Posted on 5 Comments

14 Simple Ways to Help Fight For Racial Equality

When we look at all of the social justice problems that riddle the world, it can be easy to fall into feelings of helplessness. The plague of institutional racism has been persistent, despite efforts of peaceful protesting and advocacy that gained traction in 1955. Dr. Martin Luther King led peaceful protests and demonstrations and acted as a voice for marginalized populations. Still, in the midst of his work in advocating for social change, those who resisted his message arrested him 29 times, criticized him, attempted to assassinate him, bombed his home, attempted to bar his efforts by banning gatherings, etc., and eventually assassinated him.

Even then, there were times where Dr. King’s demonstrations were ended abruptly due to the rise of mobs and police violence against demonstrators. Now in 2020, there is a sense of responsibility to continue to fight for racial equality. Racism, xenophobia, and intolerance are problems that exist across all societies, but every day, there is something that each of us can do to stand up against social injustice. Below are some steps that we ALL can take to stand up to injustice.

  1. Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”

It is widely believed that this phrase completely ignores the point of Black Lives Matter. All lives matter, but “all lives” are not regularly ended by police brutality. Click here to take a look at a great article that explains Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter in 9 different ways. Also don’t forget that in 1820, Thomas Jefferson coined the popular phrase “Slavery is a necessary evil,” and in 1940 the phrase “separate but equal” was widely accepted. The way we use our words matters, and we can leave the phrase “all lives matter” locked in a dark, dark box with the rest of the phrases that choose not to condemn white nationalism.

2. Remember Who We Fight For

We can learn the names of the victims of police brutality that we fight in honor of. Here is a great site with an interactive map that allows you to view victims of police violence and their stories. These people represent the necessity for change, and we should share and respect their stories as we work to facilitate change. I encourage everyone to download and view the full database.

3. Defend human rights

Even if we are not actively engaged in protesting or community organizations, we have the ability to send a message that racism is unacceptable, starting with our personal lives. If we see someone being the victim of racism, we can speak up. If a friend or a family member displays behaviors or makes statements that are misinformed and/or stemming from a place of racism, we can speak up. We can use our voices to ensure that the members of our communities are treated justly and fairly in an attempt to avoid more tragedy.

4. Know Your Rights

In order to fight for and defend human rights, we need to learn what they are first. Here’s a pretty good introductory overview of basic human rights, although let’s strive for learning as much as we can from as many resources we can. Knowledge is power.

5. Educate Others Around You

The world is full of false information, whether based on misguided reports or the unwillingness to acknowledge what is right here in front of us. I like to refer efforts in correcting misinformation with true facts and real statistics as “dropping truth bombs.”

6. Teach Tolerance to Children

Children are the future. We can advocate that our children are taught accurate history lessons in schools, without information being left out or grazed over. We can teach children to celebrate diversity and to respect others, specifically individuals and families that don’t look like them. Here is a great list of books that can be used to educate children multiculturalism and diversity. Here is also a link for Black History Flashcards.

7. Use Your Political Voice

We have the ability to research and vote to put people in power who actively fight for racial justice. We can vote for people who represent the community. Additionally, we can write letters to legislators and representatives and advocate for body cameras to be worn by all officers, for evidence-based police de-escalation training, and for criminal justice reform.

8. Sign Petitions

There are a number of petitions circulating that an easy Google search can give access to (like the ones listed here). Here is also Color of Change’s Petition demanding justice after the brutal murder of George Floyd. Here is also a petition calling for police reform.

9. Donate To:

10. Support Human Rights Organizations

11. Support Social Projects That Demand Reform

12. Protest

We can join others in public demonstrations calling for change. Instead of going out blindly, though, we can learn more about what it means to participate in a protest. Being more prepared and knowledgeable means that we can be of better help. Let’s all check out this link to learn more about the rights of protesters before we head out there. Here’s also a really great image detailing protest roles submitted on Reddit. We can also reach out to protest organizers to see what they need from us!

13. Use Your White Privilege

To assist in combating racism, we can learn about our own privilege and how it impacts others. Here is a great video showing a meaningful exercise about the (sometimes unbeknownst) power of privilege. After we learn about our privilege, we can use it by helping people of color in the fight for racial equality. Using our privilege to intervene could save someone’s life.

This is a list of only 13 things that can be done to combat racism and demand social justice. Let’s all make an effort to do these things and more in the hopes that we can achieve true racial equality.

14. Support Black-owned Businesses

Supporting the Black community means supporting Black-owned businesses. It can seem overwhelming, and sometimes we don’t know where to start. Take a look at this amazing resource that details Black-owned businesses. Website Planet writer Sophia Conti created an amazing list of Black-owned businesses across the United States. Supporting these businesses can mean so much, especially for those impacted by the current pandemic!

