Clinical social worker Lamar Hill at his practice, Four Elements Therapy, in Fargo, North Dakota. Credit: Courtesy of Lamar Hill

Lamar Hill’s story began with a challenging childhood. He was placed in foster care after his mother struggled with mental health and substance use. But his life took a turn when he found a forever home with a foster family that later adopted him. 

He navigated the complexities of his Native American and African American heritage, and was raised in a predominantly white community. These experiences laid the foundation for his work as a social worker, and his passion to help others facing adversity and discrimination. 

“I grew up around all that stuff, and I have a pretty good understanding of the way people’s attitudes are shaped by their culture,” Hill said as he reflected on his upbringing.

About “My Work”: This ongoing Sahan Journal series highlights Minnesotans’ experiences in the workforce, from profiles of small business owners to up-close portraits of people in various jobs. We aim to share stories that reveal how Minnesotans of color contribute to the state’s workforce.

Want to share your story with us or know someone we should write about? Email labor reporter Alfonzo Galvan at agalvan@sahanjournal with the subject heading “My Work.”

Hill is a licensed independent clinical social worker, and runs Four Elements Therapy located in Fargo, North Dakota, where he serves both North Dakota and Minnesota residents. 

His early exposure to the intersections of cultural diversity and adversity paved the way for Hill’s unique approach to mental health therapy. He recognized that personal experiences, both challenging and triumphant, could serve as bridges to understanding and empathy. 

“I grew up in a stable and supportive environment, blessed with valuable teachings and strong values,” Hill said. “Recognizing the privilege I had, I felt compelled to give back and use my experiences to bridge gaps, knowing that not everyone had the same opportunities to succeed.”

Hill obtained his social work degree from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. His life experiences motivated him to delve into systems theory, a framework that views individuals, families, groups, and entire societies as complex systems made up of interconnected and interdependent elements.

Hill earned a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota School of Social Work in St. Paul. During his graduate studies, he worked at the White Earth American Indian Reservation. He provided therapy to the community, schools, and residential environments. 

Hill served on the Minnesota American Indian Mental Health Advisory Board. Hill also worked at Solutions Behavioral Healthcare Professionals in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Hill’s early years growing up in Maine, North Dakota, were marked by a lack of diversity in the farming and ranching communities nearby. Reflecting on his upbringing, Hill described an environment characterized by a dearth of African Americans, except for some who lived on a nearby Air Force base. However, his hometown had a Native American population due to nearby reservations. 

In his teenage years, the question of identity emerged with greater prominence, prompting Hill to acknowledge the complexities of his life experiences.

“I’ve walked in three different worlds, and I walk through different worlds sometimes, simultaneously. Being Native American and African American, growing up in a white home, I got to see life from many sides. I learned about Native American and African American ways, and also how life is in a white community,” said Hill. 

Hill launched his practice just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, opening Four Elements Therapy in January 2019. However, he said, the pandemic lockdown led to unexpected blessings. 

It gave him an extended transition period that allowed him to be present for his children while still contributing to his practice. 

“The pandemic was actually interesting for me, because it actually allowed me more of a transition time,” Hill said.

As one of the few therapists of color in his region, Hill’s practice serves as a symbol of diversity and empathy. He leverages his personal experiences to connect with clients from various backgrounds, including children in foster care. 

“I bring a unique perspective as being a person of color, but also my experiences growing up,” he said. “I can definitely relate.”

Hill sees 25 to 30 clients weekly, while also engaging in consulting work. He said his work is also about uplifting the mental healthcare system as a whole. 

“How can I help the system be better in general? How can I help you be more efficient and feel more confident about the work that you do?” he said.

Hill also collaborates with institutions such as Headstart and the Village in Grand Forks, utilizing his expertise in areas like trauma-informed systems of care and early childhood development. Additionally, through consulting, he offers insights to fellow professionals. 

“It’s really hard to do therapy, you know, all week. So I enjoy consulting, and it is a nice balance from doing therapy,” Hill said.

A room inside Four Elements Therapy in Fargo, North Dakota. Credit: Andrew Muthoni | Sahan Journal

Kirsten Ulmer, the executive assistant at Four Elements Therapy, described Lamar’s commitment as “genuine and unwavering to helping people leave an indelible mark.” 

“His readiness to support and assist friends and acquaintances echoes his approach to his practice,” Ulmer said. “He is eager to establish connections, foster comfort, and bring positivity wherever he goes.”

Kathleen Coughlin is one of Hill’s clients, and has sought help as a working professional in a high-stress job. Hill is easy to connect with and establishes a strong rapport, she said.

“He has been somebody who is very easy to connect with and build bridges with, and is not somebody who is afraid to kind of point out things that maybe are problematic in my own life like that for me that I don’t necessarily always see,” Coughlin said. 

Beyond his professional endeavors, Hill coaches his daughters’ basketball team and is an avid golfer.

As he forges ahead, Hill hopes to continue making a lasting impact through his therapeutic practice and various engagements. 

“My vision is to empower individuals to envision new possibilities and strive for enduring positive change, creating an indelible impact on the environments they inhabit,” he said.

My name is Andrew Muthoni, a communication studies and multimedia journalism double major and criminal justice minor at Concordia College in Moorhead. I believe in the power of words to inform, inspire,...