Counseling in African-American Communities


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Many clients will state a preference for therapists who share a personal understanding of their culture or specific issues. The cost of treatment for mental health issues can be daunting among the Black community, where income inequality is a real concern. Like for many other minorities, the financial considerations of treatment is an obstacle African Americans face when considering mental health treatment. Insurance is also a lagging factor in the Black community.


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Increasing insurance coverage for this population is crucial in expanding treatment possibilities for mental health issues. The cause for that is multifaceted. As elaborated upon earlier, historically negative encounters with healthcare systems have led to intergenerational mistrust.

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These experiences include well-publicized events such as the Tuskegee Study , and the experiences of Henrietta Lacks to more every day, systemic disparities in treatment and diagnosis, which affects the routine care that African Americans receive. According to podcaster Hafeez Baoku , the main reason for the stigma is culturally embedded. Within the African American community, many forms of community-based healing such as a reliance on elders, or the ability to confide in religious leaders, may be prioritized over working with a relative stranger.

A lack of culturally-relevant research on the mental health experiences of African Americans might also result in a lack of information. This lack of information may lead people to feel that mental illness is a weakness. It could also mean that treatment providers and potential African American patients alike are less able to recognize culturally-specific manifestations of symptoms of mental illness.

African American Mental Health

Baoku is not alone in his quest to fight the stigma associated with mental illness in the Black community. In recent years, celebrities and prominent members of the Black community have been brave enough to come forward and share their experiences and struggles.

Mental Health: A Guide for African Americans and Their Families

These acts of openness and bravery in the face of stigma are starting to change the landscape of discussion of mental illness and mental health awareness, but the battle is far from over. In , renowned pop singer Janet Jackson came forward to discuss her struggle with depression. She said her biggest battle was in her late 30s. During this time, she felt the effects of low-self esteem and recognized feelings of inferiority based on experiences from her childhood.

She also attributes racism and sexism to her bouts of self-doubt and unhappiness.

Counseling African Americans

Iconic celebrity Mariah Carey is another public figure who recently broke her silence on mental health struggles. She revealed that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in , and has been very open about the struggles she has faced because of it. She admitted that her hesitation to reveal her diagnosis was mainly due to the stigma and ridicule she feared she might suffer as a result. Relatedly, former First Lady Michele Obama shared that she and Barack sought marriage counseling to gain tools for their relationship and to better understand one another. Because African Americans only make up about 2 percent of the American Psychological Association, there is a striking underrepresentation of their perspectives and voices in the field.

Therefore, race is a salient factor in counseling for African American clients. And, when there is racial disparity between the counselor and client, it may be advisable to initiate a discussion with the client on this topic. How the African American client feels about the race of the counselor will depend on his or her stage of racial identity development. African Americans tend to have flexibile family roles.

Many African American families are single families headed by females. Bonds are strong, especially between mother and daughter. Furthermore, African American families seem to rearrange themselves well to meet the challenges of existing in a Eurocentric world. Another strength is that African American females manage to cope well. They believe they have to be strong in order to overcome obstacles.

African Americans may be reluctant to discuss mental health issues and seek treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with such conditions. Many African Americans also have trouble recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, leading to underestimating the effects and impact of mental health conditions.

Fortunately, you came to the right place to learn about what mental health conditions are and how to access treatments and supports. In the African American community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. However, research has found that many African Americans rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary.

here Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process but should not be the only option you pursue. If spirituality is an important part of your life, your spiritual practices can be a strong part of your treatment plan.


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  5. Your spiritual leaders and faith community can provide support and reduce isolation. Be aware that sometimes faith communities can be a source of distress and stigma if they are misinformed about mental health or do not know how to support families dealing with these conditions. Do rely on your family, community and faith for support, but you might also need to seek professional help.

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    Here are some reasons why. Conscious or unconscious bias from providers and lack of cultural competence result in misdiagnosis and poorer quality of care for African Americans. African Americans, especially women, are more likely to experience and mention physical symptoms related to mental health problems. For example, you may describe bodily aches and pains when talking about depression. A health care provider who is not culturally competent might not recognize these as symptoms of a mental health condition.

    Additionally, men are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD. Members of minority communities often experience bias and mistrust in health care settings. This often leads to delays in seeking care. The section below gives ideas on how to find the right provider for you.

    Unfortunately, research has shown lack of cultural competence in mental health care. This results in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment.

    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities
    Counseling in African-American Communities

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