Posted on 12 Comments

What No One Tells You About Being a Therapist

A therapist’s office is intended to be a safe, warm space that allows for others to express and process patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s a place where people go to feel better. As a helping professional, I have the privilege of being part of the personal development and growth of my clients. I am deeply passionate about what I do, and I’ll be the first one to admit that I still get goosebumps whenever a client experiences an “Aha” moment. That being said, the mental health profession is not one without challenges.

According to the Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), it’s estimated that about 22% of adults in the city are diagnosed with Depressive Disorder, 16% of adult Philadelphians experience frequent mental stress, and 13.8% of teens experience suicidal ideation.

To paint a clearer picture, these statistics mean that in Philadelphia 1 in 5 adults are diagnosed with depressive disorder, and 1 in 7 high school students have reported seriously considering suicide. These startling numbers are not counting the undiagnosed or unreported cases. These rates have remained consistent within recent years, with the exception of a wild increase of opioid-related deaths and ER visits for drug overdoses. With the growing severity of the opioid epidemic in the United States, an already overwhelmed system seemingly only has so much wiggle room before it breaks.

Community Behavioral Health (CBH) is a non-profit corporation contracted by the City of Philadelphia to provide mental health and substance use services to Medicaid recipients in Philadelphia County. There are about 144 Community Behavioral Health organizations in Philadelphia, and I have worked for and with many of them. Although I love the work that I do with clients, working in community agencies has created an entirely new perspective on how therapists and participants are treated among the Community Behavioral Health system….. and I think we all deserve better.

I remember learning about proper ethics and counseling techniques in my graduate program, bright eyed as I geared myself up for a future as a helper. Looking back, it seems so naive for me to have thought that it would be easy. Admittedly, I often wish I could go back to school and pay closer attention to discussions on how to avoid burnout, but sometimes it seems that in the community behavioral health field, burnout is inevitable. Although it would not have changed my choice of profession, I wish I had been more prepared for the community mental health world.

Here’s what I wish I had known:

  1. There are not enough mental health therapists in the community behavioral health system. It seems as though a major theme within the therapist community is the feeling of being overwhelmed by a bogged down system. Community Behavioral Health has an incredible amount of participants in need of mental health care and not enough wo/manpower to provide the quality of care necessary to treat severe mental health symptoms. This means that the large number of participants receiving services are divided among the limited mental health professionals that exist, meaning higher burnout rates for therapists.
  2. There is a major focus on productivity. Full time therapists are given a certain number of clinical hours that they must provide per month, typically called productivity. For example, in my organization, the month of October held 160.63 available treatment hours. I need to achieve 66% of that, meaning I needed to provide at least 106 hours of therapy to meet productivity expectations. If I don’t, I risk being written up. So when we get into the nitty-gritty of things, my work performance is not determined by the quality of therapy I provide, but by the quantity of services I provide. Where I try to validate myself, it is sometimes hard to focus on my successes with clients when I am consistently reminded of “my numbers.” It also makes it more difficult to be understanding when clients cancel, which is often framed as one less hour toward productivity.
  3. Many organizations are turning to fee-for-service. Fee-for-service is pretty self-explanatory. In fee-for-service positions, therapists only get paid for the sessions they complete. This means that if a client does not show up, the therapist will either not get paid, or will get paid a small percentage of what they would have received. Oh, and fee-for-service therapists don’t get paid for the paperwork or outreach they do…. and let me tell you, in this field there is always a lot of paperwork and outreach to do.
  4. Community behavioral health is behind. Think about all of the ethical guidelines, evidence-based practices, and sensitivity training we learned about in school. Now, try to imagine trying to implement those practices in an organization that always seems 20 years behind the present status quo. This isn’t necessarily community behavioral health’s fault. It simply takes time to roll out new methods given the amount of education and training they require.
  5. Sometimes people don’t listen. I feel like I can talk about ethical treatment and appropriate care until I’m blue in the face, and it still doesn’t feel like I am heard. I often find myself thinking of therapists as the nurses of the mental health field– we have an incredible amount of knowledge, have spent years studying the subject, and care deeply about making sure our clients are receiving proper care… and it still feels like we are spinning our wheels just to be heard and respected.

And finally, none of this would matter if we didn’t care. Professionals typically don’t join the mental health field if they don’t care about the well being of others. This makes it even more frustrating when we can see that the overall focus is not on the quality of care we provide, but instead, on the success of the business. Although I can recognize that the business aspect is important, it just does not feel right to put the needs of the business before the needs of people. Helpers feel passionately about the injustices within social systems, because we care about the outcomes of the people we work with. It can be incredibly frustrating to see the above factors as barriers to doing what we love most– helping people.