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UNT professors aim to connect minorities with mental health services

UNT professors aim to connect minorities with mental health services

[left to right} Three University of North Texas professors Peggy Ceballos, Dr. Chandra Carey and Dr. Angie D. Wilson have been awarded a $1,272,233 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Brigitte Zumaya

UNT professors aim to connect minorities with mental health services
October 23
19:33 2017

For many members of racial minorities, accessing mental health care is an ordeal in and of itself.

Then, after finally having time in the seat at the doctor’s office, people often walk out feeling disconnected and inadequately served. And eventually, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, they don’t come back.

UNT associate professors Angie Wilson, Chandra Carey and Peggy Ceballos are teaming up to fix that. Together, they have received grants totaling more than $1.5 million to increase cultural competence in mental health services.

The four-year grant will help train students to be more culturally aware of their clients’ and, in turn, offer counseling tailored to underserved minorities.

“Us being women of color, knowing that there was a need and seeing these funding opportunities, thought, ‘Who better than us to support underserved communities?’” Wilson said.

The funds come from two separate grants. One came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it focuses on training UNT students to provide cultural competence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The other grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board funds clinical partnerships with agencies to train their therapists on cultural competence.

“We’re not only training counselors of color,” Wilson said. “We’re also training dominant culture or white counselors to be more culturally sensitive.”

The training involves three key points: awareness of the value system, knowledge of different cultures and skills in responsiveness. This training will not only be applied to UNT students but also to current counselors working on campus.

“We’ll have an extra layer of supervision to focus specifically on cultural issues within counseling relationships,” Ceballos said.

When a client walks in the door, Carey said they often look for a therapist who looks similar to them — someone they feel they can relate to.

However, the mental health services field is still overwhelmingly white.

“When I first came into this field, it was predominantly white men,” Carey said. “That’s changed over time so that there are more women, but it’s still predominantly white women.”

That’s why the grants will give stipends to 80 master’s level students for clinical internships. In addition to that, 33 UNT master’s students will work as interns for partners specifically focused on Latino and African-American communities.

“As a person of color, it was the realization that we need more training and we need to be advancing the field to be more culturally responsive,” Ceballos said.

The program also tackles areas of multiculturalism that do not involve race or ethnicity.

“Gender, age and sexual orientation [are also] included,” Wilson said. “It’s important for us to emphasize that there are other types of multicultural competence.”

The three professors combined have 27 years of experience and research in ethnic diversity. The initiative stems from their collective experiences as women of color in the mental health field. Ceballos said she found flaws in the system after working with her clients, who are mainly Latinos.

“A lot of the interventions we have are coming from values rooted in the white culture,” Ceballos said. “As a minority person, it made me realize how much that is true when I was working with clients because I trained within this cultural framework.”

Those in underserved communities, where there may be stigmas of mental health services, could be more hesitant when therapists don’t understand the culture.

“When you don’t have a professional that matches those race and ethnicities, then it puts everyone at a huge disadvantage,” Carey said.

Carey said challenging old models of thinking can be difficult. The key is seeing race and culture as more than just a blanket statement.

“People think, ‘If I know what black people tend to do, or what Asian people tend to do, then I can work with anybody in that community,’” Carey said. “But we’re much more complex people than that.”

Since the 1990s, multiculturalism has become a fourth force of psychology. Although it has evolved since then, Ceballos said it should be a continuous dialogue.

“This is a much larger issue that is in society when we talk about privilege and oppression,” Ceballos said. “There will always be something to do.”

The research itself has been going on for a few months now, and Wilson acknowledges there will be hurdles along the way — and there already have been.

“I have no doubt that we’ll be able to do it, but when you have an end goal and you know how passionate you are about [it], it can be challenging to figure out every little step,” Wilson said.

However, Wilson is confident the research is not even close to ending.

“The work that we’re doing will continue on way past our careers, so I don’t think I’ve even thought of an end,” Wilson said. “At the end of that time, I’d like to look at our data, talk to our students, talk to clients and just know that there’s been some sort of impact.”

Featured Image: Three UNT professors [left to right] Peggy Ceballos, Chandra Carey and Angie Wilson have been awarded a $1,272,233 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Brigitte Zumaya

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Amy Roh

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1 Comment

  1. Harold A. Maio
    Harold A. Maio October 24, 13:09

    —-Those in underserved communities, where there may be stigmas of mental health services, could be more hesitant when therapists don’t understand the culture.

    “Stigma” is an interesting word. We called it rape/stigma for many generations. Then an empowered group of women told us to stop, we had done enough harm. We began then to look not at that innuendo, but at the realities behind it. Hitler called it Jew/stigma, we saw graphically the realities behind it.

    It is the realities behind that term we have to address. It is the realities behind that term universities have to address. Instead we continue to empower the innuendo.

    Harold A. Maio, retired mental health editor

    Reply to this comment

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