Research for graduate student in counselor training focuses on ‘strong black woman schema’

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Chulyndria “Lyn” Laye

When Chulyndria “Lyn” Laye became a Licensed Associate Counselor in July 2020, she immediately launched a private practice focused on the mental health of people in her hometown of Dumas, Arkansas.

She now lives in Rogers but maintains her connection to the Arkansas Delta region. Laye has hosted several community events there as part of her practice, Purple WINGS Counseling Services. WINGS stands for Working to Inspire and Nurture a Greater Self. “That’s what I aspire to do as a therapist, as a researcher, and as a future educator,” she said.

Laye is also on staff at Eason Counseling and Associates at Rogers and is a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program at the U of A. She earned a bachelor’s degree in child development from the U of A in 2011 and a Masters in Counseling. psychology from Capella University. She has undergone extensive training at the U of A’s play therapy office and is a 2021 graduate of the National Association for Play Therapy Leadership Academy.

Laye is an advocate for mental health for everyone, but she is particularly drawn to helping children, teens, and adults from underrepresented communities. Her doctoral research focuses on the “strong black woman schema”.

“The Strong Black Woman schema and the mental health of black women is something that is close to my heart,” she said. “The SBW schema is defined as the ideal way black women should act, and it is identified by the characteristics of emotional restraint, independence, and empowerment.”

These social roles are generally seen as a “good thing” and the way black women are meant to be, Laye said. But feeling confined to these roles can cause emotional strain in black women, often leading to mental illness.

“Black women are starting to notice that while this idea of ​​being strong is a positive thing, it’s also a representation of negative feelings and a perpetuation of horrible stereotypes created by other groups,” Laye said. “This research is personal to me because it concerns the world I live in on a daily basis, and I so want to be able to fully understand how to best serve people like me in therapy.”

Laye said US history has shown African Americans that they cannot trust research, medicine or studies. She cited the Tuskegee Experiments, where the US government conducted unethical experiments on black men from 1932 to 1972. African Americans often feel that seeking physical or mental health services is taboo , she said.

“In fact, in most situations, we often feel like a therapist can’t understand us, and we tend to have bad experiences when we go to sessions,” she said.

Laye helps bridge that gap.

She became interested in counseling while teaching preschool for underprivileged children. She noticed her students acting out scenarios of their lives while playing with other children. She said they were clearly struggling but seemed unable to verbalize their emotions. She started to do her own research. “I wanted to help them find a voice, help them build their confidence, and give them a safe space to express themselves,” Laye said. “That research led me to play therapy, which led to a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and the rest is history.”

She wants to help African Americans of all ages the same way she has sought to help the children in her care. “I want to give them a safe space to express themselves and the confidence to explore their thoughts, feelings and emotions,” she said.


This story is the latest in a series called Dean’s Spotlight, featuring outstanding students from the College of Education and Health Professions. Visit COEHP’s online magazine, the College, for more news from the six units that make up the College. Visit the Counselor Training and Supervision page for more information on COEHP’s counseling programs.

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