This article was produced in collaboration with students from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and WTTW News.
Authors: Elizabeth Betts, Rafaela Zinich, Antonia Mufhalek
Various organizations in the city are working to provide more mental health services to black and Latino Chicagoans.
Part of that effort includes growing a more diverse pool of therapists.
Moises Attie, a sophomore at Northwestern University, had trouble finding a Latino therapist in Chicago. To meet that need, he logs on to a computer with a mental health service provider in Panama.
Hispanics and Latinos make up just 6% of the U.S. psychology workforce, so Attie has seen his friends struggle.
“I think it’s more effective and effective to find a therapist who really understands your culture,” said Athi.
Nestor Flores, director of the behavioral health initiative at the Pilsen Wellness Center, said he had trouble finding a therapist after his family tragedy.
“When we looked for services, we encountered a sense that we couldn’t find them in our language and culture,” said Flores.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that only 35% of Hispanic/Latino adults with mental health problems receive treatment annually, compared with the national average of 46%. I’m here.
In addition to having a therapist with a similar background, Flores said it’s important to find a therapist who is willing to learn.
“A word that is often used is cultural humility. It means that we approach culture with this humility. I may know a few things about your culture and , some things may resonate or connect between us,” said Flores.
The Pilsen Wellness Center works with a state-funded crisis program connected to 988, the national suicide hotline. The center assists those experiencing emergencies and trains those who have experienced mental health crises to become therapists.
“We have a mission to hire people with lived experience,” Flores said. “And what that means is that if someone has a mental health problem, an emotional problem, or a substance use problem, and in their recovery, it’s possible to get involved with them because of their lived experience.” These are recovering people who were able to overcome the crisis and share their lived experiences.”
The center serves patients experiencing mental health challenges who desire a no-holds-barred treatment session.
Veronica Wanzer, a counselor and assistant professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, has experience as a therapist and as a black woman seeking therapy.
“Initially my approach was to look for competent people,” said Wanzer. “I quickly realized that many people, even though they had degrees and were very competent on paper, were not supporting me culturally.”
Wanzer believes in the importance of having a therapist with a similar background.
“My counselor is now an African-American woman,” said Wanzer.
While not the same as therapy sessions, many organizations are now promoting technology as a way to make mental health topics more accessible.
Anthony Chambers, Ph.D., chief academic officer of the Family Research Institute at Northwestern University and director of the Center for Applied Psychology and Family Studies, says it’s important to understand each patient’s needs.
“We all have a desire to be understood,” Chambers said. “So you have to start by listening with curiosity. But the most important thing is not to be judgmental. .”
As of 2020, only 4% of therapists in the United States are black, and the profession is disproportionately female, Chambers said. It means that black men may not see a therapist at all.
“We are fighting men, times, and vulnerabilities, especially black men,” Chamber said. “So they want to know that they too can come in and be able to be understood, not judged. ”
Attie said he stopped looking for a therapist in the Chicago area and will continue to serve virtually with mental health providers in Latin America.
“Therapy is a sign of strength, a sign or reflection of someone trying to be a better person,” said Ati. “I think trying to be a better person is the best, perhaps the most humane quality of a human being.”