Ednesha Saulsbury

Ednesha Saulsbury ’00

BeHER and Fedcap Behavioral Health Services

In the ongoing struggle to eliminate the stigma about mental health, therapist Ednesha Saulsbury ’00 has dedicated her career to forging new ground and providing support to communities of color. We turned to her to ask:

Q: What’s the most pervasive obstacle your patients have to overcome?

A: “My clients have a hard time trusting others. At both my practices, they have difficulty understanding vulnerability and allowing themselves to be vulnerable, both with themselves and with other people. Vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness in our culture, and when you have to open yourself up completely it can be really scary. I find that my clients often aren’t in touch with their own emotions enough to do it.

In therapy, I give them a safe space. Their relationship with me is so different from any they’ve ever had, which helps them open up. At that point, you can start to get to the root of where the anxiety or depression is coming from. When you deal with symptoms, symptoms come back, so I’m not looking at symptoms per se, but where all this started — where did you learn these behaviors? Because when you get to the root, you can understand your behavior a bit better and start to deal with it.

Sometimes it’s incremental and takes a while, and sometimes people are surprised they open up so immediately. But my clients know they can come to me with no judgments. Every week I’m there to help them interpret their thoughts and feelings, and their relationship with me acts as a model for relationships they can have in the world.”

The Champion On-Call

Ednesha Saulsbury ’00 graduated from William Smith with a degree in sociology, conducted research on sexuality and reproductive health for the Guttmacher Institute, and studied at Temple University’s graduate program in sports and recreation administration. She had a sales job, working with gyms and health clubs, when she asked herself what it was she loved about that job. The answer, as it had been for every job she’d had, was getting to know people.

“I knew I was capable of building a rapport, I knew I was good at listening, I knew what I loved about my previous jobs was talking to people,” she says. That — and her growing need to help others — prompted her to return to graduate school at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work.

Saulsbury, whose brother suffers from mental illness, says she saw “the stigma that mental health and illness has in the African American community — a shame that’s attached to it. I wanted to help people who look like me.”

After earning her master’s in social work, she worked with students at New Design, a public middle school in Harlem before joining Fedcap Behavioral Health Services in the Bronx.

“I enjoyed working with children but wanted to work with adults as well,” she says. In the South Bronx, one of the poorest counties in the country, much of Saulsbury’s work involves case management and issues around homelessness, “people who need not just therapy but also help with resources to get housing, SNAP benefits, child placement, vocational training. You have a population with no voice so there’s a lot of advocating for them and their needs, and teaching them how to advocate for themselves.”

Meanwhile, she joined BeHER, an innovative group therapy practice in New York that specializes in modern approaches to empowering female clientele, where she works primarily with women of color.

“Most of my clients are working professionals who have master’s degrees, so the needs are very different than at Fedcap,” she notes, though the underlying purpose remains the same: “to provide a safe space for people to discuss what they need to discuss. That’s what therapy’s about. Safe space and consistency. So I’ll be there, waiting in my office to listen.” –Andrew Wickenden ’09


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.