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'Reached a critical point': Psychologist raises awareness about shortage of Black therapists in MN

Dr. Willie Garrett is raising awareness to what he calls a “looming crisis.”

MINNEAPOLIS — Dr. Willie Garrett  is the president of the Minnesota Association of Black Psychologists, a mental health association founded in 1987.

"One of my interests is to not only help to enhance the practice of psychologists of color but rural psychologists because we deal with the same things," he said.

But now, Dr. Garrett is raising awareness to what he calls a “looming crisis” — a shortage of Black mental health therapists in Minnesota.

"There's so few of us in the state compared to the population, and we’re losing more people as time goes on," he said. "We have a small Black population that won’t produce a Black psychologist population and the students that come to study, usually go back home to warmer states," he added.

As people across the country experienced a so-called “perfect storm” of collective distress — the presidential election, COVID-19 and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 — the need for mental health professionals in Black and brown communities grew.

"It's had a dramatic impact; 2020 was an unprecedented year," he said. "We are still having issues in 2022, so people are totally overwhelmed. Children are struggling.”

According to the American Psychological Association, recent data shows the overall U.S. psychology workforce was 4 % Black/African American.

Dr. Garrett says although there are some culturally competent white mental health professionals, there may not be enough to have an impact on the needs of communities of color.

In addition, he says there is a lack of African American specialists in such services as autism, forensic psychological evaluations, dialectical behavior therapy, LGBTQ, personnel and industrial-organizational psychology, alcohol and drug, trauma recovery and a particular shortage is in child therapy.

He says the solution lies in recruitment.

“We don’t have the population to generate enough psychologists here, so we have to recruit more psychologists, already licensed, and recruit more students," he said.

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