CNU Spotlight on Diversity
Kristee Haggins, Ph.D.

Dr. Kristee L. Haggins is an African American woman, African-centered psychologist, community-healer and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at CNU.

Name: Kristee L. Haggins, Ph.D.

Role at CNU:
Associate Professor, Clinical Psychology Program (since Fall 2018)

CNU Courses:
Practicum Preparation 1 & 2
Consultation and Supervision
Human Diversity

CNU Committees
Member – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee
Member – Student Professional & Academic Standards Committee
Member – Clinical Training Committee

Dr. Haggins studied Psychology at the University of Southern California where she received a B.A. with honors. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Haggins has had a multifaceted career as a clinician, educator, consultant, trainer and university administrator. She worked at UC Davis Counseling & Psychological Services for 18 years and was the Associate Director of Training. She was also a Senior Associate/Program Manager for the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions Manager with their Health Equity Team for five years. Currently, Dr. Haggins is an Associate Professor at California Northstate University and an Adjunct Professor at Alliant International University, Sacramento. She teaches courses in introductory counseling skills, multicultural therapy, and consultation and supervision.

Dr. Haggins has expertise in racial stress and trauma; African American mental health; multicultural psychology; and training and supervision. In addition to teaching graduate level courses, she provides workshops, trainings and consultations in these areas nationally.
Dr. Haggins serves on the Board of Directors for the California Black Health Network. Additionally, she has been appointed as the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) representative to the Leadership Development Institute Advisory Board for the American Psychological Association (APA) Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests (CNPAAEMI).

What diversity means to me:

I am grateful to be the first faculty member featured in CNU’s College of Psychology’s inaugural edition of “Spotlight on Diversity” particularly as we begin this tradition in February 2020, Black History Month. I want to start by acknowledging that I believe every day, not just the month of February, should be spent celebrating and honoring the history and lives of Black people. For far too long, our lives have not been honored or valued.

While there is an entire book that I could, should, and will write about experiences of people of African ancestry in response to enslavement and the resulting racism and oppression, I am limited in what I am able to address here. What I will note, is scholarship indicates that racism and discrimination create negative health impacts – physically and psychologically – on the wellbeing of people of color and Black people in particular. It’s called race-related stress or Black racial stress. I have seen it, witnessed it, talked about it and experienced it myself. What I want to share in more detail about here, is an account of how a response to racial stress and trauma in the Black community in Sacramento was born…Safe Black Space Community Healing Circles.

In March 2018, Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22 year old Black man was killed in his grandmother’s backyard by Sacramento police officers. Safe Black Space Community Healing Circles began in April 2018 in response to increased racial tensions and trauma after his killing. They have been offered monthly since then and provide a chance for Black people to deal with the rage, shock, fear, and sadness that so many were (and are) feeling.

Safe Black Space

Safe Black Space has mobilized a growing collective of local practitioners, community members and activists, faith leaders, educators and others of African ancestry. This village has been offering Safe Black Space Community Healing Circles on a monthly basis across Sacramento, as well as advocating locally and demanding justice in instances of racism and oppression. Safe Black Space provides culturally specific strategies and resources to help Black people heal from historical and current wounds, individually and collectively.

Specifically, the purpose of Safe Black Space is to nurture Black wellness, where we as Black people:

  • Create an intentional healing space
  • Become awakened to the signs and symptoms of Black racial stress and trauma
  • Engage in culturally relevant restorative practices

Left unattended, we will continue to experience complex trauma and adverse impacts of lies fueled by beliefs of white superiority, which inhibit our community’s ability to thrive.

Safe Black Space has provided 23 healing circles between April 2018 and February 2020, serving over 500 community members of African ancestry in various venues across the Sacramento region.

“How do you feel about Black racism and oppression?” – Top 10 Responses from Safe Black Space attendees

  1. Tired/Exhausted
  2. Confused
  3. Angry/Mad
  4. Scared
  5. Upset/Disappointed
  6. Sad
  7. Aggravated/Agitated
  8. Overwhelmed
  9. Hopeful
  10. Concerned/Worried

Approximately 72% of attendees reported they came seeking personal and/or community healing in a safe space for Black people

Approximately 71% of attendees reported they left feeling they received and/or found new strategies to engage in personal and/or community healing for Black people

We received these comments from attendees:

“Being a participant of a Safe Black Space Community Healing Circle gave me the opportunity to discuss my experiences with prejudice, discrimination and racism with others who had shared experiences. After the circle, I felt relieved, connected and supported.”

“People of African descent need communal healing practices that are caring, ethical, and affirming to help us renew our souls and that provide mutual support, hope, and grace in these troubling times. Safe Black Space is that.”

“This is a beautiful space that validates the color of my skin, the texture of my hair. My struggle, my trauma, the world is no longer “white” in this space. It’s just us! It’s me and that feels amazing.”

Why I Do This Work:

As a Black woman and psychologist who has experienced racial stress and trauma, it has been healing to do this work. Being able to bridge the gap between psychology/mental health and community needs has been powerful medicine for me and for Safe Black Space participants. They now have the knowledge and capacity to engage in their own wellness. Resources, such as Safe Black Space, are a needed adjunct to traditional therapy, as many in the Black community do not seek treatment. Stigma and shame, concerns about the cultural competence of providers, preference for working with someone who looks like them, reliance on religion/spirituality, costs of services, etc. all play a role. It’s also important to understand that not all therapy is healing and not all healing has to include therapy.

In my role as a professor and community healer, I appreciate being able to work at both the academic and at the community level. I am able to have a positive influence on the development of future therapists, while also directly impacting the Black community by providing education and culturally relevant support and resources. Doing so allows “us” to be our own medicine when and where appropriate.

I look forward to seeing where and how Safe Black Space continues to develop and grow. I am eager to find avenues to gather data both qualitative and quantitative to demonstrate its effectiveness. Doing so will assist in identifying revenue streams, grants and other funding to support, sustain and expand Safe Black Space as a developing Community Defined Evidence Practice. We know it is creating change locally in Sacramento and the intention is to spread across the nation, bringing healing to Black communities everywhere. As Alice Walker has said, “healing begins where the wound was made.”

To learn more about Safe Black Space go to: