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Faith + Therapy: Inviting the Tradition of Hospitality Found in Marginalized Communities into the Therapeutic Process

As Believers, we can combine Faith + Therapy to create a special space that integrates both our faith and the skills of a competent therapist. In this guest blog by Kenya Campbell, Marriage and Family Therapist Resident at Momentum Counseling and Coaching, we’ll explore this intersection and how the tradition of hospitality found in minority communities can be invited into the therapeutic process.

Mental health has been a stigmatized and often taboo topic in many cultures. In particular, minority church communities have labeled mental health concerns as demonic issues that can be prayed away or cast out. This demonization and toxic belief system has resulted in the lack of much needed emotional and mental health care, as well as healing in minority communities. Unfortunately, this is not the only obstacle minorities have encountered. The lack of access to quality care with culturally competent mental health professionals has also been a hurdle minority have faced. While these obstacles and hurdles are real, as Believers, we have the unique opportunity of allowing Faith + Therapy to come together in a unique way that creates space for both our faith and the skill of a competent therapist. This space can be found in a therapeutic process that focuses on hospitality, compassion, and skill. In this blog post, we will explore this intersection of Faith + Therapy, and how the tradition of hospitality found in minority communities can be invited into the therapeutic process. 

As an African American woman, therapist and ordained minister, the intersectionality of Faith + Therapy in minority communities is of significant importance to me. Having served as a Probation Officer, Youth Pastor, Social Worker, and now therapist, I have witnessed the destruction caused by forcing these two to remain parallel. Observing this destruction up close has propelled me into a place of advocacy and education. I am convinced that not only can Faith + Therapy coexist, but that the common theme of hospitality is the vehicle needed for them to intersect. 

Identifying the Obstacles 

Apart from the stigmatization of mental health within minority communities, there is also a lack of education. The lack of education and advocacy surrounding mental health has led to attitudes and toxic thought processes that demonize therapy as “ungodly, “worldly”, or “something white people do.” Additionally, inadequate access to mental health resources is another concern for many individuals within minority communities. This includes the lack of insurance and an insufficient number of available mental health professionals in their communities. Once these individuals are able to access care, they may find that many mental health professionals lack the cultural competence needed to fully welcome and engage them safely in the therapeutic process. 

Furthermore, the demonization of therapy that specifically resides in the minority church, has aided in the unnecessary suffering of its members. The refusal to acknowledge the need for mental health treatment beyond casting out demons, prayer, and increased faith has created devastating and unfortunately sometimes deadly results. By addressing these hurdles head-on through education, advocacy, and increased access to care, we can help to break down the stigmas and create a more welcoming and inclusive approach to mental health care for minorities. Thankfully there are those in the minority faith-based community that are ready to assist the community with overcoming these hurdles as they endeavor to guide them towards a path of healing that embraces the Both/And approach of Faith + Therapy. 

Embracing the Solutions 

1. Hospitality 

Hospitality is a crucial aspect of many minority communities, where the concept of community has been an integral part of our culture. The same hospitality can be found in the therapeutic process, where the therapist serves the role of the host in the offering of a safe and welcoming space for the client. Similar to hospitality, the healing that occurs in therapy stems from the connection and safe space that is built between the therapist and client. By inviting this tradition of hospitality into the therapeutic process, clients can feel seen and heard, which is essential to their healing journey. As Believers, we often find the theme of hospitality liberally noted throughout the scriptures. 3 John:1-2 notes a desire for John to see Gaius “prosper and be in health even as his soul prospers.” After expressing a desire for Gaius’ soul to prosper, he commends him for the hospitality he has shown the fellow believers he has encountered. This emphasis on hospitality immediately following his desire that his soul prosper indicates a connection between the prospering of one’s soul and the offering of hospitality. 

2. Cultural Competence 

Cultural competence is a crucial aspect of building rapport between the therapist and the client. It allows the therapist to understand the client’s background, experiences, and cultural values, helping them tailor their approach to meet the client’s unique needs. This place of cultural competence must include the acknowledgment and honor of the individual’s lived experiences from a place of humility and curiosity. As therapist I am inviting my clients to receive me as a professional and possibly an expert. In return I must also receive them as the experts of their story and life’s journey. This exchange is the perfect place to invite the spirit of hospitality into the therapeutic process. As with any good host, a therapist must prepare for the guest prior to their arrival. This preparation may include questioning the guest about their favorite foods or food allergies, while also researching how to prepare dishes that honor the answers to the questions. In their quest for cultural competence, the therapist cannot rely solely on the client to educate them, and the client cannot expect the expert to understand their lived experience if they are not willing to share them. By fostering a spirit of hospitality, therapists can empower their clients and create a therapeutic experience that is inclusive and respectful of their unique needs and backgrounds. Regrettably, there is widespread systemic oppression many minorities have experienced at the hands of those deemed “healers” indicating cultural competence is not an option but a necessity. Actively working towards cultural competence and inviting the tradition of hospitality found in marginalized communities into the therapeutic process, allows therapists to create a safe and inclusive space that is conducive to healing and growth. 

3. Education 

By combining both hospitality and cultural competence, we have the opportunity to engage minorities and faith-based organizations in dialogue about the benefits of mental health as both a passion and calling. Everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or culture can benefit from conversations about mental health and the importance of taking care of it. These educational conversations are a powerful way to reduce stigmas and de-demonize therapy by providing individuals and organizations with accurate information about mental health. Mental health is an important part of overall wellbeing, yet it often goes overlooked and underappreciated in our society. To help raise awareness about the importance of mental health, we must provide a culturally sensitive safe space for minorities and faith-based 

organizations to engage in conversations that specifically address the issue of systemic oppression, the biology of mental health, and ability for faith and mental health treatment to coexist. 

There are many layers and potential hosts for these conversations. Clergy, minority community leaders, and minority mental health professionals each have unique opportunities to utilize their voice to engage, advocate, and education their audience on truths surrounding mental health. It is my belief that these entities embrace their role of host and begin extending invitations to converse over a meal or in a round table discussion, we can create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable talking openly about their mental well-being without fear, rejection, or judgement. Moreover, these educational conversations also provide an opportunity for people to connect with each other over common experiences and support each other through difficult times. 

It is my conviction that incorporating hospitality, cultural competence and education are key components in the journey to support the emotional and mental well-being of minority and faith-based communities. These elements must be explored through courageous conversations that bring attention to the stigma surrounding mental health and challenge our stinking thinking. To ensure that minority communities can continue to grow and flourish, it is essential to embrace the concept of Faith + Therapy the Both/And.