Photo ID: An African American baby's hand holding an African American adult's finger with a picture of Mercedes Samudio to one side and text overlay

How to Provide Culturally Appropriate Care for African American Families, An Interview with Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

Curt and Katie interview Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, about working with African American Families. We talk about what therapists typically get wrong when working with these families, what therapists need to know about working with African American families, how to work cross culturally, and how both conscious and unconscious bias impact therapy.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

An Interview with Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

Photo ID: Mercedes Samudio, LCSWMercedes Samudio, LCSW, (she/her/hers), is a licensed psychotherapist, bestselling author, and international speaker passionate about empowering parents. Mercedes is known for her revolutionary Parental Identity Development Model and Shame-Proof Parenting framework. She works with parents worldwide, incorporating trauma-informed modalities to help them heal past traumas that can influence their parenting. Mercedes is also an experienced mentor and trainer, offering specialized training to mental health professionals on addressing racism in treating Black families. With a deep commitment to her work, Mercedes strives to empower parents, reduce shame in parenting, and help them raise healthy children. Outside of her professional life supporting families, Mercedes is married to her best friend and soulmate, and they live in sunny Southern California with their 3 fur kids (2 cats and a dog). You can learn more about her work at

In this podcast episode, we talk about how therapists can work with African American families more effectively

Our friend, Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, is researching how therapists can best support African American families. She is looking at how these clients are treated and how they traverse the mental health system to get healing.

What do therapists get wrong when working with African American Families?

  • Therapists will apply therapy universally to diverse groups that require nuance and different interventions
  • Therapists don’t understand enough about African American families to understand the differences

What do therapists need to know about African American families?

“So the historical context, that means that the African American identity is a result of the transatlantic slave trade. That means it’s a huge piece of the foundation of my identity.”  – Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

  • There are differences between “Black” and “African American”
  • The impacts of the transatlantic slave trade
  • Cultural differences based on which country one is living in as well as how one travels as a human in their country of residence

How can therapists work cross-culturally with African American families?

  • Specialized training like Mercedes’ training Engaging African American Families
  • Work with people who have expertise
  • Google alerts for
  • Understanding how you show up in the world, create an identity statement for all of the identities you have that are relevant to you, your social location
  • Talking about conscious and unconscious bias and identities throughout the therapy process
  • Understanding generational differences

How do conscious and unconscious bias impact therapy?

  • What we know we don’t like about people (conscious)
  • What may influence us from before we understand labels and differences
  • Prejudices that influence how we show up in the therapy room can cause conflict
  • Explore the conflict, explore the potential biases
  • Use tentative language (I wonder if this is showing up here or impacting our relationship)
  • Understanding how your identity often shows up socially can provide the therapist with fodder for exploring what bias may be present in the room

What are best practices for working with African American families?

That’s literally the crux of your work, you are not just working with that African American family at all. You are working with them, their extended family, their extended family’s family, the community.– Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

  • Genograms are helpful to explore how everything impacts the family members and who they say are included in their families
  • Understanding how these families fit within their communities and who is involved with each of these families

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Mercedes’ Instagram and Twitter @MrsSamudio

Mercedes on Facebook: @MercedesSamudio

Engaging African American Families Workshop

The waitlist for Engaging African American Families Workshop

Our Linktree:


Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Crafting Your Authentic Message: An Interview with Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: An Interview with Dr. Barbara Stroud

Antiracist Practices in the Room: An Interview with Dr. Allen Lipscomb

Black Mental Health: An interview with Patrice N. Douglas, LMFT

What Therapists Should Know About Code-Switching: An Interview with Dr. Jameta Nicole Barlow

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:14
Welcome back modern therapists, this is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists where we talk about the things that we do, the clients that we help, kind of the therapist ends of things. And we are always excited to bring back those guests who joined us in our very, very early episodes, saw something with us at the very, very beginning. And we are so glad to have Mercedes Samudio, LCSW. Author, great person all around back on the show today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mercedes Samudio 0:47
Thank you so much for having me back.

