2015-16 President BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, PhD

BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, PhDBraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, PhD, is currently serving as the 2015-16 president of the Society for the Psychology of Women (SPW). She is a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of the African American Child Wellness Institute, a children’s mental health agency dedicated to the research, delivery and coordination of comprehensive wellness strategies for children of African descent. Garrett-Akinsanya also serves as the president of Brakins Consulting and Psychological Services, which has the mission of “providing excellent, culturally competent mental health and consultation services that meet the needs of children, adults, families and organizations.”

Contact BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya

BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya, PhD
Telephone: (763) 522-0100

Multicultural Leadership

Garrett-Akinsanya is a womanist leader who believes in the strength of shared power. Within this context, she has worked tirelessly within her American Psychological Association (APA) home of Div. 35, SPW. Within Div. 35, she has served as the treasurer and president of Section I: The Psychology of Black Women. In addition, she also has served as chair of the 2007 National Multicultural Conference and Summit, 2005 CE coordinator for the National Multicultural Conference and Summit, Div. 35 Awards Committee chair, liaison to Div. 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race), editor of The Feminist Psychologist newsletter, president-elect and now president of SPW. In addition to her work as a womanist psychologist in Div. 35, Garrett-Akinsanya is a former member of the APA Membership Board and is a current member of the Committee on the Advancement of Professional Practice, where she promotes advocacy of practice advances for policies that increase the ability of psychologists to provide access to services for underserved populations. She is also currently on the APA Council of Representatives as the representative for Minnesota. She is committed to elevating the role of practice within SPW by bringing attention to everyday healers who go unrecognized within our profession.

Garrett-Akinsanya also is a recognized leader in multiculturalism in APA. She was selected as the first diversity delegate to attend the APA State Leadership Conference (SLC) and was the first delegate to serve as the diversity delegate liaison to SLC. Subsequently, Garrett-Akinsanya served on the Committee of State Leaders (CSL) and was elected to be the chair of the Diversity Committee of that group. During her tenure CSL diversity chair, Garrett-Akinsanya collaborated with a team of diversity delegates to spearhead a year-long qualitative data-driven research project exploring strategic processes to address the barriers and success in implementation of recruitment, retention and development plans for STPAs wishing to institute diversity initiatives. The results of the strategic project (entitled "The Blueprint Project") were distributed via formal presentations and a written report shared nationally with SLC participants. In fact, Garrett-Akinsanya was the first member of her SLC diversity cohort to be elected to the office of president of a state, provincial and territorial psychological association (SPTA) — making her the first African-American to serve as president in the 70 year history of the Minnesota Psychological Association (MPA).

State Leadership

Besides focusing on national issues, Garrett-Akinsanya has also concentrated on issues of diversity competence among Minnesota psychologists. She forged an alliance with the Minnesota Board of Psychologists to create a way of outreaching to multicultural psychologists and training majority psychologists in diversity. Thus, as a result of the alliance, the Minnesota Board of Psychology invited her and other multicultural trainers to provide the first free statewide training for all Minnesota psychologists on the topic of cultural competence. Additionally, Garrett-Akinsanya instituted the first Minnesota State Leadership Conference involving the development of a strategic advocacy agenda shared by numerous stakeholders (including the Minnesota Legislative Network, the Minnesota Association of Social Workers, the members of the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Association, the Multicultural Specialty Providers Mental Health Network, the Association of Black Psychologists, the Association of Black Social Workers, the Association of Black Physicians, as well as representatives from Minnesota psychiatrist groups and delegates from each MPA division). Under her leadership, the MPA was given the coveted Diversity Leadership Award by APA in 2007. The award is given in recognition of innovative, creative and significant contributions by an SPTA to advance diversity for its members, in its leadership and for the public.

Garrett-Akinsanya also sits on the Minnesota Subcommittee for Children’s Mental Health, which is a part of the Governor’s Council on Mental Health. Her work on the committee focuses on issues of parental involvement and juvenile justice and their impact on outcomes for children of color. In the community, Garrett-Akinsanya also serves on the steering committee of the Minnesota Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which has the mission of creating better outcomes for children and their families who are engaged in the juvenile justice system. She serves as a cultural consultant in addressing systemic biases and health disparities. She is especially known for her work in challenging systems to direct black youth (especially girls) and families toward decisions that address their mental health needs rather than selecting change remedies through incarceration. Her “Well Track not Jail Track” intervention strategies are now being provided through county-based professional development trainings to judges, schools and law enforcement personnel.

Training and Service

Garrett-Akinsanya has worked in the field of mental health for over 35 years in a variety of public and private treatment settings serving clients of ages spanning from birth to death. In 1980, Garrett-Akinsanya received her master’s degree from Texas Tech University. In 1988, she received her internship training as a predoctoral fellow at Texas A&M University in the Student Counseling Service. By 1990, Garrett-Akinsanya became the first African-American to graduate from Texas Tech University with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her dissertation title was “Marital Satisfaction and Attributions of Blame for Conflict Among Bipolar Disorder Patients and Their Spouses.”

For almost a decade, Garrett-Akinsanya served as the director of Counseling & Testing Services at the University of Houston-Downtown and was the president of the Texas University & College Counseling Director’s Association in 1996-97. Garrett-Akinsanya also has held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center and Texas Tech University. Before moving to Minnesota, Garrett-Akinsanya was on the professional faculty of the Counseling & Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where she served as the liaison for African-American Programming and Services, chaired the Diversity Task Force and provided clinical supervision to psychiatric residents and predoctoral psychology interns. She also was an active member of the Training Committee and provided staff and student training emphasizing cultural competence in the assessment and treatment of African-Americans.

