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. I agreed with this and was discussing the advice to “talk less and act more.” The parent became upset, disagreed, and her explination floored me.
To paraphrase she responded “He is an African-American boy that is growing up; 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 had an impact on this. She was not worried that his mental health diagnosis would be the problem, it was his race that would be the problem.
There were only a few times where race really filled my clinical work like a ballon and made it pop. I really 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