CLEVELAND — Therapy is a resource that many people from vulnerable populations struggle to gain access to, but one resident of Cleveland's Central neighborhood is out to change that.
Walter Patton's resource Ghetto Therapy aims to address the ills faced in urban communities by connecting residents with licensed therapists for weekly multi-tiered community group therapy sessions.
"I started Ghetto Therapy cause I knew exactly what was needed inside of my projects. I've seen so much going on, so much trauma," Patton said. "I still live in Central community where the average resident makes under $10,000 a year. We are considered the poorest community in Cleveland, Ohio. We need to be heard. We got to start addressing those generations of trauma."
Patton explains that the roots of the problem is a powder keg of systemic issues that leave personal scars. And many times therapy isn't seen as a viable option.
"In the black community, they say that black people don't go to therapy, but that's not true. We just don't know a lot of these resources exist," he said. "Even in 2018, I was already doing Ghetto Therapy, but I wanted to make it more relevant. I wanted to push it even more because I seen we didn't have a space to grieve. We tend to go to the drugs to heal, to cope with it."
And Patton has seen firsthand how coping options for areas that needed the most are sometimes few and far between.
"It's never been a time when therapists came to the ghetto," he adds. "It's never been a time where they came and knocked on your door and said, 'come to therapy,'" he said. "We always outsourced to the suburbs. We always outsourced to downtown. But now [with what we offer through] Ghetto Therapy, they come into the hood."
By connecting licensed therapists to the community, Patton has created an organic movement that grows with each new week, sometimes drawing groups of 100 or more residents for each group session.
"I'm creating a revolution to where I want the grant organizations to come and see the people on the ground in the room next door."
It's a revolution Patton believes could have positive impacts for generations to come.
"You'll see more Justin Bibbs, you'll see more young black men and young black women engaging in politics, more people that's engaging in community. If we continue to heal, I want to be able to show generations after me that the residents can lead," he said. "I'm still a resident who lives in the projects. I live in a community where an average person makes under $10,000 a year, so I want to show the residents that we can do it."
You can find more information on Ghetto Therapy events by following Walter Patton on Instagram @walterpatton_.
More from Chris Webb: