Donna Ferguson, Psy.D., C.Psych.
The College is dedicated to treating all peoples with dignity and respect. As part of this commitment, it is important to highlight the factors that impact health equity, the diversity of our membership, and the experience of feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion. These issues impact us as a society, as human beings, and as psychology professionals.
I have always felt that there is a great need for more diversity in psychology. As a racialized psychologist, I receive calls on a daily basis from people asking to see a Black psychologist. There are not enough of us out there to provide services to those who are specifically seeking help. I am not suggesting that non-racialized members cannot provide services to racialized individuals but sometimes it really is a matter of preference, availability and understanding of our lived experience.
Ottawa Public Health published a research report in 2020 called, the “Mental Health of Ottawa’s Black Community.” I highly recommend you take some time to read it. You will learn about the experiences of some of the city’s Black residents, including access to mental healthcare and perceived prejudice experienced from mental health providers. This is a problem.
This issue has come up in the past and is one that continues among individuals trying to access services from professionals that look like them and can identify with them. Let’s be clear, this is not just a problem in the Black community. Other communities experience the same thing.
As psychology professionals, we need to continue our work to ensure that more racialized graduates are successful through their academic careers and supervision experiences and become members of the College so that services are available and accessible to racialized communities.
Recognizing that ‘Rome was not built in a day,’ there are alternatives. We could continue to ensure that those members who are non-racialized are trained to assist those who are looking for racialized psychology services. Sure, this is an option. But when an individual feels that they would benefit more from seeing someone that looks like them and can identify with them, it would be nice to provide them with options, wouldn’t it?
I also wonder about the value of informal communities of support for black psychology professionals. We do not practice in a vacuum and the anti-black racism that impacts our clients also impacts us, as human beings and as members of the communities we serve. Perhaps there is an untapped opportunity for Black psychology professionals to come together to support each other. In the new world of virtual conferencing capability, members from anywhere in the province could be connected. I have learned that some of these (non-College) groups are already meeting in this capacity and growing membership.
My hope is that we will continue this dialogue about representation in psychology. As a profession, we are dedicated to quality improvement, and efforts to increase representation to ensure that we find ways to improve our services, our profession and our health system to make it more accessible to ALL.