Katie Vernoy 0:49
We’re so excited to have you here. I love having friends of the show, friends of mine on the show. And what you’re doing, it’s just amazing. But before I gush too long, we’ll get started how we always do. Who are you? And what are you putting out in the world?

Mercedes Samudio 1:04
Yeah, so as I was introduced, I am Mercedes moody, I’m a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California. And among all of the things that I do, my main passion is supporting families and helping parents to be the best versions of themselves, so that they can raise healthy whole children. And in my pursuit of doing this, I have turned my research to looking at African American families, and how they are treated in the mental health system as well as how they traverse through therapy to get the healing that they deserve. And so with that, I’ll be talking a lot about that research and a lot about kind of why treating African Americans is such an important piece of what we do in our work, and why we all really need to pay attention to it a little bit differently now.

Curt Widhalm 1:49
When we first interviewed you, we were very much in our, hey, we’re here to shake up the system. And we’d ask this question in a lot more aggressive sort of way. We’re doing this, as we’ve matured, you know, a little bit more educative way. That there’s mistakes that are made, and people don’t need to make them again, but what a therapist usually get wrong when working with African American families.

Mercedes Samudio 2:10
Yeah, I think one of the main things is this idea that therapy is universal, and that we can apply therapeutic principles and therapeutic interventions universally. I think that is the main thing that we all get wrong in our field. And really understanding the unique ways that people develop into who they are, the unique ways that people understand their mental and emotional symptoms, as well as their mental and emotional wellness is a huge component to actually understanding that all interventions and all therapeutic styles are not universal. And so I think when we look at it in that bigger space, I think we all were taught, and I, you know, I’m in my late 30s, going into 40s, and I remember being taught that you can do therapy with anybody, anyone who comes in anybody, you can just do it, and realizing that number one that felt a little off to me, but thinking okay, well, I’m learning how to be a therapist, and let me just listen. And then realizing that I think many of us get that training. And once we get out to the world, we forget that each individual person has their own unique way of how they’ve become. But there’s this collective understanding under different cultures, under different identities, under different social locations, that also brings those unique struggles. And so just to be more concise, right, I think one of the things that we all get wrong is that we think you can do therapy universally with all people who come to you and sometimes forget, we need to be more strategic about the unique challenges people bring.

Katie Vernoy 3:44
What are some of the challenges that you’re seeing that are unique to African American families, or that are important for folks to understand when they’re trying to adapt therapy for this population of folks?

Mercedes Samudio 3:58
Well, one really important space is the historical context for what it means to be African American. Right? We often use African American and black interchangeably. And again, I’ll be honest with you, ask the person, right how they like to be identified. But for the purposes of this conversation, the idea of being African American has an historical context. For many African American identify individuals the reason why that identity feel so salient is because many of us have lost contact with our actual African kind of heritage and lineage. So I can’t say I’m South African. I can’t say I am from Zimbabwe. I can’t say I’m from Nigeria. I’m not 100% sure where that ancestry began, because of the transatlantic slave trade African Americans were cut off a lot from that space. And for centuries and generations, we lost a lot of that knowledge, a lot of that lineage, a lot of where that came from. And so when you’re working with someone who really does identify as African American and can really say to you, I really don’t know where my family came from in terms of of Africa, I know where we came from the United States or in other parts of the world, but not so much from our African lineage. Really understanding that working in that space is important. So the historical context, that means that the African American identity is a result of the transatlantic slave trade. That means it’s a huge piece of the foundation of my identity. Right? Then we go into cultural identity, what does it actually mean to be African American versus African Canadian? Or African British? Or in another country? Right? What does it mean to have the American nationality as part of your African identity? Right? How do those social contexts and those social ideas factor into your existence in the world, and then we talk about the multi generational influences, we talk about kind of culture, and how we think differently when we’re in certain aspects of our lives. So people who African Americans who live in certain parts of the country have different challenges because of that particular part of the country. And so as I began to get really niche here, you’re realizing that understanding the African American identity as it relates to that person is, especially if that’s the identity that they use, it’s important to understand what does that mean to them? And how does that influence the ways in which they even understand their mental and emotional wellness? Yes, their period.

