The CCA denounces all forms of racism

Since the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota three weeks ago, the leadership team of the Colorado Counseling Association has been working to develop a response that incorporates our sense of outrage and our sadness about the loss of Mr. Floyd's life, as well as a commitment to impacting change in our country and state. We condemn the killing of Mr. Floyd, just as we stand against societal norms and structures that regularly communicate to our Black brothers and sisters that their lives don't matter. As an organization, the Colorado Counseling Association states that Black Lives Matter.

As a leadership team, we want to create a space where we can hear from Black members about their experiences with racism and societal oppression, and about how they would like to see the CCA take action to create change. We've created a portal where Black members can share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and recommendations. Below, we've included a thoughtful response by Aspen Hazel, CCA's Multicultural Counseling and Development liaison, as an example. We would like to include a sampling of these responses on the CCA website so CCA members can listen and learn from the Black counselors in our state. Kendal Garcia-Humes, our communications liaison, and Aspen Hazel have agreed to select a sampling of these responses for publication on the website. The CCA leadership team will review and reflect upon all responses.

We're also creating a page with resources that can help counselors develop better multicultural sensitivity. You can access that page here. We've arranged for Dr. Carlos Hipolito to speak to CCA members next Saturday morning, June 20th, at 10:00 a.m., just after the last series of webinars for our online Spring conference. Dr. Hipolito is a professor at Denver University, sits on the ACA Governing Council, and is a highly sought-after speaker on issues related to multicultural counseling. We also have 2020-2021 elections coming soon, and we want to encourage Black counselors and other counselors of color to consider running for open positions such as President-Elect-Elect.

As healers, counselors are positioned to be part of the solution on issues of race and inequality in the United States, both individually with our clients and systemically through advocacy. Please join us in making a difference.

How to be an effective counselor towards your POC clients in the midst of pandemic trauma & trauma from the media

Aspen Hazel, CCA Multicultural Counseling and Development Liaison

Part 1

Disclaimer: I do not claim to speak on behalf of all people of color. I speak on behalf of what it feels like to be a black client and what it feels like to be a black counselor.

A client comes into your office and after much assessment & conversation you realize that you are getting a slight flair of a certain diagnosis.

Let’s say it’s a diagnosis you aren’t as familiar with. Let’s say the last time you saw this diagnosis was in a client from your internship years ago.

What is your next step?

Depending on the counselor, you may talk to your supervisor, do a consultation, or even pick up the DSM-5 and do some research. You discuss and evaluate criteria and you create a treatment plan.

Maybe you tell your client the diagnosis. Maybe you don’t. But from then on when you are sitting across from that client, that is what you see.


When clients of color come to a session, they bring their worldview. They bring their culture, their experiences, their perspectives, and they bring their color.

Just like we as counselors bring our own personal experiences and worldviews to the counseling sessions, our clients do too. In the counseling room, people of color can’t help but think things like,

“Will I be accepted in my community if they find out I am coming to get counseling?”
“Is my counselor able to truly help me with POC issues?”
“I can’t tell anyone I am struggling with mental health because I need to be strong.”

The ACA Code of Ethics (2014) states, “Cultural Sensitivity: Counselors recognize that culture affects the manner in which clients’ problems are defined and experienced. Clients’ socioeconomic and cultural experiences are considered when diagnosing mental disorders” (E.5.b).

Shared Trauma

People of color are hurting. Not only do we as people of color have our own experienced trauma, but when events like #GeorgeFloyd and #AhmaudArbery happen we now have shared and collective secondary trauma within the people of color community.

When one of our people is hurting, we don’t just ignore it. WE commune. We come together in our homes. We share in our frustration and experiences.

It can be easy hearing a person of color’s anguish with these events and easily say, “Well why don’t you go and advocate for racial unity?”

This is just one example of an uninformed cultural response (that’s a topic for another day).

The ACA Code of Ethics (2014) states, “Multicultural Issues/ Diversity in Assessment: Counselors select and use with caution assessment techniques normed on populations other than that of the client. Counselors recognize the effects of age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, race, language preference, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status on test administration and interpretation, and they place test results in proper perspective with other relevant factors” (E.8.).

Cultural sensitivity and humility is imperative when working with people of color. We are innately wired to see differences. Any concept of “I don’t see color!,” actually goes against how we are innately wired. As counselors, we are trained to consider our clients’ backgrounds, demographics, skin color, etc., to be able to properly conceptualize cases.

You may not understand a person of color’s experience, but as counselors we have a duty to listen.

When events like this happen, recognize that your person of color client may have some feelings they are internalizing like anguish, frustration, betrayal, rejection, etc. It is not our job as counselors to decide whether or not they should have those emotions, but rather to partner with them on how to help them manage those emotions. In order to do this, we have to be willing to explore those emotions and extend empathy every step of the way while also considering the client’s cultural context for their emotions.

There are a lot of people of color imagining that the very thing that happened to #GeorgeFloyd and many others could happen to them, their sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, partners, aunts, uncles, etc. This is not an irrational belief or irrational fear. Be mindful that exploring this concept for a person of color is in and of itself traumatic and the last thing they need from their counselor is a response like, “That’s Not Going to Happen!”


It is imperative that whenever we consider a diagnosis, we recognize the cultural implications. We must recognize that when we see a client who is a person of color, we may have a filter when we look at them. We have to be willing to recognize and reflect upon our own filters to make sure they are ethical and most of all that they are full of cultural humility.