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Culturally-centered counseling service provides hope & healing to city’s southeast side

Courtesy/Courageous Healing, Inc.
Janell & Aaron are dedicated to providing services from therapists who "get you."

Courageous Healing, Inc. is a culturally-centered mental health counseling service located on the city’s southeast side.

Its founders, Janell & Aaron Lane, have created a system that in their own words, “instills hope, ministers to the spirit, reestablishes holistic mind and body wellness, unlocks potential and helps connect to purpose.”

therapists are culturally responsive and have diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

Both are Fort Wayne natives, active in many community-centric projects, and both feel a real connection with the area they now seek to serve, citing the need to close gaps and provide access as major motivation factors.

They have developed an impressive team of therapists that are culturally responsive and have diverse disciplines and backgrounds to carry these dreams to fruition.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, WBOI’s Julia Meek spoke with the couple about the importance of providing such access and how it can lead to healing communities.

To find out more and connect with Janelle and Aaron, visit the Courageous Healing, Inc. website.

Julia Meek: Janell and Aaron Lane, welcome.

Janell Lane: Thank you.

Aaron Lane: Thank you for having us.

Julia Meek: Now you are doing a world of good work in the Courageous Healing business. What is your mission there?

Janell Lane: Courageous Healing, Inc. focuses on culturally-centered, trauma informed mental health counseling services and supports.

Courtesy/Courageous Healing, Inc.

Julia Meek: For everyone who needs it?

Janell Lane: Yeah, so we serve anyone, but we are culturally centered in our approach, because our whole existence is to close gaps and fill voids in the community.

Julia Meek: What a wonderful endeavor. First of all, what inspired the two of you to pursue it?

Aaron Lane: When Janell was in college, she started to realize some gaps that were taking place in services and things that she was learning in college didn't necessarily transition well into the community that we lived in. So through that process of understanding that there were those gaps, she personally set out to achieve a goal of addressing the gaps. And then when we became a couple, and my passion for serving, and helping individuals become the best versions of themselves, they just naturally started to coexist, you know, between us and the fact that we needed to reach people to serve people in different capacities.

Julia Meek: So maybe what brought you together then really developed between the two of you and turned into this beautiful project? Could it be that basic?

Janell Lane: Yeah, I think both of us like a servant heart. So we're serving spirit about us as individuals. So together, collectively, we do a lot of I will say pouring out, just being involved in different community organizations. Both of us have been involved in the community for a long time and try to find ways to help support others as much as possible.

Julia Meek: Great, it's a much needed thing in this 21st century and it sounds like you know your business. Would you step us through the services that you provide.

Aaron Lane: So Creative Healing is a full service, mental health and support organization. So we provide individual couples marriage and family therapy, as well as a host of other group therapy, psychoeducation, and restorative trauma interventions and things of that nature as well.

Julia Meek: So you're really ready for anything that comes a person's way, trying to provide a good foundation so they can be more successful with their lives?

Janelle Lane: Yes, the thing that we love is no two days look alike. So it's really based off of what kind of needs walked through the door. And we try not to turn people away and and do the best that we can to serve them. If we can't serve them well, then we try to get them to the place that is going to best serve their needs.

Julia Meek: So administering these services, you do have the specialists, experts in each area that you've just mentioned. Does that make it easier to sell the services to the people that need them?

Aaron Lane: Yes, I'll start by first saying, you know, when we set out on this mission to facilitate healing, and provide hope to individuals in the realm of mental health, we had to make sure we had the right people surrounding us. So we have a team of qualified therapists ranging from licensed social workers to licensed mental health counselors. We have a phenomenal support staff, which allows us to again, meet people where they are and provide the services that they need.

Janell Lane: We also have a passion for taking interns because there are too few therapists available right now for all the mental health needs and concerns. There's a therapist shortage that we're facing in the state of Indiana and beyond. So we try to do our part to create a pathway into the field, particularly for therapists who are interested in working with culturally centered approaches or trauma centered approaches. So we are a pathway into the field for therapists that have that interest. With that being the case, we try really hard to make sure we provide opportunities for training and not just "check the box" cultural training--real life, this is how it shows up at your door. I think that's the thing that makes us most attractive to clients. Not so much that we have specialists, but we're just people serving people. So we're representing what mental health looks like. It doesn't have to look like back in the day where it was super clinical and you know, it might not be a negative experience that you expect when you come in. You might be able to just connect person to person and get to work doing the healing.