Curt Widhalm 6:24
I’m sitting here, and we have a lot of our friends like you who come on to the show and talk about, you know, identity and working with clients in this way. And it all just kind of makes sense. And, you know, you laid it out very, very beautifully. And then I’m sitting here as a white guy being like, as a white person, as a white therapist, I know that what I’m bringing into the room is going to make this conversation way different than if you’re the one having this conversation in the room. And so I’m wondering if you can help us as the podcast hosts here, but also our audience, take this to kind of that next level down of like, okay, how do we do this? Like, what are what are the things that, especially for white therapists to be able to create the space for these conversations to be able to unfold and make therapy the great experience that we’re all hoping it can be?

Mercedes Samudio 7:22
Yes. And I think this is one of those moments where there’s so many layers that question, right? How can we do that? Help us figure that out. Well, that’s why I have the training, right? is exactly why I’m doing it, right? You’re not first with my colleagues to be like, Okay, you’re right. Pay attention to all this half. I’m like, okay, so you hear it, and you realize there’s something there. There’s something there that we do need. In our field, we need this specialized training, and not just with African American families, but with Latin X populations with LGBTQIA families, you know, like we need all of this. And so when you ask how, this is how, attend trainings like this, keep your Google Alerts on specialized trainings, right? Like, really be aware of it. This is one of the few things that we can do as therapists to actually continue understanding all of this, listen to podcasts like this, keep this at your, you know, top of your weekly list. I teach this because oftentimes, we think we have to always do this $10,000 whole certification program. And yes, those are great. I agree. They’re great. But this podcast is free, and you release it every week. And it’s like an hour or so, you know, listen to it, right? Listen to the different guests that you both talked about, right. And I’ve seen a lot of those guests and listen to a lot of those guests myself for the exact same reason. I would like to know not just how to do it but I also want to know who is going to teach it to me in a way that’s inclusive, and helps me to understand it. So I learn the right language. And I learn the right ways of incorporating it into my practice. And so that’s when you go to the training, right? So what I would say is are not just for you, you are the stand in, here’s what you ask. But for those of you asking, like how do I do that she’s right, there’s so much stuff. This is what you do. You start out, get Google alerts for African American mental health, start following researchers and therapists who talk about it, right? Just start it to be a part of your every day kind of information gathering, right? Because then you’ll find that Mercedes who you’ve been following is doing a training and now you can learn this thing. Okay, there you go. So that’s one layer. But for the podcast, let’s you brought me here for real and I’m here. The best way to do it is really to start learning how you show up in the room yourself. Right? I have an activity. I shared it on Instagram not too long ago, and I’ll share the link with you if you like it, but it’s an activity I do with pretty much all of my supervisees, all of my mentees where I’d have them write their social location paragraph, all the identities that matter to you, I want you to write a paragraph, my name is so and so and I am bl-bl-bl to your done, whatever identities matter to you write multiple sentences however long, right? And then when you’re done, I want you to read it and highlight the pieces that are really important. We really want people to know that this is where you are. That’s who shows up in the room. Right? Every time you show up, whether it’s your race, or your gender, or your upbringing, or your socio economic status, that’s what shows up. When you show up there, you’d be surprised how many people will then show up in that space with you. Right, your clients began to see you, they begin to see you as human because you’re not just the physical attributes they see anymore, you are a deeper person. And if you can explore yourself that deeply to be more than just what you’re showing up to be in the room that gives such a healthy space for clients to say, well, then I can show up that way too. Right. And so that’s a great exercise just to say who am I? What shows up? What shows up when I come here? What pieces of my identity do I always see or do people always see? And what are the pieces that are very important to me that people usually don’t see? That all is important to how we’re showing up in the room and to be honest with you, because there’s not and we know this by the APA. I don’t know the exact statistic. But the APA stats for mental health diversity is very low, it is not high, right, the mental health field still tends to be predominantly white, cisgender, heterosexual. And I think female that I won’t say gender wise.

Katie Vernoy 11:34
It is a very female, very female like 80% female.

