African American Mental Wellness: Our Second Interview with Steven Welch, LCSW

Our first interview with Steven Welch took place in June of 2014. We had a lot to discuss and not enough time. I can understand why Steven’s first show has been our most downloaded and highest rated.  The topic of discussion plays a huge part but it is also the intelligence and compassion from Steven that is an indicator as to why his office becomes that safe haven for his clients.  His passion for the community in which he has devoted his behavioral health practice is evident during every conversation.

We were easily able to pick up where we left off and delve into the second part of our discussion on African American mental wellness. We’ve decided to turn this into a three part series so we can devote a show to COLORISM: What is colorism and how it impacts African American (AA) wellness.  We touch on it briefly during this broadcast but it is a topic that deserves more attention.


 Watch Steven Welch on Beyond Focus Media!

Why physical wellness can be a gateway to a conversation?

A physical ailment can be an opportunity to discuss behavior change, emotional stressors, adjustment to a health condition, impact of health and the family.

  • CANCER: AA men 40% higher cancer death rate than  with equal treatment
  • DIABETES: 60% more common in AA community than whites
  • ASTHMA: AA are 3x more likely to die than whites
  • LUNG CANCER: Though AAs smoke less than whites they are %0% more likely to get lung cancer.

Politics: Sickle cell receives less funding than Cystic Fibrosis yet more people have SC than CF in America.

  • 71% of black vs. 58% whites live in communities that violate air pollution standards.
  • AA communities are most likely near transportation corridors
  • Lower socioeconomic is linked to increased rates of disease as well as decreased access to specialists, regardless of ethnicity.
  • My experience at Harlem United, Harlem NYC.

Why do you think trauma is at the root of many African American male well-being issues?

A working definition of trauma: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

  • Men are not aware they have been traumatized
  • Solitary management of feelings
  • None restorative coping
  • Previously identified factors

What is COLORISM and is this an issues impacting African American (AA) wellness?

Mexican, Filipino, Vietnamese, Saudi, Brazil, Japan, India to name a few cultures that practice colorism…European influences in many cases. American and other European exported media also contribute to the idea that to look and or act “white” is better and more desired.

A working definition of colorism:  Skin color stratification. Lighter skin=privilege therefore economic opportunity, Darker skin= decreased or no privilege. It is a form of internalized racism. It is the practice of being rewarded if you emulate whiteness, culturally ideologically, economically, and aesthetically.

  • Darker AA men seen a more menacing
  • Within families this is also practiced creating poor sense of self due how ones color was perceived in the family. “I’m not dark enough or not light enough”
  • Perceiving one’s self as more entitled or inferior based on color will impact personality development of children and therefore adults
  • It can influence the perception of how intelligent, successful or manly you are.
  • The ability to see one’s self as vital and competent can be linked to how one feels about their own skin color.

What are some factors AA men face when coming to terms with same sex attraction?

Combined with the previously mentioned factors, harassment and discrimination in one’s community and work place, makes for an emotionally vulnerable man, especially if he does not “pass” for straight.

  • Perceived as weak
  • A product of the “white man’s influence”
  • Shame or disapproval of their own same gender attraction
  • Managing feeling of anxiety and depression
  • Images of being AA and a gay man…not many are positive  (usually depicted as feminine)
  • The role of the church as a rejecting or embracing agent AND impact on self-image as well as group acceptance.
  • The historical role of the church in forming AA identity

 How do I create a safe space as a clinician?

  • Add ethnic accents to your office
  • Reflect the community with books, magazines, art
  • Acknowledge your limitations
  • Be upfront with the frame work in which you practice (who knows about the sessions, supervisor, doctor)
  • Be upfront about what conditions you are mandated to disclose?
  • Draw upon the strengths of the client
  • Identify support systems and individuals
  • Know your audience
  • Seek training and own therapy

Why are you a therapist and why this topic?

  • I am a man of color
  • My adjustment to America
  • It’s my calling
  • My therapy

mental-health-news-radio-logoSteven Welch is a seasoned psychotherapist with over 27 years of experience in the areas of addiction, HIV, LGBT, adult and adolescent care.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), he is able to adapt his clinical knowledge to support clients in a wide spectrum of life stressors.

Mr welch combines his multi cultural experience as an African American, British Caribbean living in New York City with a graduate education from Wurzweiler  School of Social Work, Yeshiva University. This combination of cultural and clinical awareness was the motivation for Mr Welch to be the first African American student council president at Wurzweiler.

Professionally, Mr. Welch’s roles spanned from direct clinical care to directorship positions. These positions were held at nationally and internationally known institutions which included: Albert Einstein College of Medicine Division Substance Abuse, Bronx Lebanon Hospital, Harlem Hospital Medical Center and Harlem United.

He has a thriving private practice in the heart of New York City’s 34th Street. The office is located across the street from the iconic Empire State Building and the world famous Macy’s at Herald Square. This location allows Mr Welch to service a rich diversity of clientele various socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds that New York is known for.

As an educator,  Mr Welch has provides trainings which include: Counselor Wellness, Stress Management, Addiction and its impact on the family, Group Facilitation, and Public Speaking to name a few.

Mr Welch has been a CASAC for over 20 years. He has been both a moderator and participated on the planning committee for the NASW Addictions institute’s annual conference in New York.  He has completed postgraduate training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as Training and Supervision from both Bryn Mawr School of Social Service and Hunter College School of Social Work respectively.  He also completed a SiFi training at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

Mr Welch is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Association for Clinical Social Workers.

Steven P. Welch LCSW-R, ACSW, CASAC
19 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001

*Its Time to Take Care of You*

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