Mental Health in Communities of Color

If mental health issues in the Black/African-American and/or Latino/a communities are of interest of you please check out our upcoming Information Session at SHIELDS for Families in Long Beach or at the East LA Library next week.

AAFS Info Session RSVP

LFS Info Session

According to Mental Health America ( The Black/African American US population is at roughly 13.2%.  Unfortunately, over 16% of that population had a diagnose mental illness in the past year (MHA, 2017).  What this tells me is not only so we need to continue our conversations about mental health issues with regards to prevention and early intervention, we also need to increase the numbers of “culturally competent” (a term I don’t like using particularly) clinicians.  According to the US Census Bureau “By 2060, the number of Hispanics in the United States is projected to grow to 129 million, or 31 percent of the population. Of all of the nations of the world, only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population than the United States.”  Again, who has been trained on how to provide culturally responsive therapeutic services?

The African American Family Studies and Latina/o Family Studies specializations are culture-centered closed cohort programs.  Currently, they are only offered on-ground at the Pasadena campus.  Like the traditional MFT program, students must be interviewed and accepted specifically into these two specializations.

  • African-American Family Studies (AAFS): Based on the UJIMA principle—building on the strengths of family-centered culture as basis for collective learning experience.
  • Latina/Latino Family Studies (LFS): Based on the “Comadre-Compadre” model of learning. It is the foundation, the “extended family” in the Latina/o culture that guides the practice of the learning community.


Pacific Oaks’ MFT program provides students with a robust blend of theory and hands-on practice. Graduates are prepared to consider issues of social justice within family systems and to explore how those factors directly impact family dynamics and the mental health of each family member.   Pacific Oaks College is rooted in the principles of inclusion and social justice, and the belief that every individual has unique strengths and potential.

The MFT program offer a deeply relational approach to teaching and learning. Just as research has demonstrated that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is the single critical factor in producing positive healing outcomes, Pacific Oaks believes that the quality of the academic relationships among students and instructors is the cornerstone of a transformative academic learning experience.

Immersion in our culture-centered learning model not only provides students with a strong sense of individual and societal identity, but prepares them to incorporate multicultural skills and sensitivities into their professional lives.

Perhaps most unique, our students also learn by sharing personal stories, and listening to the experiences that have shaped the lives of their classmates. In our safe, inclusive classroom culture, these conversations provide powerfully instructive tools, integrating theory with real-world examples while fostering a profound understanding and respect for the unique identity of every human being. In the words of the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire, “No one is born fully formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” Indeed, our students often say that by learning to understand themselves, they learned to change the world.


-Dr. Bree E. (Davis) Cook



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