Monday, October 19, 2020

Life: Counseling and Support Groups in Minority Cultures

Let us discuss a topic which is is not spoken about in many cultures. Let us speak about counseling and support groups in the minority culture. For the sake of this blog, I will be focusing on the black community. I know I may receive a lot of flack for this one! During the current climate we live in, I feel this is a topic which needs addressing. 

Why is counseling in the black community taboo? Why does any form of counseling have a negative connotation? Do not get me wrong, we have come a long way, but have a long way to go when seeking outside assistance. "On average, White Americans are two times more likely to go to counseling than their African American counterparts (Carouthers, Zacchaeus. There's a Stigma with Counseling in the African-American Community. January 30th, 2014 (18 October 2020).

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What is your opinion on support groups? Are they OK? In our culture, these topics are not spoken of very freely and are shunned. Many conversations are lacking in this area for fear of being labeled as weak, crazy, or having the inability to cope with life. The funny thing is, although there is a current stigma with counseling and support groups in the black community, there has always been some type of support within our culture. They take on the form of barber shops, beauty shops, coaches, pastors, and/or family members. 

So why is seeking assistance outside of our community looked down upon? I believe this thought process stems from history and has never evolved completely. In past history, the inner circle was the only assistance available for the black community. Currently, group support and counseling availability reaches far beyond the walls of our community. Furthermore, assistance can be beneficial in coping with life changes, trauma, and individual growth. Lets explore the difference between the two types of assistance.

  1. Counseling- Is defined as the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties ("counseling." Oxford Languages, 2020. (18 October 2020)). Counseling may include:
    1. One-on-one sessions- This is a good option if you have an issue speaking openly in a group setting.
    2. Temporary assistance compared to long term therapy- You will receive guidance for a short duration and your sessions will be completed.
    3. Goal setting and providing tools to achieve these goals- Goals will assist you in the problem solving aspect of life changes, trauma, and/or individual areas needing growth.
    4. Provides an objective view of areas needing assistance- Outside counseling provides privacy and gives an objective view of area needing improvement.
    5. Usually a counselor is an expert in the area you are seeking assistance-You are given a piece of mind knowing they have experience in the area you are seeking guidance.
  2. A Support Group- Is defined as a group of people with common experiences or concerns who provide each other with encouragement, comfort and advice ("support group." Oxford Languages, 2020. (18 October 2020)). A support group may include:
    1. Multiple people in 1 session- Also can be completed in one-on-one sessions.
    2. Temporary or long term support- Usually a support group is always present. Number of meetings to attend are not solidified. You may attend when support is needed.
    3. Does not encompass goal setting- Life experiences are exchanged. Also, comfort and advise may be given. Sometimes goals are given as a group, but usually goals are set per individual based on individual needs.
    4. Experiences may be similar to other attendees- Usually there are different levels of experience present in a support group. This allows the group to share on different levels of the healing process. This is not a definite set-up for a support group.
    5. A Support group may not be managed by an expert- Usually the group is managed by someone who has experience in the area of focus.

Any assistance you choose, counseling and/or a support group will result in growth. If any form of assistance results in growth, why the negative stigma? Why is an individual viewed as weak, crazy, or unable to handle daily life when seeking assistance outside the minority culture? Why do we prefer to struggle rather than seek help? In actuality the opposite is true. It takes real courage to be vulnerable and say you need assistance. Whether this assistance is for life changes, trauma, and/or individual growth. There are many private forums available, including telephonic and via web if you do not want to be seen seeking assistance. 

The reality is, speaking openly on personal issues, indirectly gives others support, hope, and the strength to speak out . Also, being vocal may prevent generational cycles from being repeated in our culture. How can a cycle be broken, if the next generation does not know what needs to be changed? Being vocal doesn't make you weak, it may earn you more respect for speaking out on an issue, and you may realize you have more in common with someone than what you thought. 

How do we make it OK to speak about counseling or needed support groups in our culture? We can let individuals know they are not alone, and it is OK to be verbal. This can be done by actions and speaking freely about feeling. If you are not use to speaking freely, this will not just happen over night. It takes practice and an open mind. Also, when individuals do have the courage to reach out, do not shun them and let them know its OK to be vocal. If you are uncomfortable in the area of topic, point them in the correct direction of assistance in the area needed. We do not always need to have the answers, but should know some supportive resources. Usually work, insurance carriers, local churches, and hospitals have free information on support groups and counseling. Also, the internet is a very useful search tool to find counseling and support groups. 

As a community the negative stigma of seeking help needs to be broken. The negative labeling of individuals speaking out needs to cease. This can be achieved by our community by working together as a whole. Be vocal and project positivity on counseling and support groups everywhere. Remember, it took a lot of courage for the individual to ask for assistance. If change occurs one person at a time, it will be a start. Let a positive change start with you!

*The information above is on counseling and support groups. The information provided is not all inclusive, but a starting point. Please subscribe via e-mail on the right, and leave a comment in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading and subscribing!*

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