founded by two-time Trevecca graduate Dr. PaQuita Pullen.
“It's a philosophy and a way of being,” Pullen said. “We are all connected and this sense of interconnectedness is how we heal.”
Pullen’s journey into the counseling profession began in her undergraduate years at Middle Tennessee State University, where she graduated with a degree in psychology and minors in mental health services and social work after realizing that her calling was to help people.
“I don’t know if I necessarily chose this career path as much as it chose me,” Pullen said.
After hearing about Trevecca through word of mouth, she enrolled in the Master of Clinical Mental Health program, graduating in December 2014. The advanced degree gave her the abilities and knowledge to be a highly-skilled therapist, and in 2019 she returned to Trevecca to complete her Ph.D. in clinical counseling with an emphasis on teaching and supervision.
“From my doctoral experience, I learned research skills and how to check my biases,” Pullen said. “It was vital to my success in completing my dissertation.”
Pullen’s dissertation was titled “An Examination of Racial Microaggressions and Endorsement of Strong Black Women’s Schema as Predictors of Burnout with Self-Compassion as a Moderator Among Black Female Clinicians.”
“I am definitely passionate about mental health in the Black community. I say the Black community but really anyone who has traditionally been unheard, unseen or underestimated,” Pullen said. “I’m a huge culture buff and Black people have historically fallen into all of those categories.”
This unique commitment opened the door to opportunities for grants as she pursued her doctorate, including a Minority Fellowship Program grant from the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) and a graduate student research grant from the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES).
“Part of the reason I received the NBCC grant was that I proposed the idea of starting a clinic that was ‘unapologetically Black,’ in order to really serve the clients of color who were looking for clinicians of color,” Pullen said. “There continues to be this narrative that Black people don’t go to counseling, which is not true because Black people have been engaging in healing practices for centuries. I wanted to change the narrative.”
Pullen signed the necessary paperwork in April 2020, and Ubuntu Counseling and Wellness was born. The process was not easy, requiring vulnerability, risk taking and hard business decisions. She explains it as a season of a lot of learning and unlearning, doing and undoing and pivoting.
Now she’s operating a practice with five other clinicians under her supervision, including two interns. She is passionate about training the next generation of counselors, both in her practice and as a professor at Yorkville University in Canada. She hopes her work prepares these individuals with the training and support they need to serve future clients.
Ultimately, Pullen envisions Ubuntu Counseling and Wellness as a place of healing and transformation for its clientele, and a trailblazer in the fight to expand mental health care in diverse communities.
“My hope is that Ubuntu has longevity,” Pullen said. “My hope is we can be a model of how to do this work in a culturally competent way and that we can inspire people to stand up for those who are historically underrepresented, unheard, unseen and underestimated. We want to be leaders and advocates that help change the narrative around mental health in the Black community.”