Mercedes Samudio 11:38
Yeah. Right. And so when you say that, just that with therapists means you’re probably not going to run into your identity when you’re looking for therapy. Which means each therapist really does need to take that time to figure out who am I and how do I show up? So that question like I said or is really layered, where it’s like, yeah, how things like this. But then also, what are those self reflective things that you’re doing? I know, you’re into deliberate practice, right? What are those deliberate practice things that you’re doing to really address your own social location, your own identities, and what that means for you and your own life?

… 12:12
(Advertisement Break)

Katie Vernoy 12:14
It seems like showing up as yourself and maybe thinning the professional veneer, so to speak, to be able to be more of a human in this space, there’s a risk that when you’re putting more of yourself into the room, you’re also putting more of your bias, you’re putting more of the things that make you you which potentially isn’t as polished as an evidence based practice, for example.

Mercedes Samudio 12:40

Katie Vernoy 12:41
And so what are your thoughts about unconscious bias or even conscious bias and how it affects the therapeutic relationship?

Mercedes Samudio 12:49
Yeah, I think conscious and unconscious bias are two really important concepts, right? Conscious bias is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the things that you’re consciously aware of, right? I know that I don’t tend to like women, because I think they’re usually slow. Right? I know that I don’t tend to like people do this, because they’re usually this, right? You say it probably all have said it. Really you know flippantly, but those are those conscious things we know we just don’t like about people or groups of people that we use to navigate our life, whatever that looks like. Unconscious bias, is it exactly verbatim or one for one, it’s the prejudices that kind of exists at an unconscious level, that really do influence the ways we show up, but we’re not always aware of it. And a lot of times those unconscious biases started before we even knew what it meant to categorize someone. And so I’ll use African American as a as an example. Right? So I shared with my newsletter, a week or so ago, an example of this unconscious kind of bias. I had a black male father who started working with me. And he started working with me specifically because he had trauma with black female women in his life, his stepmother was really abusive, and just other things like that. I did not know that at all. I thought he was coming in for parenting and working through that stuff. You know, I didn’t know this. Yeah. And so as we began to work together that came out: some of the aggression, some of the you know, you don’t know. And as we sat through it, we look at our own unconscious biases both me against black men, and what that meant in that aggression in him against black women and what it meant for me to be able to direct him through his emotional kind of needs. And as we look through that, just that kind of unconscious bias of what we thought the other person was, was really informing a little bit of how we might even interact with each other. Right? I was able to talk about it, because I actually spoke directly to it, knowing that that was something that I was doing. And I said very honestly, I think oftentimes, I’m pushing in a little bit when you’re asking me to step back. It was in that discussion that he actually said, Yeah, you’re kind of remind me of my stepmom and then went into this whole really great discussion of what this looks like. Right? I say this to say that unconscious bias is what just happened in that situation, right. That I had no idea that this Black guy who was coming to see me as African American father was coming to see me specifically because of. I don’t think he did either. Until, we got to this space. And we were talking about this, and we were talking about, hey, there’s a lot of pushback here. I feel like I push you if like, retreat, you know, let’s talk about that. And that’s when it came up. And so me being able to lean into something that I was aware of, but not always aware of, allowed us to have that discussion. And so what I mean by talking about unconscious bias is sometimes we are not aware at all that this is happening. But those conflicts that happened, if you ask about, Hey, I wonder what’s happening here. This is therapeutic relationship here that I’m talking about, right? What’s happening here? I wonder if do you notice that it may open up a part of the conversation where you can start to talk about is there that influence there? Is there something here where maybe the client feels like there’s a power differential, maybe the client feels like you don’t understand because of the physical things that they’re seeing in you? Right? They may not even know the deeper understanding of your identity, but they’re looking at you physically and making those judgments, assuming you don’t understand, right. And so in those moments of being able to lean into, I’m noticing this, I’m wondering that, we’re allowing our clients to see that, yeah, there’s something here, and let’s look at it. And let’s be open about it. It might be unconscious bias, it might just be there was something that you said last session, that now I don’t want to talk to you anymore about things. But if we don’t lean into it, everything?

