Hope. Heal. Thrive.


Serving the Black Community with Care and Compassion

This month we celebrate Black History Month. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson established the first, “Negro History Week” which was celebrated during the month of February. For 50 years there would be a weeklong celebration that was extended to the entire month of February by Gerald Ford in 1976. Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of the Black community. Let’s celebrate Black History Month by deepening our understanding and fostering a more inclusive workplace.

As mental health professionals, we recognize that our role extends beyond addressing symptoms; it involves treating individuals within the context of their diverse experiences, cultures, and identities. This recognition becomes particularly vital when considering the historical and ongoing challenges faced by Black communities. Humility, rather than mere competence, forms the bedrock of effective and compassionate care. Here are practical suggestions and guiding principles for mental health professionals seeking to enrich their humility and inclusivity:

1. Embrace Continuous Education

The path toward cultural humility commences with ongoing education. Delve into the history, culture, and social dynamics impacting Black communities. Grasp the ramifications of systemic racism, microaggressions, and socioeconomic disparities on mental health. Engage with literature, workshops, and podcasts authored by Black voices to initiate this journey. Below are several resources available for your use:

2. Cultivate an Inclusive Atmosphere

Ensure that your practice fosters an environment where all clients feel embraced and respected. Display diverse materials and resources, prioritize diversity in your team, and mindfully choose language in your communications and paperwork. Even subtle changes can profoundly impact clients’ sense of recognition and dignity.

3. Practice Empathetic Listening

Empathetic listening transcends mere hearing; it involves deeply understanding a person’s lived experiences and perspectives. When working with Black clients, listen without preconceptions or attempts to minimize their encounters with racism and discrimination. Validate their emotions and experiences, demonstrating yourself as a supportive and understanding ally.

4. Integrate Trauma-Informed Approaches

Acknowledge the reality and significance of racial trauma in the mental well-being of many Black individuals. Adopting a trauma-informed approach entails recognizing the prevalence of trauma, identifying its manifestations, and incorporating this awareness into all facets of service provision. This approach fosters an atmosphere of safety, empowerment, and healing.

5. Seek Guidance and Collaboration

Irrespective of experience, there is always room for growth. Seek guidance and collaboration from colleagues, particularly those within or knowledgeable about Black communities. Their insights and feedback can challenge biases, offer diverse perspectives, and facilitate continual growth in cultural humility.

6. Engage with the Community

Active engagement with local Black communities enriches your understanding and efficacy as a therapist. Whether through partnerships with community organizations, involvement in local events, or building relationships with community leaders, such collaboration informs and tailors your practice to meet community needs.

7. Advocate for Equity

Lastly, cultural humility encompasses advocacy. Take a stand against policies and practices that disproportionately harm Black individuals and communities. Utilize your voice and influence on support initiatives promoting mental health equity, accessibility, and the eradication of stigmatization.

Cultural humility is not a destination but an ongoing journey that demands humility, receptivity, and a dedication to growth. As mental health professionals, we hold the privilege and responsibility of providing care that not only acknowledges but celebrates the diversity of human experiences. Through our pursuit of greater cultural humility, we can significantly impact the lives of the Black individuals and communities we serve.

Shaza Mohamed is a Prevention Consultant Supervisor for PBHG’s NJ4S Compass program in Ocean County and Chair of the PBHG Cultural Humility Committee. She holds a Master of Business Administration, Health Care Administration and Leadership degree, and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science, both from Stockton University. You can reach her at smohamed@preferredbehavioral.org.