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Anti-Black Racism Negatively Impacts the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy on Black Youth, According to Study

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The effectiveness of psychotherapies on Black youth is negatively impacted by racism, according to a new study. 

Released in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s latest volume, the meta-analysis, which was created by a coalition of scholars from various universities and led by Dr. Maggi Price, Ph.D., looked at multiple studies on a state level that have been published from 1971 to 2005 on the topic. 

Although Dr. Price names lower rates of Black representation in the studies as a limitation, the researchers found that, in studies that featured a majority of Black participants, the people that experienced higher levels of racism had a less successful response to the mental health treatments being distributed to them. 

Of the three levels of racism, the participants were exposed mostly to structural racism and were struggling with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and conduct disorder. 

The treatment they were given consisted of psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, community counseling, multisystemic therapy as well as a counselor and peer-led assertive training. Overall, when the levels of anti-Black racism the participants experienced increased, the effectiveness of the treatments decreased. 

The results of the study reflect a need for change when it comes to the way psychotherapies are constructed, according to Dr. Price. 

“Treatments in high-racism states should be adapted to better fit the needs of Black youth, for example, by helping Black youth address the effects of racism,” said Dr. Price. 

As reference, Dr. Price points to treatments such as EMBRace. Created by a team of researchers from the University of Michigan, University of Miami and University of Pennsylvania, EMBRace was designed to help the Black youth and their family members by giving them the necessary tools to create healthy ways to deal with the effects of racial stress and trauma.

Throughout the program’s plan, the patients and their families would be part of sessions that revolve around topics like building cultural pride, preparing them for bias and teaching them about racial discrimination.

In addition to having treatment adapt accordingly to include and acknowledge the effects of discrimination, Dr. Price recommends that the providers who administer the treatments change as well.

“Many training programs don’t prepare providers to adequately address stigma and identity with patients,” said Dr. Price. “We need to enhance training in culturally responsive care, including how to address racism, sexism, and other stigmas in treatment. Doing so is essential and will help us better serve our patients.”

With the new release, the new meta-analysis is the first study to look at the effect of structural racism on psychotherapy and whether it impacts the way young Black people respond to mental health treatment. 

The idea for the study came from an earlier study led by Dr. Price that studied the effect of structural sexism on young girls. Similar to the results of this study, the researchers found that structural sexism also negatively impacted the efficiency of psychotherapy. 

“This is an incredibly important population [Black youth] to learn about given the rising mental health care needs of youth of Color broadly, and Black youth specifically,” said Dr. Price. “If we understand why some Black youth benefit less from treatment, such as because they live in a racist environment, we can begin to determine how to help them, and in what areas we should be targeting our efforts.”

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