Professional association supports MN Black psychologists  

OpenEyessquareThey seek more community visibility

Psychology has been an essential discipline in the makeup of society for hundreds of years. The study of the mind is something that has always fascinated human beings.

In modern times, psychology has been subdivided into several different focal areas, including social, community, sports, military, consumer, etc. The field is vast and covers most areas of life. One specialized area that many folks are unaware of is Black psychology.

Black people have been studied for several decades. The focus of many studies was harmful in nature, often used to find better ways to utilize Black people for labor. However, in 1968 the Association of Black Psychology (ABPsi) was founded by a number of Black psychologists from across the country.

They united to actively address the serious problems facing Black psychologists and the larger Black community. Guided by the principle of self-determination, these psychologists set about building an institution through which they could address the long-neglected needs of Black professionals.

Dr. Willie Garrett, president of the Minnesota Chapter of ABPsi, says of the history of the state chapter, “Dr. Pearl Barner and Dr. Harvey Linder created the Minnesota Chapter in 1987. We started to meet the needs of African American practitioners who were concerned about the mental health wellbeing of the African American community.”

The chapter has about a dozen active members with a total listing of about 45 providers. These providers include several different medical and behavioral health professionals, not just psychologists.

We are here

Dr. Garrett also stresses the importance of letting the community and other behavioral health providers know that they are here. Many behavioral health professionals in the state of Minnesota are not familiar with the Minnesota chapter of the Association of Black Psychologist.

“We must be more visible up front and in the background,” Dr. Garrett says. “We must penetrate the mental health system to add a different value.” The local chapter is actively working on legislation that affects mental health practices, support for professionals, providing community partnerships, working in schools, producing presentations and advocacy work.

Dr. Garrett emphases the importance of the Black psychologist presence in the decision-making areas around Minnesota, stating, “Often a ruling is decided without consideration of what impact it will have on the community. The question of what impact this will have on the African American community is just not asked when a decision is made.”

 Importance of mental health in the Black community

Dr. Garrett also stresses the importance of Black clinicians having a voice in the community. Often when something major happens in the Black community, the Black psychologists are the last people contacted to address the media, hold forums, and provide strategies and solutions. Dr. Garrett says, “The Black psychologists are here to help smooth these things out… Black clinicians must be able and be asked to speak on Black issues.”

One of the bigger issues Dr. Garrett sees is that in the Black community most people are more likely to a enter therapy experience during a crisis situation. The community tends to be more reactive than proactive when it comes to seeking mental health treatment. This is problematic because things could be prevented if a therapeutic connection were made sooner.

Dr. Garrett believes this has contributed to a justified stigma of mental health in the Black community. Often the Black community feels reluctant to seek mental health services because they have been harmed by the system. He adds that there is often a “cultural collide” with Black people, because they are more likely to see someone who does not look like them when seeking therapeutic help.

One of the plans moving forward is to have in two years a national mental health conference in Minnesota. The Association of Black Psychologists wants the community to know they are here. They want Black clinicians to they have a home for support they can connect with.

“We need more members, especially younger clinicians,” says Dr. Garrett. “The Minnesota Chapter has the capacity to be one of the premier mental health associations. However, they need you!”

For more information on the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, visit www.mnabpsi.org.

Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to openeyesopenmind@ymail.com or follow him on twitter @UniversalJones.