As Feguson and other events continue to highlight the racial conflicts in this country. A parent I work with reminded me of the importance of race when attempting to make change in therapy.
A 12 year old African American male I work with is struggling with impulsivity. I was discussing with his mother what she can do differently when managing his behaviors. The parent was given some feedback by the therapist that she talks too much with him and needed to be firm with him. I agreed with this and saud sometimes parenting is about “talking less and acting more.” The parent became upset, disagreed, and her explanation floored me.
To paraphrase she responded “He is an African-American boy that is growing up in this world; if this does not get better, who will talk to him.” The fear and worry of this statement knocked me over. I should not be surprised by this, but I was. Both current events and their experiences must have impacted this response. She was not worried that his mental health diagnosis would be the problem, it was his race that would be the problem.
Race is often the elephant in the room in our clinical work. I could not argue with her but she did agree to offer a more structured reward system when she is talking. As a social worker, issues such as Ferguson are in my conscience and the above interaction made it real for me. Race is more than just a check box on an assessment form, it is part of the story of our clinical work. I hope this story reminds you of this like it reminded me.
image credit: Irrestore.com