by Ja’Vae Parham, ALC, NCC
Historically there has been a stigma on mental health across the communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). In addition, there is a large disparity of services within the BIPOC community. This can be largely attributed to lack of resources or access to services, and lack of cultural competency from the provider. Supporting the BIPOC community as a therapist of color and an ally, I find it especially important to provide education and resources.
As a clinician, I often encounter people that have no clue what therapy services encompass or what it means to be a mental health counselor. It seems inevitable to attach stereotypes and misconceptions to something that’s unknown, right? That makes addressing any stereotypes or misconceptions that cause BIPOC clients apprehension about being a part of the therapeutic process even more important. In addition to helping them gain an understanding of what therapy is and isn’t. BIPOC clients typically experience mental health disorders at higher rate. Some of these numbers are attributed to the lack of education and bias on the clinician’s behalf. Discrimination, identity development, detentions and deportation, interracial relationships, and workplace stress are some challenges that may prompt a person of color to seek therapy services. Educating clients on the specifics of their mental illness and defining the therapeutic process and clearly their role in the process, can help BIPOC clients be more accepting and engaging in the therapeutic relationship and process. There can then be more realistic expectations about the process and eliminate certain stereotypes that could cause early termination.
Bringing awareness to the available resources goes hand in hand with providing education. If we are aware of service availability, we can begin to seek help and utilize these services. We are ultimately our own biggest advocates so seeking out services and resources on our own is beneficial. As a clinician, I believe that I am doing my part to support BIPOC clients any time I bring awareness and educate people on services and resources that are available to them. Whether it is through a blog post, community outreach, or social media, bringing awareness and providing available resources extends past providing referrals. Since many BIPOC individuals will not directly receive therapy services because of a lack of health insurance and/or access to funds, these various methods of sharing information about mental health are equally as important as a referral. Now, there are podcasts, blog articles, social media pages, and other online platforms that can aid the clients in navigating mental health issues, provide psychoeducation, and normalize mental health care. Although these things are not meant to replace a relationship with a mental health therapist, they can certainly be instrumental in helping if there are no other options. I believe that communicating the availability of services and resources can help us to reduce disparities in BIPOC seeking mental health services.