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Aug 29, 2022

TEAM-CBT Celebrates Diversity

Today's featured image is Sean Williams, co-founder of the BAD Group

Rhonda starts today’s podcast with a terrific endorsement from Steve, from England. He really liked Feeling Great, and said he benefited from the personal work with Dr. Mark Taslimi that we published as the first live therapy on the Feeling Good Podcasts (see podcasts 29-25 and 141.)

Steve wrote that the live work, and the teaching points that Dr. Jill Levitt and I made during the podcasts to explain our strategies, is the best learning by far. Rhonda and I strongly agree, and I feel fortunate to have been able to publish many additional live TEAM-CBT sessions since that time. It is my hope that some day these live therapy podcasts will be used in teaching graduate psychology classes so that future practitioners can pick up where we left off and benefit from the rapid treatment techniques we’ve developed.

Today we interview Amber Warner, LCSW, Sean Williams, LCSW and Chelsea Dorcich, MFT. Amber is a Level 3 certified TEAM therapist, living and working in Lake County, where she provides mental health care in a rural community. She has a private practice that includes a virtual practice for anyone in the State of California. Amber has been a member of our Tuesday TEAM-CBT group for the past year.

Chelsea is also a Level 3 Certified TEAM therapist with a private practice for anyone in the State of California. Both Chelsea and Amber work at the Feeling Good Institute in Mountain View, California.

Sean is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and also Level 3 TEAM-CBT therapist and co-founder of the TEAM CBT Clinicians of BAD, for Black African Descendants, along with Amber and Chelsea. He is a long-time and beloved member of the Tuesday training group at Stanford. He currently resides in Colorado and works for the Ohio State University where he works with active duty and retired soldiers regarding their PTSD suicidal ideation and trauma. He treats patients and also supports the Ohio State University’s research. He also has a part-time private practice for people who live in Indiana.

Amber got our podcast going by saying:

“My introduction to TEAM-CBT was in 2017, while at a Sunday workshop about 1 1/2 years ago. I’d been struggling with grief after accidently finding out my employer had hired others at a higher salary, so I started a Daily Mood Log and did a downward arrow (this is an uncovering technique) using one of my negative thought. I discovered that my Self-Defeating Belief (SDB) was not included in David’s list of 23 common SDBs.

“I felt like all the weight of the world was on my shoulders because my employer had hired white people with less experience at higher salaries. I asked myself what I was going to do.

“Do I care to stand up for myself? It felt like a heavy dilemma. I decided to face my fear and talk it over with my employer. It took some time, but things eventually turned out in my favor.”

Way to go, Amber!

Amber mentioned that Philip Lolonis, LCSW, a member of our TEAM-CBT community, urged us to create and teach an introductory TEAM-CBT course for African-American clinicians in 2021. Amber reached out to Sean and Chelsea and asked if they'd be interested in creating a “Clinicians of Color” group on Facebook. And that got the ball rolling.

Rhonda asked, “What kinds of challenges have you faced?”

Sean said that one barrier was the whole process of getting licensed. It requires a lot of time and money, nearly always meaning large loans and years of training. One goal of their group is to assist interested people through from initial training through the licensing clinicians, as well as introduce TEAM therapy to the larger therapeutic community.

There are very few Black mental health professionals within the TEAM community. Amber explained that one of their goals is to provide support and encouragement to young Black men and women who might want to enter the counseling profession by attending medical school, or a doctoral or graduate school in counseling or psychology, or obtaining a certified coaching diploma.

Amber also stated that TEAM-CBT has made a powerful impact on her, Chelsea and Sean, so they formed an affinity group, TEAM CBT Clinicians of B.A.D. Their primary goal is to support and encourage clinicians of color to learn and practice TEAM-CBT and explore culturally responsive methods to enhance the therapeutic alliance and improve treatment outcomes.

Sean explained that he was introduced to TEAM and David’s work around the year 2000. He was looking at books in the self-help section of a Barnes and Nobles bookstore, but most of them were too expensive. He said,

“Most of them were too expensive, but then I saw Feeling Good lying on a table, and it was only $8.95, so I purchased it and read about the list of cognitive distortions that David had created. That book changed my world view and changed me as a clinician. I realized that I really wanted to disseminate this information to clinicians of color.”

Sean explains why he resonated with Feeling Good:

“Many of the cognitive theoretical principles were extremely empowering to me. In “Feeling Good” there was a diagram of a man where it demonstrated how human beings process their experiences through thoughts, beliefs and assumptions.

The whole idea of my thoughts impacting my emotions and behaviors was mind blowing to me and still is. It made me recollect on all my past struggles such as relationship break ups, job losses, public speaking anxiety, and so forth, and my reactions towards those situations unbeknownst to me at the time were primarily based on my thoughts about those events.

I believe that it’s important that all people have access to these powerful therapeutic interventions regardless of race, ethnicity or culture. The reason why it’s important to disseminate these powerful tools to people of color is because people of color are reporting high rates of psychological distress but are less likely to get treated for it.

“According to ‘…African Americans are more likely to report feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites. Still, in 2018, 18.6% of white Americans received mental health services, compared to less than 9% of African Americans.’

“I think TEAM-CBT can even help alleviate suffering related to racial stress. Although racism is a non-distorted reality the concepts in “Feeling Good” and the whole TEAM framework can orient a person to adopt the healthiest possible perspective when moving through those realities.”

Chelsea said she learned about TEAM-CBT when she moved to the Bay Area in 2017. She says, "I also found that TEAM was a roadmap and a blessing. I could really connect. This is an amazing framework for everybody!”

We also discussed one pitfall that some clinicians fall into. The idea that our thoughts, and not events, create all of our feelings can be liberating. But it can also be used to invalidate genuine, healthy anger. Racial bias and cruelty are real.

"They are NOT cognitive distortions," she says. "Racial bias is very real. But TEAM-CBT can free us from the inner prison of depression and anxiety and self-doubt that results from distorted perceptions. Of course, sometimes perceptions are totally valid, and sometimes it’s time to fight and stand up for what’s right."

David added that

"We had to do a lot of fighting and protesting in the 1970s, when the Viet Nam war was waging, and the forces of darkness were powerful and destructive. Now, it seems, we have many more battles to fight, and we are lucky to have crusaders like Chelsea, Amber, and Sean.

"Thank you for what you are doing!"

Thank you all for listening today.

Chelsea, Amber, Sean, Rhonda, and David

Following the show, Sean kindly emailed me with some information addressing some of my questions about black people and the mental health system in the United States. He wrote:

Although I was super anxious, I really enjoyed doing the podcast with you two. I used the “Dare to be Average” principles in Feeling Good to help me relax and it worked! Here’s a few additional notes about black people and our mental health system. I hope it helps!

Insights into Diversity

By Sean Williams, LCSW

Why is it important to disseminate TEAM-CBT to people of color?

Data from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that only 2 percent of the estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. are Black, and just 4 percent of psychologists are Black. On college campuses, close to 61 percent of counseling center staff are White, and 13 percent are Black, according to a 2020 Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey.

he shortage of psychiatrists and counselors of color has severe implications for all Black individuals needing treatment. A 2019 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found nearly 5 million, or 16 percent, of Black Americans reported having a mental illness. However, only one in three Black adults who needs mental health care receives it.

Because of the scarcity of mental health professionals of color, it can be difficult for Black Americans to find a practitioner with whom they feel comfortable enough to share any race-related trauma. One 2016 study in the Journal of Black Psychology found that African American therapists and their patients often had relationships marked by a “distinct sense of solidarity … as evidenced by having a better understanding of the context of Black clients’ lives.

For more information, see