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Our Responsibility as Counselors to Address Trauma and Grief Caused by Systemic Racism

by Katrina Lee | May 25, 2021
The American Counseling Association supports and advances the counseling profession through the promotion of human dignity and respect and the pursuit of justice, equity and inclusion for all.

One year after the murder of George Floyd, we are faced with the painful reminder that the profound trauma and grief caused by systemic racism have neither an end date nor a quick fix. That trauma and grief are collective and ongoing as Black Americans and other people of color continue to experience and bear witness to sanctioned racism and violence in our country, again and again.

As counselors and mental health practitioners, we have a professional responsibility to address the effects of racism in all forms and work fervently to dismantle it through our daily practice. As an organization devoted to supporting the professional development of counselors and advancing our profession, we see the individual and collective mental health effects of racial trauma as central to our work and professional community.

On this day, it’s critical that we renew our commitment to the pursuit of racial justice and acknowledge the infinite ways in which racism affects the health of our clients, our communities, our nation, and our profession, including:

  • Intergenerational trauma inherited by Black Americans that is never fully addressed
  • Increased rates of suicide, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among Black and Indigenous Americans and other people of color
  • A life expectancy gap, particularly for Black men
  • Relived trauma through videos of Black Americans and other people of color being assaulted and killed on TV and social media
  • Medical and educational mistrust among Black and Hispanic communities resulting from past and ongoing abuses and discrepancies in care in the U.S.
  • Lack of racial diversity and representation among mental health care professionals
  • A profound and unjust burden on counselors of color to continue to effectively support their clients’ mental health while safeguarding their own

Racism is a public health crisis. ACA will continue to work toward diversity, equity and inclusion in the mental health space and seek out opportunities to educate and empower professional counselors in our collective efforts to extinguish racism and address racial trauma.

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