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Racism is one of the biggest issues facing our society today. Whether it be police brutality, systemic violence, white supremacy, or anti-Asian hate, racism continues to be a widespread issue that can carry lifelong impacts for all people, regardless of their background. ACA is built on enduring values and a mission that promotes human dignity and diversity, respect, the attainment of a quality of life for all, empowerment, integrity, social justice advocacy, equity and inclusion.

Counselors play a role in helping change an unjust and racist system that carries negative effects on the mental health of those impacted by racism. By actively being anti-racists, counselors can help write a new narrative for human rights that is centered on diversity, identity, equity, inclusion and justice.

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Racial Trauma and Healing: The Experts Speak

a headshot photograph of Harrison Davis PhD, LPC in a circular frame

How do our life experiences influence the development of perceptions of race?

“Our families & communities greatly contribute to our values and opinions about others. Consider them filters. It is easy for us to identify evidence that confirms the opinions we heard as kids, but the danger is when we overlook situations that dispute stereotypes about others.”
– Harrison Davis, PhD, LPC

“The experiences and situations that we’re involved in create what we’re expecting and how we’re responding in the future. It affects what we tell our children. It has a role in developing our relationships with different races, including our own. It really creates a palette of living, even outside of perception.” – Sharde’ O’Rourke, LPC, CCTP

a headshot photograph of Sharde’ O’Rourke, LPC, CCTP in a circular frame

Many people carry biases whether they recognize it or not. How can counselors recognize and address their own racial biases in both a professional and personal setting?

a headshot photograph of Susan Branco, PhD, LPC in a circular frame

“Counselors must move beyond their comfort zones to genuinely assess the beliefs they learned as children to their current life with hypervigilance and transparency to identify negative biases borne from family, community, and oppressive environments. What impacts us personally inevitably filters to the professional; however additional professional safeguards include monitoring our neurobiological responses to clients during session, engaging in clinical supervision and consultation with colleagues who seek transparency and will challenge you when needed, and practicing self-reflection to evaluate client transference and countertransference with a focus on bias assessment.”
– Susan Branco, PhD, LPC (@Dr_SusanBranco)

“Our physical frames are incredibly discerning, what does your body tell you when you hear of the injustices or witness them in the media? That reflexive response speaks truth to how you feel. If and when you are taken aback by your gut response, can you truly reflect on how your biases have rendered you complicit in oppressing others?” – Shekila Mechior, PhD, NCC

a headshot photograph of Shekila Mechior, PhD, NCC in a circular frame

What are some of the racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care, and what can be done to address them?

a headshot photograph of Rufus Tony Spann, PhD, LPC in a circular frame

Within the mental health profession, there is a lack of diversity within the field. Institutions of learning, governing boards, and national organizations should increase their role in creating pipelines, addressing barriers for aspiring mental health professionals, and teaching mental health first aid to communities. I believe there should be more education around broaching (Dr. Day-Vines) the narrative of individuals and communities. I feel there should be an interrogation of previous practices and theories that were embodied in the white male perspective. I find that many clinicians continue to use language, research, and techniques that are counter-intuitive to people’s lived experiences. This can create more harm within the mental health alliance and cause early terminations within the treatment.

Additionally, providing access to mental health services to communities that don’t traditionally have access. First, by examining and understanding the needs of the diverse communities. This means listening to the communities on how to effectively provide mental health services to each community’s unique experiences. Next, creating the funding and resources to have continuous support for these communities. Lastly, support within the community to create a level of wellbeing beyond mental health support.”
– Rufus Tony Spann, PhD, LPC (@RufusSpann)

“Members of the BIPOC communities are often dismissed or minimized by medical professionals.  We need to teach self-advocacy, social advocacy, and encourage more BIPOC members to enter the profession.” – Thommi Lawson, PhD, LPC 

a headshot photograph of Thommi Lawson. PhD, LPC in a circular frame

What steps are needed to lessen the stigma associated with mental health in BIPOC communities?

a headshot photograph of Monica Band LPC, CRC, NCC, ACS, CCC, CCCE in a circular frame

If you are of Asian-descent: Focus on your own racial identity development to include collecting narratives of your families' ancestry and immigration stories (if applicable). Find a safe environment to express all your feelings and with those who are open and willing to be vulnerable with you. This will help normalize feelings you're having. It's never too late to learn, re-learn, your native language or honor rituals/traditions to reconnect with your identities. Check in with your elders as there may be a language barrier. Ask if they know what is happening and check in with their safety. Organize a grassroots method of caring for your elders' safety by walking or traveling with them--providing resources or running errands.
– Monica Band, LPC, CRC, NCC, ACS, CCC, CCCE (@themndfulhealer)

“What I found that has been most helpful is communicating transparently and really allowing people to come to their own conclusions based on additional information. Providing a safe space and challenging the ideas of social norms around therapy by having the conversations about pros and cons. What have you been doing thus far? Is it working for you compared to this option? Understanding the pros and cons of engaging in therapy and around mental health can be done with just education and supporting people in their challenge to understand.”
– Sharde’ O’Rourke, LPC, CCTP

a headshot photograph of Sharde’ O’Rourke, LPC, CCTP in a circular frame

Racial Trauma and Healing

The Experts Continue

  • Many were angry that police officers weren’t held accountable following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others. What can be done to increase and ensure accountability when it comes to racial trauma?

  • What can be done to ensure that the quality of mental health care in BIPOC communities improves?

  • What steps can white counselors take in order to help support colleagues and clients who experience racism at any level?

  • What can counselors do in order to address structural, institutional and systemic racism?

  • How can we create a safe environment for clients who are impacted by racial trauma?

  • What is the role of counselors in ensuring that we’re heading away from these traumas and heading towards racial healing?

Take Five


This video contains Five Points of Discussion for Conversations about Racial
Injustice, Five Successful Strategies to Facilitate Racial Dialogues,
and Five
Ways Counselors Can Help Asian American Clients

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Infographic detailing the effects of Racism

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