luis-and-gwendolyn-hines_web.jpgGetting psychological help in the black community was once a taboo subject.

Obtaining pastoral counseling or seeking the advice of a trusted elder were preferable to sitting with a complete stranger, pouring out one’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
If Luis Hines has his way, however, black people with lingering resistance to professional mental health assistance will do an about-face, and come to embrace a practice that could help to alleviate some of life’s most stubborn stressors.

What started as a part-time practice out of one small office that he and his wife, Gwendolyn, shared with a generous physician, has grown into Luis Hines and Associates.

The flourishing psychological practice now occupies nearly every office on a Little Havana building’s fourth floor.

The firm opened a second office in North Miami in 2009. Hines, a native Miamian and graduate of Miami Jackson Senior High, said his clientele is racially diverse, with slightly more whites and Hispanics than blacks between the two offices.

To help introduce the benefits of psychotherapy to more blacks, Hines approached the community’s most trusted institution: the church. Surmising that black pastors would welcome him more readily if he was one of their own, Hines, 46, obtained a  Doctor of Ministry in Christian Counseling degree from Revelation Message Bible College, and a PhD in divinity from Jacksonville Theological Seminary, both in 2009.

About a year ago, Luis Hines and Associates entered into an agreement with Antioch Baptist Church of Carol City, in Miami Gardens, to serve as a referral source for the congregation. Hines said his practice has agreements with several churches (Miami's Friendship Baptist, 93rd Street Baptist, and Mount Moriah Baptist), but the arrangement with Antioch is the strongest.

Pastor G. Vincent Lewis, Antioch’s chief ministerial officer, said the involvement of the church is pivotal to the black community’s willingness to embrace mental health counseling.

“When pastors have gone as far as we can with an individual, family, etc., then we would refer to Luis Hines and Associates, because we’re comfortable with the integrity of the agency, and also with the spiritual basis of the counseling, as well as the therapeutic and scientific,” Lewis explained.

That Hines is an ordained minister is seen as a benefit.

“What really excites us is that Pastor Hines, I mean, Dr. Hines, is also a minister. That would give us less pause in referring because obviously belief system plays a part in a person coming through whatever the crisis may be.”

Lewis said Antioch’s senior pastor (the Rev. Arthur Jackson) has a strong commitment to education, which is integral to the congregation’s receptiveness to psychological referrals. He added that the agreement with Hines is a natural fit for the Miami Gardens’ church, which has over 10,000 members and 60 ministries.

Hines, who lives in Richmond Heights, obtained the religious degrees in addition to the undergraduate (physical education) and graduate (counseling) degrees he earned from South Carolina State University, and the Doctor of Philosophy he got from Union Institute and University.

His wife, who also has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Counseling from Revelation Message Bible College, runs a women’s support group at the Little Havana office, in addition to handling the firm’s marketing.

Hines said over the year, he has received about 20 referrals from Antioch. Both he and Lewis want to see that number increase.

Hines said he is committed to removing the stigma of seeking mental health treatment among blacks, one person at a time.

“I had a friend to say that if any group of people needs to go to a psychologist, it’s black folks. All the stuff that we’ve been through, and then it’s passed down from
generation to generation,” Hines said.

The benefits of seeing a therapist, he said, can change lives.

“When you do come, burdens have been lifted, visions have been very clear, paths have been straightened. There is a reassurance that God really is with you. And then you’re able to allow God to elevate you into the levels where you should have been,” Hines said.

RMHarris15@Bellsouth.net

PHOTO BY KHARY BRUYNING. Dr. Luis Hines, left, and his wife, Dr. Gwendolyn Hines.