A feature of Humboldt State University’s multicultural specialist and staff psychotherapist
Cedric Aaron Jr. is the new multicultural specialist and staff psychotherapist who has started working for Counseling & Psychological Services this academic year.
Aaron received his master’s degree in social work from Humboldt State University. He was once a counselor in the Arcata community for two years and has been a part of Humboldt County’s mental health field for five years.
Aaron decided to work for HSU because he feels that he can relate to some students of color on campus. He said he is also a first generation college student that had a difficult time transitioning into a predominantly white institution and community.
“I grew up wanting to go to college. I grew up watching ‘The Bill Cosby Show’ and ‘A Different World’,” Aaron said. “Which showed healthy African-American role models that looked like me.”
Aaron said his gift of giving is when he gives back to the community, he doesn’t just want to be known as the “black therapist at CAPS.”
“I want my community to know me outside of my CAPS role,” Aaron said. “Therefore when there is a time and a place to provide services it’s a lot more comfortable on both sides.”
He said when working with communities of color, it’s not just about providing service, but being a part of the community.
“Part of my time is providing direct services not just to students of color here at the clinic, but I have the opportunity to do outreach,” Aaron said. “I’ve interacted with student clubs and organizations. I’m at the cultural centers, on the quad, at events and after work discussions that are being put on by the Cultural Center for Academic Excellence or other campus allies.”
Aaron said he is not sure if students have a hard time coming onto CAPS. He said there is a historical mistrust with communities of color and the mental health field.
“There’s a lack of diversity among the mental health field. It’s not a secret, there’s statistics that show that. It’s a white field,” Aaron said.
Aaron also said he believes there is a lack of cultural competency in the mental health field, and that is something that he would like to keep updated with the CAPS staff.
“I want to influence the CAPS staff so that if any student of color came in, that each and every staff member at least has some cultural awareness,” Aaron said. “Students will feel respected, heard and valued receiving the best adequate care.”
To understand the need of cultural awareness, Aaron wants CAPS staff to continue being honest with themselves if personal values interfere with professional values. Or even if there’s perceived bias, to correct it within oneself. He wants staff to also have a cultural lens when working with students of color, therefore more damage isn’t caused to their holistic well being.
“Be open to not knowing everything, and understanding that on top of mental health related challenges students of color also have to face racism, classism, homophobia and the impostor syndrome,” Aaron said. “Have those ideas in mind when providing the services to students of color rather than standardized form of treatment.”
Aaron wants his work to be meaningful and purposeful. He wants students to know that he’s invested and that he cares about them, and for the CAPS program to be recognized as a safe space for all students.
“My dream is to continue to decrease the stigma in mental health especially among communities of color,” Aaron said. “College is an interesting and challenging time for people. I am Cedric, and I just want to be a support.”