Anacostia is a predominantly African-American community in Washington, D.C. It’s a place where poverty, drugs and violence are as common as teenage pregnancy, poor education and other negative factors that plague so-called “ghettoes” around the country. And it’s where 34-year-old Dr. Satira Streeter decided to set up her clinical psychology practice — a neighborhood, she said, that before her practice, had virtually no access to mental health services.
Dr. Streeter’s practice, Ascensions Psychological and Community Services, Inc., or “therapy without walls” as it’s called on the center’s website, features three therapists and offers a range of therapy services for children, adults and families, from premarital and parenting courses to psycho-educational groups that focus on topics like self esteem, leadership and grief. And since money is an issue for many of her clients, all services at Ascensions are offered for free to those who can’t afford it: about 40 percent of her client base, according to Dr. Streeter.
Three years ago, Streeter said she started a Girl Scout troop comprised of at-risk girls from Anacostia, a first for the neighborhood, after working with an 11-year-old who had been pregnant twice. The troop meets weekly with therapists, occasionally going on various trips. And the girls’ parents are given new resources to assist them in parenting. All of this is done with the hope of expanding each family’s mind to greater possibilities for the future.
“I think a big part of it is exposure, just basically knowing there’s something different,” said Dr. Streeter.
Aside from her clinical psychology education, Dr. Streeter knows a thing or two about rising up from unfortunate circumstances. A former foster child, Dr. Streeter moved to Washington, D.C. from Ohio after medical school, intending to work with people from the African-American community, but never planned on having her own practice. Ascensions was created because there were no other mental health therapeutic services being offered in Anacostia, said Streeter.
Since she opened Ascensions 2005, Dr. Streeter has seen the impact her work has had on her clients. “We deal a lot with cycles, cycles of poverty, cycles of teenage pregnancy and substance abuse, so I see clients breaking through the cycles, which is really big,” said Dr. Streeter.
Although Dr. Streeter’s accomplishments with her center have gained traction in the national media, she has no plans to expand, saying a larger non-profit may disconnect her from the clients. Instead, she chooses to keep her practice small to better serve her clients.
“As long as the need is there I just want to be able to fulfill it,” she said.