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'Creative Kuponya' offers healing outside the box

Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott started Creative Kuponya as a way to remove barriers to mental health care.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — When Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott welcomed their child into the world, it helped put things even more into perspective.

Over the years, Sara — a marriage and family therapist by trade — had worked in many different environments, from schools to emergency departments. 

"Something a lot of people don't really know or understand is that when you go to see a therapist, often you will be forced to accept a diagnosis if you want to use your insurance," Sara said. "So what we know working in this field ... is that ... women, and LGBTQIA+-identified people, and people that identify as Black or brown bodies, are often misdiagnosed because the mental health model is really rooted in white systems." 

When Sara became a mother, she recalled that she "felt this overwhelming need that I couldn't continue to diagnose people, and force diagnosis, and bring a child into the world when I was doing something that didn't align with my values." 

Credit: Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott
Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott with their daughter.

So in 2017, the same year they had their daughter, they also launched their business called Creative Kuponya. Kuponya means "healing" in Swahili. 

"Over time and in practicing, we always found ourselves working extra hard to make up for disparities or the glitches in the system if you will," said Jamil, whose background is in the human services field. "We just realized we are exerting way too much energy for, oftentimes, institutions that can't shift or won't shift for whatever reason." 

Creative Kuponya focuses on removing barriers to mental health care. 

"We're working to center on the margins and move away from forced-diagnosis models," Sara said. 

The practice offers individual, group and family therapy. They also offer community transformative healing sessions. Following George Floyd's murder, Creative Kuponya provided free sessions in Minneapolis parks. 

Jamil said they are seeing a high number of Black men participating in their therapeutic services. 

"Part of that is the representation. So that is intentional that we have representation. Approximately 80% of our staff are racially diverse ... being able to not just intellectualize what's happening but to also understand, and sympathize, and empathize with the experience that's actually being had," Jamil said. 

Creative Kuponya also partners with different organizations to provide their services. For example, some employers will provide on-site therapy for their staff. 

"Our services consist of everything from providing therapy to the employees to educating and training staff on the inclusion of mental health. But also, how that ties into exploration of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. We also consult with organizations," Jamil said. 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Sara Stamschror-Lott meets with Maya Johnson, director of the Prison-to-Law Pipeline at The Legal Revolution.

For example, Creative Kuponya works closely with All Square and its subsidiary, The Legal Revolution. Their Prison-to-Law Pipeline program is facilitating ABA-accredited law degrees and ABA-approved paralegal degrees for incarcerated legal scholars. Sara, who met with staff members at The Legal Revolution on Wednesday, said, "Our purpose is to think through how do we embed wellness into The Legal Revolution, into the Pipeline, and more on a larger level... how do we embed wellness into the work of law?"

Because of Creative Kuponya's approach to mental health care, they do not accept insurance but instead, work on a sliding scale fee model. With the help of donations, they are able to offer some clients free or discounted rates for therapy. They also have an online shop with upcycled clothing in which 100% percent of the profits support their BIPOC therapy fund. 

"I think in a nutshell Creative Kuponya, in my mind, exists to challenge the way that we do mental health in America," Sara said. "I believe that everyone deserves to have care, wellness care, without being labeled. I think we are diligently chipping away at this idea that labeling humans is the only way to take care of yourself. I know through our work at Creative Kuponya, and with all of our partners, that that's just simply not true." 

Know a local business we should feature for our Behind the Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at hwigdahl@kare11.com.   

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