Why we peer counsel
We started this project to address the ways mental health needs in our community were not being and have never been adequately met. This is because the structural conditions for healing have not been possible.
This project is also an offering in the middle of a pandemic and an uprising against continued violence against Black people. The COVID-19 crisis has meant that many of us are living in isolation and financial uncertainty. At the same time, activists and organizers across the country are facing violent crackdown from police as they demand full abolition. Given these conditions, we offer peer counseling to our community members because...
- Some of us cannot afford care
- Some of us have been turned away from formal mental health care because of insurance issues.
- Some of us have been turned away because of discrimination based on immigration status, gender, sexuality and race
- Healthcare providers are not equipped to serve our needs or do not share our experiences
- We avoid formal mental health care because it defaults to law enforcement, institutionalization, medicalization, and jailing
- The healing practices that we rely on are often not institutionally supported-- researched or peer reviewed, reimbursable by insurance, commonly offered by service providers, or taught to providers in school, etc.
Why do we need alternative mental healthcare?
The origins of mental healthcare in the U.S. are rooted in racist, capitalist, and ableist notions of wellness. Mental healthcare has been institutionalized in the form of asylums, hospitals, prisons, and detention centers that aim to control, criminalize, and pathologize Black people, disabled people, trans and queer people, poor people, and other folks who hold marginalized and intersecting identities. Our criticism of the medical industrial complex draws from years of organizing and research led by Black abolitionists and disability justice organizers who have worked to envision a world where we are cared for and safe without prisons and police.
Traditional therapy is born out of a hierarchical clinical model where therapists-- often wealthy, institutionally educated, white men-- are viewed as the expert of their clients’ experiences. Folks in those professions are given the power to report on and punish their clients and their families, hand down or withhold diagnoses, prescribe or not prescribe medication, and gatekeep entire communities’ access to healing resources. Peer counseling is the practice of being held with and by each other - a model that rejects institutions that seek to punish and cage, and instead builds towards a world where we keep one another safe and healthy. In this way, we consider peer counseling an abolitionist offering.
In offering peer counseling to Asian people, Black people, Native and Indigenous people, Latinx people and color, and other people of color, we reject the idea of what is considered “mentally healthy” as defined by white supremacy, and offer a supportive place for people of color to reflect, process and heal from racial trauma and other structures of oppression. We hope to create infrastructures for all of us to talk about our mental health and the ways that white supremacy, racism, anti-blackness, sexism, classism, ableism impede our abilities to live and thrive with and amongst each other.
We also understand that healing from racial trauma must also occur in conjunction with material shifts in our world - namely, that people not only have spaces to heal and but also have the material conditions (i.e safety, food, shelter, etc.) to embark on healing. We understand peer counseling as just one piece of that puzzle.
On racial identity and who we serve
As a group of non-Black and non-Indigenous Asian people, we offer this service knowing that there are Black and Indigenous folks, both Asian and non-Asian, in our community who may desire free mental health support in a time when such resources are in high demand. We know that our identities and experiences as non-Black and non-Indigenous Asian counselors inform how we counsel in a session. We are committed to making this a supportive space for Black and Indigenous people who seek our service. You can read more about our peer counseling model here.
We recognize that there are a variety of therapy modalities, healing practices and sources of mental health support that center Black and Indigenous folks. At this time we do not offer referrals to other services or organizations, though we hope in the future to build partnerships with mental health collectives that specifically serve Black and Indigenous folks. In the meantime, we have put together a crowdsourced resource list of other mental health services. We hope that this is a helpful starting point for people who desire additional or different support.