This nation, in this moment, is processing over 400 years of structural racism. Black lives matter, and all too often we have enslaved, oppressed, tortured, and criminalized Black bodies. Psychology, in theory and practice, is not immune to the biases that have permeated every aspect of our culture. We struggle to constantly improve our assessments and our therapeutic supports. We strive to be equitable, inclusive, and just in our approaches. I consider this a long journey, and we are not at the end of that journey.
I was lucky enough to attend the first doctoral program with a multicultural emphasis. My doctoral research explored the perceptions of those seen as “other,” and the connection to systemic oppression, specifically as it relates to violence. I have been mentored by diverse colleagues, taught clinical courses in a multicultural program, and continue to learn about these issues throughout my career. I believe we all must continue to learn, for the rest of our lives. A determined growth mindset is essential. A growth mindset assumes we will not arrive at a destination that frees us of the misconceptions that we are taught explicitly and subtly, and we must dedicate ourselves to constant exploration and learning to continue that journey in earnest.
Challenges in providing assessment and therapy for diverse groups affects all aspects of treatment. Stigma about asking for help and fears of being judged or misunderstood have prevented oppressed groups from seeking our help. Limited financial resources due to generations of discrimination and lack of access to health insurance, make access to healthcare inequitable. I never turn people away for financial reasons. A reduced fee, payment plan, or a combination of both are options we can discuss. Please ask if you need this consideration. I also ask that clients who can afford my fee not ask for a reduced fee so I can reserve reduced fees for those who truly need it.
Historically, many of the tools we use in assessment have been misused by psychologists, schools, and others to defend unwarranted and distorted views about people of color. Some systems responded by not allowing the tools used to better understand a student’s learning style to be used with people of color. While this was likely a well-meaning response, it created an advantage for white children and families with greater financial resources. Children from privileged backgrounds gained access to tools like educational therapy and accommodations such as extended time in school and on high-stakes tests. Students of color with the same learning profile, and the same need for resources and accommodations were less able to get that support. Without knowledge, caution, thoughtfulness, and a compassionate approach, the tools we use to assess cognitive potential and achievement can still limit access or discriminate against students of color. I commit myself to understanding the limitations of the tools we use, and to provide the same quality assessment and access to resources for all my clients. I also promise to advocate for my clients when systems do not provide the access and support needed.
The assessment process, and the psychotherapy process, require an open and collaborative approach. We must be able to discuss concerns about diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice within our assessment or therapeutic process, and in our relationship. In addition, events in the world, in our personal lives, and in the news, have profound effects on us. Discussing these issues, which can be uncomfortable, is often essential to trust and quality of care. This includes concerns about race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ableism. Whether you have personally experienced the pain and trauma of discrimination, have feelings about what you are learning or seeing in the news, or want to learn more and embrace your journey to minimize misconceptions and understand systemic oppression, I will always provide an open place in our sessions to discuss these challenges. I commit myself to regularly attend conferences and seminars, and to read, listen, and learn about these issues. I am on my journey, and I welcome the uncomfortable conversations if, and when, I get something wrong.