Better Together: From Self to Community Care

An Interview with Kamilah Clayton

Tamara Jones

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Last month, I went to a daylong workshop about trans-generational trauma hosted by psychotherapist Kamilah Clayton in collaboration with the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association. When we shifted gears to focus on healing that afternoon, Kamilah referenced the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). When we discussed these principles as a group, words like respect, empathy and authenticity kept resurfacing. We found ourselves emphasizing the importance of building supportive communities as a way to heal our personal and collective trauma. 

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

Sometimes our emphasis on the “self” in self-care can make it feel like healing should be done in isolation. The truth is while learning to care for ourselves is essential, the relationship between feeling connected to compassionate communities and our ability to be our healthiest, happiest selves can’t be ignored. 

To explore the concept of community care, I spoke with Kamilah about why it’s so necessary and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives.

Tamara Jones: What is community care?

Kamilah Clayton: Community care is a holistic approach to addressing mental wellness and healing that focuses on the whole person, and the different people or organizations that can support their journey to mental wellness.

TJ: How does community care positively impact mental wellbeing? 

KC: Community care is beneficial because it focuses on the whole person as they exist in their natural environment and helps build a network of support around them. It’s a strengths-based and solution-focused model that works with people to achieve mental wellness and stability while maintaining their connection to the people and things that are part of their daily lives.

 TJ: What are the limitations of self-care and how can community care fill the gaps? 

KC: I think the major issue with self-care is that people aren’t really sure what it means so they aren’t sure if they are doing it. Self-care is essentially anything that helps someone retreat from daily stressors and reset by engaging in activities that bring joy, rest, and an opportunity for reflection. It’s a great tool for people who are self-aware and just need a break from the hectic nature of life, but it only provides temporary relief by balancing out negative energy. Since community care is a holistic approach it’s more sustainable and provides tools to deal with mental health crises in the future.


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TJ: How can we incorporate community care principles into our daily lives? 

KC: Build your network of support. Who do you go to when you are faced with a mental health crisis? Also, pay attention to your mental health status and do values checks, then build your lifestyle around that. It’s important to ensure that your values are aligned with your mental wellness.

*This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Kamilah Clayton, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, MSW, RSW, CBT

Kamilah Clayton, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, MSW, RSW, CBT

Kamilah Clayton is a trauma-informed psychotherapist based in Whitby, Ontario specializing in anxiety, depression and racial identity.