Katie Vernoy 16:36
Well, and I think the thing that really came up for me when you were talking is there’s this element of making the unconscious conscious, you know, and figuring out is this unconscious bias on my part, on your part, that kind of stuff. But otherwise, it could also be things that are just not being said. And so I think if therapists are investigating, it can be really interesting. I have a client who is culturally different than me. And I commented on the fact that I’m a white woman, and most people try to protect me. And so is there an element of you protecting me in this moment? And it was an interesting conversation, it became very powerful about how do I make sure that you feel able to fully express yourself, even though I’m sitting here with this white woman, you know, physical characteristics, and I think that it’s not easy to have that conversation, I think, especially cross culturally, because it’s easy to stumble in that conversation. Do you have advice for folks working cross culturally, and I think black and white is a pretty obvious kind of cross cultural that has a lot of stuff there. But I think this applies even for folks who are from all different areas of the world and all different cultures. What is your recommendation on navigating the conversations cross culturally around bias?

Mercedes Samudio 17:48
Yeah, and I’d love that you just share your example. Because I think that was a great example of that unconscious, right, making the unconscious conscious. I also want to highlight that the reason why I love doing the social location blurb is because it allows you to do what you just did.

Katie Vernoy 18:03

Mercedes Samudio 18:03
Right. If you know how you identify and you believe in your identities, then that means you also can lean into what are the stereotypes and assumptions about my identity? What are the strengths and the weaknesses and limitations about my identity? How does my identity show up socially? Right? Does anyone even know identity? Can people look at me? Tip? Right? All of those things matter? Because then you can do exactly what you just did Katie, which is lean into. Oftentimes, this is what happens to people who look like me or identify as me, could that be happening here?

Katie Vernoy 18:32

Mercedes Samudio 18:33
That allows for the client to say, Okay, you’re aware of your own stuff, I can talk about it. It’s very hard for a client to say, Hey, I know your stereotypes. I know your assumptions. I’m gonna throw them at you.

Katie Vernoy 18:42

Mercedes Samudio 18:43
Most people don’t do that. And the ones who do have different therapeutics, right. So you have to pay attention to the idea that when you bring those assumptions in about your own identity. I’ll even be kind of fruitless about it, I oftentimes will let people know I have a lazy eyes. So if my eye goes over here, I’m still looking at you. And I can still talk to you, right? Because that’s something that lets people feel like okay, good. She is still paying attention, her eye might wander, but that’s something she can’t. This does it. I never know when it’s happening. So that being said, to answer your question, that is one layer of it. Started with your own identity, how do I navigate these conversations, when I might be afraid or apprehensive or uncomfortable with even exploring my identity? And how my identity shows up? Right? So being a white woman and people experiencing you that way, exploring what does that look to show up in the world as a white woman? Wouldn’t people think about that, right? So on one hand, people want to protect me on the other end, people feel other things and might want to say other things right? And so realizing those things happen too helps you to show up in the room as a therapist say that could that be part of what’s happening in this interaction? Right now? I know it’s the only thing but could this be a piece of, right. Similar to me asking could this be a piece of why there’s this push and pull with that, what’s going on there? Right? And I think asking these questions is the first step. Now, here’s where we talk a little bit about what to do afterwards. After you’ve done that, it’s also really important for you to pay attention to how that felt to you. How did it feel to lean into that? How did it feel to hear your clients response? What did you think about that? Do you need supervision over this? Do you need a therapy session over this? Pay attention to those things? Because then that’s what comes into the next session. The more that I agree with you, or I’d like to ask more questions where I’d like to make sure that this is resolved. Right, because now you’re continuing to do that deliberateness of just because we addressed it doesn’t mean that this is not a part of the discussion that we can still bring it up, we can still discuss it. You may have talked about all of their identities at you know, intake, that doesn’t mean you never bring it up again. Right? You may talk about it at the end to show all their goals. Why didn’t you talk about it throughout? Right? And so what I’m saying is, when we’re being deliberate about our own journey, how do I show up in the world, not just in therapy world, it allows us to have the courage sometimes to even lean into, could that be going on here as well. Therapy is not so removed from the world, that you can be a whole different person in the therapy, you can tweak and shift a bit, but you’re still showing up as a human in the room. And I think that can’t be dismissed.

