AJ Deloney


‘Been A Long Time Coming: Afrocentric Trauma-Informed Treatment Engagement for the African Male Diaspora.


This presentation will provide a clear picture of how the intersections of untreated mental illness and increased chronic illness are leading Black men to an early death. It will also highlight the barriers that prevent the African male diaspora from engaging in treatment. It will address the grand challenges of social work, including closing the health gap, advancing long and productive lives, and eliminating racism (Grand Challenges for Social Work, 2024). This presentation proposes an alternate treatment intervention customized to meet the needs of the African male diaspora within a group setting. The 9-week Afrocentric trauma-informed treatment program will have three objectives: 1. Teach the participants about the importance of their cultural history and ancestral linkages between modern African American and African cultures; 2. psychoeducation—learning more about how mental illness impacts the participants, mentally and physically; and 3. Learn coping strategies like meditation, mindfulness, grounding exercises, and journaling. This program will increase engagement and retention among Black male participants in therapy by providing them with a safe space conducive to catharsis where, through shared experiences, they can receive mutual support and validation. Through the psychoeducational part of the program, these participants will have an improved understanding of how Black men are impacted by mental illness, will learn what signs of mental illness to look for in others, and, through empowerment, will learn how to have open conversations with friends and family about normalizing mental health services.


Doctoral candidate AJ Deloney, MSW, LCSW, is a dedicated psychotherapist employed full-time at the University of Chicago’s Student Wellness Center and maintains a private practice, Kojo Ngoro Psychotherapy, PLLC. AJ enjoys working with young adults who often present with shared challenges, regardless of cultural or socio-economic backgrounds. In his private practice, he focuses on helping Black men navigate barriers to treatment while managing their mental and physical health.

AJ received his Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from the University of Iowa and his Master of Social Work degree from Loyola University Chicago in 2015. AJ is projected to earn his Doctor of Social Work degree from the University of Kentucky in May 2024. AJ’s research focuses on increasing mental health treatment engagement and retention among Black males by applying an Afrocentric trauma-informed practice approach. He has found connections between untreated mental illness and increased chronic illness that contribute to increased mortality rates among Black men. He has also found that there are barriers specific to Black males that continue to prevent them from seeking treatment. Aside from his professional aspirations, AJ volunteers with a Chicago non-profit organization of Black men whose mission is to reduce community violence by being a presence, engaging with young people, and offering positive support and resources.

AJ’s clinical approach to psychotherapy incorporates evidence-based interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy trauma-informed care, and emphasizes mindfulness and meditation for self-care. However, it is AJ’s Afrocentric treatment approach that validates the traumatic experiences suffered by the African diaspora.