For those who need further evidence of the disparities among minorities when it comes to health care, please read the following link …
The following post is the first in a series of posts on the CTAMFT blog that addresses the CTAMFT’s efforts to add diversity initiatives to their strategic plan and some of the challenges that arise as part of that process. Please go to www.ctamft.org to read the other posts related to this topic…
I wanted to use this opportunity to comment on some of the discussion during and following the board meeting on the issue of diversifying our profession not only in terms of the membership but in terms of the ways and the venues in which we provide our services.
I would like to voice my individual opinion on the issue of how we as a board can most effectively tackle the issue of diversity in our profession or at least in our state. My sense is that everyone on the board cares very much about this issue but that there is a healthy amount of fear and trepidation about how to address and discuss this issue in a politically correct way or in such a way that no one is offended or comes off looking insensitive to issues of race.
In my opinion political correctness has no place in this process as it keeps people from speaking honestly and from asking questions. Race/diversity is a sticky topic and creates a lot of discomfort and that’s ok. As a board we will continue to go nowhere if we are unwilling to be uncomfortable when discussing this issue. The discussion on shifting agencies to more systemic thinking and the notion of “dumbing down” our profession in my view is evidence of a lack of awareness about 1) the assumptions that are embedded in such a statement and 2) what is truly required to diversify our field.
If as a profession we decide that we want to stay 100% true to our origins and remain a specialized group of clinicians that work privately with wealthy or commercially insured (which is the same thing) clients and are ok to shrink in our numbers rather than expand our philosophical foundation; fine. If however, we as a profession wish to grow and be more reflective of our society, where in less than 20 years White people in this country will no longer be the majority; we need to be willing to have a frank discussion about these often difficult issues and table our individual anxieties and fears until we have an action plan in place.
I will personally mix the martinis after the meeting for those of us who need to exhale and let off some steam afterwards!
I would also add that this is a class issue as well as a diversity issue. There are plenty of ethnic minorities that are middle class; especially in Fairfield county and throughout our state. They are not the client population that we’re talking about. However in terms of diversifying our ranks it should be noted that middle class ethnically diverse applicants to our programs are typically not more than one or two generations removed from a lower social class and likely have extended family members that have not asended to their social class. Many of these new colleagues will be interested primarily in working in settings where they can impact the lives of people in their communities; which means agencies, hospitals etc. This issue touches many of the other things that are part of our strategic planning such as how our members can better support themselves financially in our field, identifying better career paths within agencies, hospitals and other institutions etc.
In short, there is much work to do here and I just hope that going forward we can have more frank and open discussion about the underlying attitudes that have made mft’s on a national as well as state level impotent in the area of diversity throughout the profession’s history. I feel confident that we can then come up with a plan that will put us our desired path. I encourage you all to blog about your thoughts or feelings about this or any other topic. Blog posts do not have to be warm and fuzzy, cold and prickly works too! In any scenario candor is ideal.
Kristen Orakwue is a CTAMFT board member, a clinician at FSW, Inc, in Bridgeport and is in private practice with the Collaborative Counseling Group inTrumbull, CT. She is also the administrtor of this blog.
One of my significant interests in pursuing this degree was to work with biracial/bicultural couples. I had a notion as an aspiring MFT, and have now come to strongly believe that our own epistemology contributes so much to the work that we do. Our compassion, empathy, understanding, and nurturance for our clients is deepened by our own richness of experience. Being married and starting a family with a man outside of my culture has presented itself with challenges I could never have imagined however it has also created a life of opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. As a result I find that in addition to helping families to navigate through their struggles, I have a particular passion for working with those families that are blending cultures as well. There is an element of this for every couple, each person with their own unique upbringing that have to be negotiated as the new family emerges. When couples come together from different cultures however, a number of additional levels of negotiation may arise. When I participated in the Multicultural course as a Fairfield student, we certainly addressed what specific cultural factors should be considered when working with different “groups” of families however we failed to elaborate on how to balance our approach when working to blend cultural influences in one system. I know that the program is always growing and changing as is the field of MFT at large. We are living, working, and practicing in a world where an awareness of cultural competence is steadily increasing. My hope is that I will have the opportunity to expand my own work with bicultural couples and that MFT programs will begin to incorporate this element into their training process more in depth as well.
Virginia is a 2007 graduate of Fairfield University’s Marriage and Family Therapy program. Currently she works as a Clinician at FSW, Inc. in Bridgeport Connecticut and is a part of the Collaborative Counseling Group (CCG) in Trumbull, Connecticut.