As most people know, the American healthcare system has not treated people of color (POC) equitably. The pandemic has focused attention on the disparities between Whites and People of Color, as COVID fatalities are much higher for POC than Whites. Add in the racial unrest occurring in our own backyard — and around the country — and you get a sense of the stresses faced by POC. As a result, traditional counseling that White people might access is not the first choice for POC seeking help.

A virtual webinar conducted by Dr. Deborah Haskins, Ph.D., LCPC, ACS, MAC, ICGC-II, BACC, CEO, Mosaic Consulting and Counseling Services and President of the Maryland Council of Problem Gambling, highlighted some of the cultural interpretations among POC, examined some of the cultural considerations influencing gambling disorder, and introduced the cultural attunement model in her program Cultural Competency, Equity and Inclusion and Disordered Gambling Treatment and Prevention. Dr. Haskins stressed the need to understand cultural context when considering clients of color. Problem gambling is perceived as a “White man’s problem” because the approach to prevention seems only geared to Whites and POC do not see themselves represented.

Dr. Haskins provided overviews of various communities, including African American, Native American, Southeast Asians and Latinx. Each have very different views of gambling and how, when and where to seek help. Talk therapy is not the best fit for many communities and Dr. Haskins suggested we need to do more to shift the way in which we design and support problem gambling programs. She also described the cultural attunement model whereby counselors incorporate these five dimensions into a program:

1. Acknowledge the pain of cultural oppression.

2. Employ acts of cultural acceptance — ability to maintain a balanced perspective about one’s talents, successes and failures. Try to emphasize the positives to buoy their spirits since they have been so marginalized.

3. Act with cultural reverence. This requires that counselors think/listen/act from the heart and bring forth feelings of wonderment regarding how people bring meaning into their lives.

4. Engage in mutuality — cultural kinship — appropriate sharing of common experiences.

5. Possess the capacity to “not know” and be culturally open. The client is the true expert on their lives so tap into the expert knowledge they possess.

Overall, there needs to be new ways in which we approach treatment for POC. There must be real awareness of social and economic justice and understanding of past traumas (Adverse Childhood Experiences – ACES screening). Dr. Haskins stressed that we need to acknowledge the pathologies along with the resilience and keep stressing prevention.