Julia Meek: Isn't that what it's about anyway, is the connecting? You are making sure that the connecting is a wonderful experience in itself.

Janell Lane: Yes, super relational. And we want people to see, us hear us, feel us in the same way that we see you, hear you, feel you, so it's very affirming. We take all the red tape out of it. It's just people serving people.

Julia Meek: And the cultural competency. Exactly how does that facilitate getting results?

Aaron Lane: It goes back to meeting individuals where they are and re-presenting what healing looks like. Cultural competency is all about understanding the person that's in front of you. Where do they come from? What are their barriers? What are their life circumstances and situations? And we find ourselves being fully enveloped in that and making sure that we understand the people that walk through our doors. We come from the community that a lot of our clients come from so we have a vast understanding of the barriers and different situations that in life and walks of life that they come from.

Julia Meek: And you care about the community you come from too. Isn't that a big part of it?

Janell Lane: Yes, we're both born and raised southeast Fort Wayne, and so we have a passion for this area in this community. We could have opened our facility anywhere, and maybe had an easier time finding funding, had we decided to do so. But for us, we wanted to fill the gap, we wanted to be where there was an absence or lack of services. And so we decided to open our location in southeast Fort Wayne. And we opened it in a location where anyone could reach it from any side of town, but the area in town that has transportation shortages, and you know, food deserts and all these different things, we didn't want it to be a mental health desert as well.

Julia Meek: What a noble goal, and we commend you for being on that path. Now, it's not always easy to be partners in anything, let alone everything, which you're kind of in that category. How's that working for the two of you?

Aaron Lane: It actually has been great. We balanced each other out very well. We had someone prophesy over us once before, and they talked about how the calling on the Lane household was empowerment. And for us, that's what it's all about. We understand that we are not the answer to all the issues, but how can we empower those around us to use their voices to use their resources to be a part of the solution? And I think that's what we set out to do every day. We balance each other out very well. My strengths are her weaknesses in a sense and her strengths are my weaknesses in a sense. So we're able to balance each other out with that, and it works out well for us.

Janelle Lane: So that's the cue answer. Let me give you the real answer. (laughing) So the real answer, how it really looks is, you know, he's a visionary. So he has these amazing visions about the direction that we need to go very ahead of his time and innovative in strategy. I'm the detail person, right. So I then fill in all the gaps. Okay, if we want to do this, here's what we need to do. It looks a lot like him, visioning and pulling us forward. And me reeling him back in like, Okay, wait, but we need to do this, this, this, this this. (chuckling) So as he said, it does work out well. But it doesn't always look as pretty as those words that he put together so nicely.

Julia Meek: Well, then I hope he's writing a lot of the catalog and the other promotion for you. (chuckles) But seriously, folks, what you do is amazing--how you do it together is most impressive. And you've been at this particular business since 2014.

Aaron Lane: Mmmhmmm.

Julia Meek: So you are doing a few things right? (A lot of things right, of course!) Now what are the biggest challenges with that particular battery of offerings? Obviously you've got your methods down pat. But what does that make you have to deal with every single day?

Janelle Lane: So from a mental health perspective, there's been years and years worth of stigma. You know, back in the day, if you have mental health concerns, you were crazy. So we're still fighting up against that stigma. And it's even more pronounced in BIPOC populations. BIPOC: Black indigenous people of color groups. And so we are fighting this stigma by just trying to re-present what it looks like. There can be therapists that look like you, there can be therapists that talk like you, and that just show up authentically. I think that's what makes working together so powerful is that it's hard to not be yourself and be authentic when you work with your spouse. So like every single day, you're showing up authentically, and we give our team permission to show up fully and authentically. And you don't have to keep pieces of yourself out. Because in counseling, you're trained to keep pieces of yourself out. Because it's all about the client. We really want to be client centered, it's all about the client, you never want to make it about you. But what we have found, particularly in working with BIPOC populations is that it helps to bring your whole self. It's easier for people to connect with you, when they see you as a person. When you share and you're open and you can let your walls down a little bit it invites them to do the same in that space. And so we just create a culture of safety and a culture of authenticity that I think is attractive and it's sticky. And so we don't force anything on people, we just try to live sticky lives that you know, are like living a living invitation.

