Healing Gardens with Julia Childs Heyl
To know our friend Julia is to know what it feels to be truly heard, held, and understood on a fundamental level – which, of course, explains her chosen course as a holistic psychotherapist, writer and healing advocate. Throughout these months of tumult and upheaval – between the crushing impacts of the pandemic, and the painful resurfacing of deep scars of racism this past summer and beyond – we have continually looked to Julia as a guiding light, her unwavering compassion and far-reaching empathy leading the way forward. In her work as a therapist – and as a radically kind and nurturing presence online – Julia creates space for vital and open healing-focused conversations around intersectional identities, intergenerational wounds, sexual trauma, and so much more. From creating a therapeutic group for Black survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at the organization Peace Over Violence to her current work as a clinical social worker, Julia’s dedication to community healing is an inspiration to us all. See below to read a bit about her own healing journey, as well as some resources to support or partake in the transformational process of therapy - alongside some stunning photos taken by our talented friend Magda in Julia's favorite neighborhood healing garden.
"My present path as a holistic psychotherapist, writer, and healing advocate is an ancestral calling. This work chose me after an arduous childhood and journey through deep grief. I lost my father and his brother, my uncle, within the same three months just as I entered adulthood. Grief shook my world. I look back at the immense pain I became intimate with and it feels surreal. There was a time where I expected depression to always be the backdrop of my daily life. Yet, there was an equally yoked hope that I would come to experience more. In that hope was a promise: If I learned how to coexist with grief and depression in a way that allowed me to see light, I would share my hope with others. Hope is never to be hoarded. It is to be given freely.
In my worst of days, I felt my way through the darkness, hands smoothing over walls with eyes lost in the abyss, waiting until I felt a doorway to hope. Hope was loved ones, help, a higher power who taught me that I wasn’t broken. I went to therapy. It took me awhile, but I eventually found a wonderful Black therapist who helped me understand my mind. I worked with a medium to better process grief. I began exercising for the free serotonin. I quit drinking because it was a maladaptive coping mechanism that was prolonging the pain.
Slowly, as the years unfolded, I began to see light. There will never be a cap on how much I heal — the evolution I experience reverberates through my bloodline. I’m not only healing from my hurts, I’m healing for those who never had the opportunity to. I share so transparently because I can’t ask others to do work I haven’t done and am continually doing. I knew I was ready to begin my training as a psychotherapist when I went to visit the land my great-grandfather bought following the sweet taste of freedom put forth by the Emancipation Proclamation. A farm still in my father’s family today, I realized I was but a thread woven into a tapestry the hue of golden light, filled with resiliency and a deep knowing.
Holistic therapy is a form of talk therapy that accounts for the full sum of you. I listen for the deep roots of the thoughts, trauma, and beliefs that often get stuck in our subconscious. We reflect, we process, we develop tools for moving forward. I believe therapy is deeply relational — I’m a mirror and a cultivator of sacred space. I set the scene, but the work is done by those who chose to sit in session with me. I’m not the healer. You are. Holistic psychotherapy aligns with the vision I have for Black liberation: a world where we can speak freely and we can be seen in our totality, where we honor our ancestors and listen for their messages. There’s many aspects of our society where Black liberation doesn’t feel possible, but in the therapy room, it is an expansive space where we get to actualize being our ancestors’ greatest dreams.
Psychotherapy is presently a luxury in our country. Until our culture around mental health shifts, therapy will often be out of reach for too many of us. If you are a Black woman seeking therapy but are struggling with finances, please look into the Loveland Foundation. You can apply to receive direct financial support towards therapy sessions. If you’re a queer or trans person of color who would like therapy but can’t afford it, the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network also provides direct financial support for therapy. Open Path Collective offers sessions between $30 and $60.
Many therapists offer sliding scale rates if you ask. If you’re ready for support but know you’re on a limited budget, map out how much you can put towards therapy a month then divide that by four to find what you can pay per week. Often, therapists with a sliding scale will ask you what you can afford and the conversation will move forward from there. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals if you’re not connecting with a therapist or if their fee isn’t the best fit for you. Group therapy is a wonderful way to build community, gain support, and is often more cost-effective.
My imagination runs wild when I think of the world I envision the generations to come will enjoy, but the clearest image I have is this: A world where we love more, hurt less, and have hope. It’s closer than we think."