… 21:24
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Curt Widhalm 21:25
Do you notice any generational differences in these conversations? I am reflecting over a lot of my career and a lot of the teenagers that I’m working with now are just like, oh, yeah, I’m gonna rattle off, you know, my 17 identities just without even being prompted. And it’s just a lot more why are you constantly coming back to race or intersectional identities sorts of things. And I noticed that for people of our generation, maybe a little bit older, that it’s something that weaves into a little bit more, but I’m curious to see what your experience is on this.

Mercedes Samudio 22:03
Both ends, right, I see that there are youth who are very about that idea of discussing, and using language to navigate their world, this is who I am. And this is how I like to be addressed. And this is how I like to be talked to. I think there’s a level of assertiveness that comes with that kind of generational understanding and that generational work that we’ve all done. That now, there’s a whole generation that believes that using their pronouns openly is healthy, that using their identity openly is healthy. I feel like we and I’m putting we here I’m in my late 30s. I’m an 80s. Baby, you know, 90s kid, we didn’t grow up with those identities like that at all. No one talked about their gender openly. We usually to stereotype into pigeonhole. So you have 80s kids, 90s kids who spent a lot of time using identity to pigeonhole and categorize. Your a boy, you’re a girl, you’re fast, you’re slow, you can play basketball, you can’t, right. Very black and white, we grew up like that, right. And then when you take those and put on race, or gender, or other identities, those even got separated. So whether you were fast or slow, could also be relegated to whether your girl or a boy, black or white, right? Rich or poor, right? So all of these labels began your fast, because you’re white. And because you’re this, and I’m being facetious with these terms, right? Or you are this because you’re this and that. All of those things we grew up with, and it made sense, I can see you running fast, and I can see your skin color. So that must mean you can do it. We didn’t have the depth of understanding that we have now about what it means to be human, what it means to show up in the world as a human and how those really rigid categories create really hard barriers for people to get out of. If we just take the gender, right boy versus girl, it’s really hard for women to get into spaces that have been relegated to being boy, oh, it’s very difficult because they’re so rigid. And so when you think about how we were raised, and then if you go generations above us, the rigidity was even worse, right. This is exactly how things had to be to maintain order. If you take another bird’s eye view of it, a lot of that order was being orchestrated by the dominant culture in America. And they were saying, this is the category of things. This is how things need to go. And if you want to get even more philosophical, what ideologies they were using to order and categorize can even be seen as really detrimental, right. Religion, spirituality, a lot of outdated ideas were used to organize and categorize what we all began to accept as black and white ideas. If you were this, you couldn’t do that. If you were over here, you couldn’t go over here. And if you did, there was a lot of consequences for it. We all grew up like that. This generation isn’t growing up like that. We are not growing up with rigid categories. We’re not saying that if you’re here, you must be there, we understand the idea of spectrum, even in our diagnosis now, we understand the idea of spectrum, not just in our identities, even when we diagnose, we understand someone who is living with a mood disorder is on a spectrum, even if they have a specific one, what they look like, is in a spectrum. So I agree, I think there is a huge generational shift with how we look at identities, how we even express our understanding of identities, because before we lived so rigidly, there was such huge consequences for trying to break out of it. And now that rigidity is starting to lessen than a little bit, I won’t pretend like we’re in a better spot, but we are better than I’d say 80s and 90s. And now that you can speak more younger people who say, these are my pronouns, this is the name I’d like you to call me by, right, this is how I identify please respect who I am. And I think that lays the foundation for a lot of what we’re talking about, for a lot of what you’re doing on your podcast, right? For more inclusivity, for more of language, for more discussion around how do we help everybody get their rights, and not ignore and dismiss people?

Katie Vernoy 26:10
It seems like with the generational differences that you’re talking about, working with families becomes extremely complicated when you’re not shying away from these elements of identity. And not that you should shy away from elements of identity. I think identity is the work of therapy. But you’ve chosen to specifically focus your efforts for families and even more specifically African American families. And so talk to us a little bit about how you work with families, and specifically African American families, given all of this research you’ve been doing about identity and about how African American folks have been treated by the mental health system.