Julia Meek: And you also actually, besides giving a lot of respect and acceptance to everybody, especially those that might not often get it, you do bring a great deal of respect to whatever it is people need to get along and better themselves. Is ?that just the way you two are?

Aaron Lane: People want to be valued. People want to be treated with dignity. Right? So that's our entire goal, to make people be seen, to know that they are valued. All of our services, even our facility was created with the individuals that we serve. In mind. We live by the motto, "nothing about us without us". Right? So what that means is we don't do anything at our facility without taking our client perspective into mind first. That's how we go about making every decision that we do at Courageous Healing.

Julia Meek: Does it bring you excitement to be able to get into that perspective of thinking? Do you see things that you might not, as even thoughtful business owners that you otherwise are?

Aaron Lane: Yes, for sure. We often tell our clients we are not the experts on your life, you are. Our entire goal is to get an understanding of what you need. And once we have that understanding, we utilize I guess our education, our experiences and our resources to help you overcome whatever it is that is a barrier in your life at that moment. So our goal is to just get a full lens of understanding of the individual that sits in front of us each and every day.

Julia Meek: Now you are providing a great bunch of help. That translates to hope, directly. It has to be a highly satisfying accomplishment, not an easy one, but highly satisfying. Are you able to measure the results of doing what you're doing?

Janell Lane: Yes, we can track numbers, every organization tracks numbers, but we want to track impact. And so we do a lot of surveys asking clients about their feedback. We recently started doing marketing, our greatest method in form of marketing is by referral. So other clients, just referring people in their families, we start with one client, we've worked our way through families. To me, that's the affirming part. And that's heartwarming. To hear clients speaking out in the community about the change that it's making. We track the number of people in their family, and we ask them who's being impacted by this. I think that's the thing that we have to keep in context, when we're talking about mental health. We're not just serving the individual that's sitting in front of us, we can help them heal, and like really heal. Oftentimes, this is generational trauma, that they're healing, that has impacted their family and their family line for as far back as anybody can remember, in their family. And so when there's healing or deliverance for that person that impacts all the generations to come. So it is super rewarding work. It is hard, and it's emotionally heavy. But when you see people leaving lighter...we had a situation where someone was yelling in the parking lot, they were so happy that they signed up, they were yelling, that help is coming. To see it means so much to the client, it's impossible for it not to mean just as much to us.

Julia Meek: It's generational success, then at that level.

Janell Lane: Generational healing is a powerful thing.

Julia Meek: Amazing. Amazing. Now, speaking of crazy situations, and everything that goes with them, the COVID situation touched everyone's life. So beyond surviving, which your business did, what did the two of you need to do to make it the best it could be for all concerned during COVID?

Janell Lane: What's so interesting is that we transitioned into a brick and mortar facility during COVID, which is so not the time that you would take on those types of ventures or even start any business. Any, you know, new venture is not the right time. But for us, it was necessary. Because when you're in the field of mental health, and people have this new trauma that enters the picture like COVID, it re-introduces or reopens up old trauma that already existed. So trauma that they thought they healed, all of a sudden is bubbling up to the surface. Lots of married couples and families navigating trauma that they were able to run from before, being isolated and being in the house and really having to see each other and even see themselves. And so the demand has been high for everybody in the mental health field. And we are no exception to that.

Aaron Lane: Yeah, we refer to COVID as the season of exposure. It exposed a lot of things for individuals, but also families. As Janelle mentioned, things that individuals are able to run from and not address they had to deal with, right? They had to sit with themselves from a self awareness standpoint, and feel a lot of things that they were able to numb out from, if you will. So once they no longer had a place to run, all those things came to the surface, which again, created a demand in the mental health area.

Julia Meek: And you were there ready for that?

Aaron Lane: Yes! We were there ready for it. It became something that we no longer had to pursue on the side, it began to pursue us.

Julia Meek: Ah!

