Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven P. Welch LCSW-R, ACSW, CASAC about his work, his passions, and his support of the mental health community. Our discussion focused on African-American Mental Health.
Watch Steven on his interview with Beyond Focus Media.
Why do men avoid therapy/counseling?
Male socialization ingredients are equated with STRENGTH
- Accumulate things
- “go get em” attitude
- Suck it up
- Physical/Sexual Prowess
Therapy is the antithesis of male socialization. It is socially undesirable to ask for help and therefore be vulnerable. It is equated with WEAKNESS.
How does imagery impact African- American male identity/wellness?
The African-American man was depicted as inferior, entertaining, dangerous, and invisible
- Called Boy
- Birth of a Nation film screened and praised by the president ( positive depiction of the KKK and negative depiction of Black men with “power”)
- Images exported around the world via media ( women/men bleach their skin and wear weaves)
- Early cartoon depictions
- Comics: First Black super hero Black Panther 1966…first animated series Fat Albert 1972
What are some themes of African-American men that are barriers to seeking help?
Under the oppressive forces of Racism, Prejudice and Economic disparities woven into the fabric of decision making to consider help, the following can emerge:
- Seeking help equates to weakness
- Mistrust of systems
- Mistrust of the medical community (Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment)
- “That’s for white people”
- “Don’t air dirty laundry” Keep in the family.
What are some environmental factors to consider?
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Extreme poverty
- School/ prison pipeline
- Toxic stress (prolonged frequent experiences that taxes young systems without adequate protections to help kids recover….this can lead to changes in the brain and feed cognitive delays.
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
Steven 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*