Mercedes Samudio 26:51
So what I will say is, I think one of the things that’s important about treating families is understanding all the influences that happen or that are around that family. And so I’m a huge proponent of genogram, still to this day, right? I think you don’t have to do them as elaborate as you had to do them in school. But I think getting a really good bird’s eye view of how important and integral people are in the family and where they show up where they were, they’ve past and where they are, they got added in. What does that look like? And how does that shift the nature of the family and the nature of the influence? Right? You learn that in grad school when you’re doing family work, right, that all of those influences are outside of the therapy room. But when you’re working with these four people, let’s just say it’s a nuclear family, right? You’re working with these four people, it’s not just them you’re working with. When it comes to African American families, that’s literally the crux of your work, you are not just working with that African American family at all. You are working with them, their extended family, their extended family’s family, the community, if they’re religious, you’re dealing with the church and that community, right? If they have any type of work, you’re dealing with that community, because the African American culture identity lives in community and lives in communal spaces, right? We barter, we use resources. So all of that needs to be taken into account when you’re doing genograms, when you’re looking at this family, because as you work with them, part of their healing is not going to be nailing your therapeutic interventions, part of their healing is going to be the learning how to get out into their community and find those resources that are going to be sustainable, because that’s how African American families sustain, not just with what we teach them, they take it out into their world, all of my families that used to work with the community mental health, they’d have people come over and say, Are you the social worker? They told me you can get us this. That’s exactly the level of community resources that African American families do, right? And then I say, yes, go down here, sign this paperwork, you can get into the program as well. Right. So in that way, we just being in the family was allowing the whole community now to have access to resources that that family didn’t even know about themselves. So understanding that when you’re working with African American families, you’re not just working with the people on the forum that was given to you, you’re working with their whole community. And part of that, I would say start with a genogram, who they say is their family, they say are the people that they reach out to start there, and then expand out so they have more than just those people, especially if those people aren’t the healthiest and are still on their healing journey. Right? So that’s kind of what that looks.

Curt Widhalm 26:53
I want to ask about this training that you’ve got and what you’ve been doing with it and just given a little teaser for everybody of what they can have in store with doing this with you.

Mercedes Samudio 29:46
Thank you. And so the training is Engaging African American families: assessment, connection and treatment techniques for lasting change. And so the idea is a three day weekend where we dive deep not just into engaging African American families, but we dive into what we talked about a bit on the podcast, diving into your own identity, how your identity shows up, and how that identity can actually be used intentionally to help do your assessment, your connection and your treatment of African American families. We’ll also be talking about actual assessment of your family. So how do you assess for racial trauma? How do you do that? How do you connect with African American families and actually do what I just talked about, utilize their community resources? And then lastly, how do you actually treat African American families uniquely, as you’re exploring the influences that we talked about today? And so three day weekend, did it, gonna do it again, hoping to continue to do it, because I think this is a specialized training that many therapists need to just kind of explore their own unconscious bias and understand those unique treatment strategies for working with African American families.

Katie Vernoy 30:48
It sounds like you also are available for consultation and supervision. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Mercedes Samudio 30:54
Yes, that is kind of a newer leg of my professional career. And so I have reached the point where I am able to supervise, support and mentor clinicians, my focus tends to be on family systems, race, African American families, and my own models, shame proof parenting and parental identity development models. So if you’re someone who is working with families, or struggles with families, if you’re someone who’s looking to have more cultural humility in your work, I am open for consultation and clinical supervision. And you can always reach out to me on the internet. I’m literally everywhere if that’s what you’re interested in.

Curt Widhalm 31:29
What is a couple of those places on the internet where people can find you?

Mercedes Samudio 31:33
Yeah, yeah, so my website’s a great start And then I’m also on Facebook with my name, Mercedes Samudio, oh, and on Twitter, and Instagram as MrsSamudio. So you can find me there and all of those wonderful places.

Curt Widhalm 31:49
And we will include links to those in our show notes over at And follow us on our social media, join our Facebook group, the Modern Therapists Group, and until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy, and Mercedes Samudio.

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