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Black Therapeutic History

"Discover the untold story of African Americans and the therapeutic world. From exclusion to resilience, uncover the complex and often fraught relationship between African Americans and psychotherapy. Learn how African Americans have challenged and reshaped the field towards greater inclusivity, sensitivity, and equity."


The first insane asylum for African Americans, the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, was established in Virginia.


John Galt, a physician and medical director of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, Virginia, offered that “blacks are immune to mental illness.”


Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first African American psychiatrist to graduate from Boston University School of Medicine.


Dr. William Montague Cobb, a prominent African American physical anthropologist, was born. He studied the relationship between race and health and advocated for integrated mental health care.

-Solomon Carter Fuller becomes the first African American psychiatrist.


Segregation in mental health care was common, with African Americans often being sent to separate facilities with inadequate resources and care.


-The American Psychiatric Association (APA) formed a Committee on Social Issues to address issues of race and discrimination in the field of psychiatry.


-The Veterans Administration establishes the first formal training program for clinical psychologists, which was segregated until 1948.


-Kenneth Clark becomes the first African American to receive a PhD in psychology from Columbia University.


The American Psychological Association (APA) removes its "whites-only" clause from its membership requirements 


-The landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This decision also had implications for segregation in mental health care.


The Civil Rights Movement leads to greater awareness of racial disparities in mental health treatment and the development of community-based mental health programs 


-The Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists, were arrested and jailed in Mississippi, where they were subject to abusive psychiatric treatment.

-The National Association of Black Psychologists (NABP) is founded, with the goal of addressing the psychological needs of Black people and promoting social justice.


The Black Panther Party established the People's Free Medical Clinics, which provided free health care to underserved African American communities.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) establishes the Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency, which leads to the development of the first culturally sensitive mental health services for African Americans.


The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. sparked riots in cities across the United States, highlighting the need for mental health care in African American communities.


The Black Psychology Movement emerges as a response to the lack of representation and cultural competence in traditional psychology 


The Association of Black Psychologists was founded in San Francisco, with the mission of addressing the mental health needs of African Americans and promoting social change.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) established the Minority Fellowship Program, which aimed to increase the number of minority mental health professionals.


-(1980) The third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) is released, which includes the first diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), providing a framework for understanding and treating trauma.


-The HIV/AIDS epidemic disproportionately affects African American communities, highlighting the need for culturally sensitive care 


-Trauma-Informed Care: The African American community has experienced trauma from historical and ongoing racial discrimination and oppression, leading to a need for trauma-informed care in mental health services.

-The development of culturally responsive therapy approaches, such as Multicultural Counseling and Therapy (MCT) and Afrocentricity, gain popularity. 


The Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health identified disparities in mental health care access and outcomes for minority populations.


The Minority Mental Health Act was signed into law, which established a national commission to study the mental health needs of minority populations.


The #BlackLivesMatter movement brings attention to the impact of systemic racism on mental health and the need for social justice in therapeutic practice 


The fifth edition of the DSM (DSM-5) includes a Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI), which is designed to help mental health professionals understand the cultural and social context of a patient's mental health symptoms and develop culturally responsive treatment plans.


The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery spark a renewed focus on racial trauma and its impact on mental health, leading to an increase in the use of trauma-informed care in Black therapy.

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