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Minority Mental Health: Everyday Traumas and Microaggressions

Minority Mental Health: Everyday Traumas and Microaggressions

 Presented by Hoorie Sidique, Ph.D.

This workshop meets the Cultural Diversity CE requirement.

Workshop Level: All levels

This workshop is for licensed psychologists who want to better describe, discuss and assess the psychological stressors that clients may struggle with, in the context of everyday microaggressions and daily racism.

Where are you from?

Can I touch your hair?

You’re so exotic.

I don’t see your color.

She’s so gangster.

The American Psychological Association (2003) stresses the importance of being aware of oneself as a racial and cultural being, as well as being aware of the cultural world views of one’s clients. Even as mental health individuals dedicated to being a healing presence in the lives of our patients, it can potentially be difficult for the individual perpetrating the micro-aggression to hear, understand, and empathize with the person they have offended (Sue et al., 2007). The consequences befalling the victim of the micro-aggression can be twofold (Sue, 2010); lack of trust and unwillingness to try again. in fact, frequently, the perpetrator behaves in a manner that reverses roles, leaving them as the perceived blameless victim in the situation when this is not the case (Sue et al., 2007). It’s not me, it’s you. This could be especially harmful, when that individual is the therapist.

Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso (2011), defined micro-aggressions as brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership or identity. The term was first coined by Pierce in 1970 in his work with black patients, where he defined it as “subtle, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which are actually ‘put-downs’” (Pierce, Carew, Pierce-Gonzalez, & Willis, 1978).”

In the therapeutic relationship, mental health professionals may also inadvertently engage in a subtle form of Micro-aggression by being colorblind. Sue’s research related to the psychology of micro-aggressions indicates that therapists may often be unaware of the cumulative harm that people of color experience from being routinely subjected to various racial micro-aggressions. Bonilla-Silva (2011) defined subtle forms of racial bias, referred to as color-blind racism refer to the conception among white individuals that considerations of race are presently no longer relevant in people’s lives in the United States.

Contemporary color-blind racism is expressed in everyday beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered acceptable, and even commendable, by individuals who use them. Accordingly, such attitudes are so deeply embedded in societal values and practices that they lie outside the consciousness of many well-intentioned therapists who may genuinely consider themselves to be non-racist (Sue, 2003).

The establishment of rapport and trust is paramount to good therapy. In helping professions, this is referred to as the “therapeutic working alliance. When micro-aggressions are unknowingly delivered by the helping professional, communication clarity and credibility suffer, with the possibility of creating a rupture or impasse in the helping relationship.

Examples of racial, gender and sexual orientation micro- aggressions in therapeutic practice:

  • Aliens in One’s Own Land
  • Ascription of Intelligence.
  • Color Blindness
  • Assumption of Criminal Status
  • Denial of Individual Racism/Sexism/Heterosexism
  • Myth of Meritocracy
  • Pathologizing Cultural Values/Communication Style
  • Sexual Objectification
  • Making the “invisible” visible
  • Establishing expertise and trust
  • Providing appropriate services to diverse populations
  • The old adage “physician [therapist], heal thyself” before healing others is all-important in having helping professionals become aware.

As long as micro-aggressions remain hidden, invisible, unspoken and excused as innocent slights with minimal harm, individuals will continue to insult, demean, alienate, and oppress marginalized groups.

Through training, supervision, education, and peer discussion, it is absolutely essential that mental health professionals make every effort to ameliorate the effects of micro-aggression on the therapeutic process.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define and give examples of micro-aggressions that might occur in the practice of psychology.
  • Identify what are the psychological consequences for victims of micro-aggression.
  • Explain how micro-aggressions affect the therapeutic alliance and how clinicians canameliorate these when they occur.

Boykin, A.W., Jagers, R.J., Ellison, C.M., & Albury, A. (1997). Communalism:

Conceptualization and measurement of an afrocultural social orientation. Journal of Black

Studies, 27(3), 409-418.

Goodman, D. J. (1995). Difficult dialogues: Enhancing discussions about diversity.

CollegeTeaching, 43, 47 – 52.

Sue, D.W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Triandis, H.C., Chan, D.K.S., Bhawuk, D.P.S., Iwao, S., & Sinha, J.B.P. (1995). Multimethod

probes of allocentrism and idiocentrism. International Journal of Psychology, 30(4), 461- 480.


About the Presenter: Dr. Siddique works eclectically to help clients understand their strengths, have a clearer understanding of obstacles that hold them back, and to help promote a sense of satisfaction, courage, and joy. She deeply respects the individuality of her clients and targets problems using strategies and treatments that speak best to each person. She values working collaboratively with parents, families, educators, and other treatment providers to make recommendations to enhance every client’s personal strengths and goals. Finally, she believes in the importance of between session support services by text, email, and phone, as needed. Dr. Siddique is trained in psychodynamic, interpersonal, and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as mindfulness/meditation. She has advanced training in neuropsychology, and administers comprehensive psychological test batteries to help clients understand their patterns of cognitive, academic, social-emotional, behavioral, and executive functioning. Her practice, Embolden Psychology, has offices in Chantilly and Silver Spring. In addition, she’s been running a community mental health clinic in Washington DC for 17 years and is working on a book, illustrated by her patients, about anxiety disorders.

The event is finished.


Nov 17 2019


9:00 am - 12:15 pm




Doubletree by Hilton Silver Spring
8727 Colesville Road