Aaron Lane: It was: here's the issue, here's the problem, who's going to solve it? So for Janell, and I, it was just a matter of figuring out the best way to go about doing that. And again, we surrounded ourselves with the right people and resources, and were able to bring Courageous Healing to life in a brick and mortar facility.

Janell Lane: We couldn't keep waiting for somebody to fix the problem, you know? Just kind of how it happens. You just keep saying somebody needs to fix this. And then eventually God is knocking you over. Like, when are you going to do it?

Julia Meek: You got the message.

Janell Lane: Yeah.

Aaron Lane: We answered .

Julia Meek: You got the message. So where are the two of you now on your journey? And what do you see as your next big steps?

Aaron Lane: We operate under the acronym SEE--S. E. E. And what that means is we're in the phase right now of stabilizing things. The E is operating in excellence. So everything we do, we want to make sure we're doing it in excellence from our customer and client experience to just making sure we're taking care of our team well. And then the last E is expansion, right? What's the next area of focus for us? Is it to open up another Courageous Healing in another area of town? Is it the Indianapolis market, right? It's kind of realizing and understanding what's next on the radar.

Julia Meek: We will look forward to watching your next steps, then, and I know they're going to be great ones and very healing and helpful. Thank you for that. And in the matter of mental health, there's no magic formula. But could you suggest one thing we all would be able to do right now to make our own life more positive?

Janell Lane: I think one thing that is effective and helpful that anyone can do from anywhere is to practice mindfulness. And mindfulness is really just the practice of staying in your body, instead of allowing your mind to be roaming in several different places at the same time. So if you're sitting in a meeting, are you really in the meeting, or is your brain you know, focused on the argument you had last night, needing to go pick up the kids or go to the grocery store, or all these different things that are competing for our attention, because at the end of the day right now, we're finding that people are exhausted, particularly living through COVID. Because it's just putting a little bit of extra strain on every single thing that we're doing. There's lots of strain in lots of places that we're navigating. And so I think with that, it's just giving yourself grace. And then doing mindful things so that you don't disconnect from your emotions, because it's hard to reconnect to them when the trigger or the stressor is no longer present.

Aaron Lane: I will say focus on you. Many of us spend so much time, energy and effort focused on other people and those around us that we forget about ourselves. It's easy to take care of the needs of everybody around you, right? And I know self care is a big thing out there and a lot of people feel selfish when it comes to self care. But I think the best thing you can do in this season is to take care of yourself, because you can only give what you have. And if you're depleted, if you're tired, if you're irritated, that's what you're going to give out. So I think the best thing you can do in this moment is to make sure as Janell said, from a mindfulness standpoint, you're in a great place, so that you can be a great resource instead of a resource that doesn't have much to give.

Julia Meek: We thank you for that advice. And you know your Courageous Healing does make a world of difference to so many. You have to feel good about that. You also would not have to care this much and work this hard, but you do. So bottom line, what does this whole ethic and workflow and your dedication to the populations that you serve to for the two of you?

Aaron Lane: I think it's that peace of empowerment. How do we empower all those that we come in contact with to be the best versions of themselves? I know that may sound kind of cliche, but I think that's what we set out to do every day with each individual person that we come in contact with.

Janell Lane: Both of us are super passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. Diversity in a way that people can show up fully and authentically, not just check the box. And I think as our community continues to diversify, any role that we can play and giving people permission to show up fully and authentically creates opportunities and room and space for us to be our whole selves and to not have to compartmentalize. And I think we all have a role in it. But I think if we can make any difference in that, then I will sleep better, you know, at the end of the day, because we have children that are coming up behind us. And we have people who will be in leadership roles in the community later behind us. And I want them to have the experience of being able to be celebrated not just tolerated. So we try to create spaces that lend themselves to true and authentic diversity because we think that makes our community richer and more cultured. And I'm excited about what Fort Wayne and beyond will be like when that's the case.

Julia Meek: Janell and Aaron Lane are co-founders and owners of Courageous Healing, Inc. Thank you for taking time to share this wonderful story with us, you two. It's a very powerful one, carry the gift.

Janell Lane: Thank you.

Aaron Lane: Thank you for having us.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.