Why so many black therapists may change therapy
What is cultural competence?
When addressing racism in health care, the term cultural competence—the ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with people from cultures or belief systems that are different from those of your culture—was popular, starting in the 1990s, and when it comes to addressing racism in healthcare. Mental health, cultural incompetence is one of the biggest barriers to continuing treatment.
Traci S. Williams, PsyD, a board-certified clinical psychologist at Healthy Wealthy Roots, says that for her, cultural competence “is a way of being able to get along and communicate with others.” customers, ‘I understand you. I understand what defines you.’”
Jasmine Reed, PsyD, clinical psychologist with Ubuntu Psychological Services, and Arameh Anvarizadeh, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, and associate professor of clinical occupational therapy at the University of Southern California, emphasize the need the need for more action-provoking terms, leaning towards phrases like humility, responsiveness, and cultural flexibility.
“Move over [competency] To be humble is a lifelong commitment and reflective journey to self-assessment and criticism to address power imbalances,” said Dr. Anvarizadeh. “You will never be an expert, but our role is to be lifelong learners and come into a space to learn, ask questions, and know that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. “
Regardless of how you label it, connecting with a provider who can empathize with your experience can be crucial in achieving mental health.
The importance of cultural competence and responsiveness in mental health care
Dr. Reed believes that cultural competence is relevant to mental health care for a variety of reasons, from different communication styles to respecting the life experiences of others. Dr. Williams says a fostered understanding between the client and the therapist leads to a stronger bond and increased treatment effectiveness.
Trust is essential to all customer-provider relationships, but a history of racism in healthcare is a particular barrier for marginalized groups. In fact, studies show that medical distrust leads to worse overall health, and that diversity in healthcare settings contributes to improved patient outcomes.
Dr Reed says that failing to meet the needs of clients who are marginalized by cultural incompetence can have long-term harm. “This [lack of training in cultural competency] may lead to misdiagnosis, miss potential safety issues, devalue the customer experience, or prolong potentially negative experiences that minority customers may have experienced during a Europe-centric world,” she said.
What is healthcare responsibility?
Less than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are black. The APA currently boasts more than 146,000 members, and while the association has issued an acknowledgment (and apology) regarding the racism inherent in the practice of psychology, it also outlined steps to created more equality and inclusion initiatives—particularly focused on progress and acceptance of new members, the fact that very few members are currently black.
And while the association acknowledges extreme disparities and a long history of racism in the field, this history affects both practitioners and their clients. At best, it leaves under-equipped and unsupported students and providers and their customers without adequate resource options.
“The lack of cultural competence can leave customers feeling misunderstood and dissatisfied. It can disrupt therapy and affect a client’s ability to experience positive changes in their life,” says Dr.
Education and training in cultural sensitivity and discrimination vary by organization, sometimes not going beyond surface level, one-off diversity, or sensitivity training.
Dr. Reed talks about how nuances exist even among people of a similar background, so the one-size-fits-all “solution” for discrimination doesn’t cut it. “Our traditional education is inappropriate when it comes to training in bias and cultural sensitivity because we primarily focus on training as a way to tick a box,” she said. “To be taught that and then to believe that training in diversity is enough to erase all the conscious and unconscious biases we have adopted from these ‘isms’ in the background. My culture is unrealistic.”
Often, when it comes to healthcare facilities, it takes an in-depth analysis of biases and a willingness to self-reflection in order to truly engage in cultural responsiveness. Without this, written diversity and inclusion claims would be nothing but effectively detrimental to Black practitioners and their client groups.
“Healing at a disadvantage requires working with a provider who understands and empathizes with the nuances of Black history and culture.”— Traci S. Williams, PsyD, psychologist clinical board certified
Why is cultural competence important right now?
Some may wonder why there is an emphasis on cultural competence in health care nowadays.
Yes, this generation comes with technology that provides a new-age addition to the centuries-old problem of racism (e.g. being able to display and visually share things like decriminalization). police brutality caused by racism and other openly racist acts). However, the need for cultural responsiveness and representation is always present.
“As a group, Black people have historically suffered from significant oppression, dehumanization, and violence. Dr Williams said: “Stigma and prejudice today affect the mental health of Blacks. “Treatment at a disadvantage requires working with a provider who understands and empathizes with the nuances of Black history and culture.”
How can you find a culturally competent therapist?
Due to the lack of Black practitioners and barriers to accessing care, it can be difficult to find a mental health provider you connect with.
Fortunately, a number of Black-run and centered organizations and foundations are addressing this issue. Some examples of resources and directories include:
Much remains to be done when it comes to cultural representation and capacity building in mental health care. However, with the help of these Black-led search-based funds, organizations, and websites, finding a therapist that meets your needs will be much more accessible.
This story is part of Black [Well] Examining the health and well-being of Blacks in America—and those working to change outcomes for the better. Click here to read more.