Guide

Providing behavioral health care to BIPOC patients through an equity lens.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Providing behavioral health care to BIPOC patients through an equity lens.

First ask yourself, “What am I bringing to the patient encounter?”

  • Reflect on your own biases and preconceived notions. 
  • Consider how your biases or identities may impact your care of patients, particularly BIPOC patients. 
  • Engage in racial identity development work. There are many frameworks in which to do this, and the journey will look different depending on what racial group you belong to. Commit to evolving your understanding and integration of your racial identity. Remember, this work is lifelong and non-linear. 

Utilize healing justice as a framework for giving care. 

  • Healing Justice is a movement and practice that centers healing by understanding its deep connection to the dismantling of racism, transphobia, misogynoir, and ableism, and intervening accordingly. Reference here
  • Teach collective care (a component of healing justice) to your patients as a way to move beyond the sometimes hollow self-care directive. 
  • Collective care views healing as the responsibility of the collective or community. By encouraging patients to shed the individualistic pressures of a capitalist society and allow themselves to lean on others for support, you help them to remove the often stigmatizing burden of having to carry the weight of multiple systems of oppression alone. 
  • Teach rest as resistance. Organizations like The Nap Ministry are on the forefront of challenging productivity narratives and encouraging people, specifically those whose bodies have historically been used for production (i.e the legacy of slavery), to rest as a way to fight back against white supremacy. 

Learn about the communities your patients are coming from. 

  • Patients spend more time in their communities than they do during your session. By learning more about where your patients live, work, and socialize you can give more informed and relevant recommendations. 
  • This is especially important for your BIPOC patients who disproportionately make up neighborhoods with higher rates of policing, environmental pollutants, and food apartheid
  • Engage in, donate to, and learn from BIPOC community organizers. They will have the best insights into the health needs and concerns of their community. This can guide you in making sure your practice's referrals and internal resources align with the realities of the community in which it is situated. 

Honor the desire for race concordant care. 

Some, not all, BIPOC patients may prefer receiving care from someone who shares racial, ethnic, or other cultural similarities. 

  • Research indicates that racial concordance between a patient and a clinician is associated with several positives. 
  • Better patient-provider communication
  • Improved overall health outcomes
  • Higher levels of patient satisfaction
  • More adherence to provider recommendations
  • If you are in a position to do so, advocate for the hiring of BIPOC health care workers. Whenever possible, advocate for the dismantling of racist workplace structures that can lead to quicker BIPOC provider and staff burnout. 
  • Ask patients if they have any preferences in the identity of their healthcare providers, including race, ethnicity, sexuality, language, and gender identity. 
  • Advocate for visibility of these identities on patient-facing information about the providers at your clinical practice, and, when possible, your referrals.
  • Providing race concordant care may not always be possible as the majority of mental health treatment providers in the United States are white. For example, approximately 86% of psychologists are white, and less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black.
  • When providing cross-racial care, be humble in your integration of racially informed care. 

Practice through an intersectional lens. 

  • Utilizing an intersectional approach allows us to acknowledge that a patient’s overlapping identities create unique modes of advantage and oppression.
  • Consider what identities you hold and what your intersections of privilege or disadvantage are. 
  • We should lead with dismantling racism—never to the exclusion of other ‘isms (e.g. sexism, classism). We should always consider how these various forms of oppression layer on top of each other to cause harm to individuals and communities.

Things to consider.

01

Health care must recognize how systems of power intersect to create and reinforce inequities, particularly based on race. Notice how these systems of power present in your own clinical practice, health care system, and community. 

02

Pursuing health equity requires a personal commitment to an internal process of challenging white supremacy and dominant thinking and the adoption of anti-racist principles (direct to antiracism training). 

Question to think about:

What small change, either from this guide or of your own creation, can you commit to making from this moment on?

Ask for pronouns
Ask how the patient is doing
Ask for consent before touching
All of the above