Cultural Competency in Mental Health Treatment—Making Recovery Possible

Founder and CEO of Pathways
to Wellness, Neisha

While interviewing Jay-Z, Van Jones famously remarked, “As scared as Black folks are of the cops, we’re even more scared of therapists.” As a Founder and CEO of Pathways to Wellness, Neisha Becton, believes “That by educating community and clients, we can work to change that stigma. The fear surrounding therapy and mental illness, particularly for African Americans who seek treatment, is both understandable and very real.”

Pathways to Wellness is the largest minority-owned outpatient psychiatry provider of mental health services and serves the African American community in Alameda County.

Mental illness hits all communities, but African Americans are more likely to be hospitalized at the acute stages of mental illness. Alameda County in particular has the highest rates of involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations per-capita in California with African-Americans at the top of that sad statistic, accounting for 37 percent of the population.

Asked if recovering from mental illness is possible, Becton stated an emphatic “Yes! With the right combination of therapy, medication, and support, wellness is possible. A client recently shared with me, “I’ve tried several places and Pathways is the first place where I felt at home. Your staff took the time to break down my diagnoses, and explain to me what my options are. I didn’t feel lost. I was finally real clear.”

Pathway’s client is now successfully managing bipolar disorder and living an active life as all young adults should. His story is one of the many 3,000 to 4,000 clients who Pathways to Wellness serve each year at their Oakland, Union City, and Pleasanton clinics.

“As mental health professionals, we need to constantly ask, how we are serving African American clients?” says Ms. Becton. “As Dr. Josepha Campinha-Bacote says, “Cultural competence is an ongoing process, the process in which the healthcare professional continually strives to achieve the ability to effectively work within the cultural context of a client” which, according to Becton includes family, individual or community.

Becton encourages everyone to Join Pathways to Wellness on Tuesday, March 26, from 9:00 – 4:30 pm, where Dr. Campinha-Bacote will speak at a workshop entitled, The “Cultural Skill: A Component of Cultural Competency in the Delivery of Mental Health Services.” The workshop will be held at Executive Inn & Suites, 1755 Embarcadero, Oakland. Register at

Founder and CEO of Pathways to Wellness, Neisha Becton.


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