Garrett-Akinsanya is a nationally recognized speaker who has written, presented and consulted extensively in the areas of developmental psychology, women’s issues, multiculturalism, poverty, homelessness, severe psychopathology and African-American mental health. Garrett-Akinsanya is also known for her “African-Centered Wellness Model,” which explains mental health within the context of African-American cultural identity, values and environment. Garrett-Akinsanya is recognized for her strength-based approach and her clinical expertise in assisting children, couples and families in the development of healthy relationships. She is especially effective with clients whose lives have been touched by severe psychopathology, abuse, trauma, community violence, sexual assault and domestic violence issues.

She is recognized as a clinical consultant, trainer and clinician to multiple local schools and agencies that serve immigrant populations, women and men in recovery from prostitution and incarceration, clients with HIV, children with special needs, low-income families, homeless youth and trauma survivors.

Using a unique style of combining humor, educational materials, and sound clinical skills, Garrett-Akinsanya has earned a reputation for delivering excellent quality in clinical services and training. She has been sought out by magazines, newspapers, radio and television, most recently providing expert commentary to local media such as WCCO Television/Radio, the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, Insight Health, The Art Cunningham Show, The TIPical MaryEllen Show, and KFAI, 88.9, KMOJ 99.1 FM radio.

Because of her work in promoting parenting skills for African-American families, Garrett-Akinsanya recently was invited by Div. 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race) to participate on a task force convened by the Section on Child Maltreatment (Div. 37: Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice) on the topic of Promoting Positive Parenting in the Context of Family Homelessness.

In August 2009, Garrett-Akinsanya became the first board-certified psychologist in Minnesota to be named a fellow/diplomat in African-centered/black psychology by National Association of Black Psychologists.


Garrett-Akinsanya also regularly writes a popular column on mental health, called “Murua” (Swahili for “respect”) for Insight Newspaper as a way of making the principles of psychology, research findings and basic mental health knowledge accessible to the general African-American community. Through her column, she has published more than 50 articles providing community members with access to resources and information to improve their lives.

Additionally, her recent publications include the following book chapters: “Stress Management” in “The Women’s Handbook on Mental Health” (Beacon Press); “A Model for Shared Control and Power” in “The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination” (Praeger Press, Inc.); and “Voices of Black Feminist Leaders: Making Spaces for Ourselves” in “Women and Leadership: Transforming Visions and Diverse Voices” (2007, Blackwell Publishing); as well as “Cultural Competence and Individualized Care in Service Provision” in “Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness” (2014, Springer). Garrett-Akinsanya is most proud of her innovative work with two Afrocentric parenting programs: Murua Moms: A Pre-Meditated Motherhood Bootcamp, which is a prenatal program for pregnant and parenting women of African descent and Project Murua: A Pre-Meditated Parenting Boot Camp. The Murua program has been featured on both local and national levels as a model for violence reduction and wellness promotion among African-American low-income, homeless, families with primarily female heads of households.

Awards and Honors

Garrett-Akinsanya is listed in two volumes of “Who’s Who,” and she has received a number of awards and accolades for her professional contributions and community service. In 2005, Garrett-Akinsanya was given a presidential citation by APA for her leadership in the advancement of diversity in the field of psychology. She is also a recipient of the Governor’s Council on Black Minnesotans’ 2006 Dream Keeper’s Award for her work in the area of mental health and trauma, especially her efforts in mobilizing African-American mental health providers to render culturally competent treatment to Hurricane Katrina evacuees who relocated to Minnesota.

In January 2007, Garrett-Akinsanya was recognized for her leadership as Div. 35 representative as the chair of the National Multicultural Conference and Summit on behalf of the APA. The summit is the preeminent training conference for researchers and practitioners in the field of psychology who are seeking to develop multicultural competencies in the areas ethical treatment, research, organizational development and training. Her collaborative leadership style sustained the conference in a time when the disbandment of the conference was at risk due to financial losses and severe breaches or trust among colleagues.

In September 2007, Garrett-Akinsanya was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs for her leadership and work in promoting cultural competence in systems of care.

In February 2008, Garrett-Akinsanya was presented with a presidential citation from the MPA for “meritorious and dedicated services and key leadership in advancing the practice of psychology through her vision, passion and collaborative leadership.” Also, in February 2008, the Minnesota Association of Black Psychologists gave Garrett-Akinsanya its Distinguished Service Award for her “dedicated commitment to the well-being of children, families and the African American community.” She also received the Diversity in Leadership Award from the MPA (April 2008) for promoting cross-cultural professional skills and development within and outside the field of psychology.

In April 2009, she was presented with the Outstanding Partnership Award, by the Social Wellness Cluster of the Minneapolis Urban League. In 2010, she was given the Mshale Friend of the Community Award for her outstanding contributions to the health and wellness of the African community.

Most recently, Garrett-Akinsanya was selected as the first psychologist to be a featured honoree in the prestigious 2012 Minnesota African American Heritage Calendar. In May 2012, she was given the Community Mentor Award by Kente Circle for her outstanding contributions as a community-based mental health provider. Also in 2012, she was given the Women of Excellence Award by KMOJ Radio and The Twin-Cities Steppers Association. Likewise, she was the recipient of the Distinguished Career Contributions to Service Award (2012). Div. 45 and was the recipient of the 2012 Professional of the Year by the National Alliance on Mental Illness- Minnesota.

Garrett-Akinsanya enjoys racquetball, writing, African cooking and traveling to exotic locations. She currently lives in Plymouth, Minnesota, with her partner and soul mate of 30 years, Mr. Akinyele Akinsanya, MPA, MURP, MBA.