How inclusive is mental healthcare? Studies have raised questions on the adequacy of treatments for Black people and people of colour. Researching this in the Dutch context, this paper argues that while participants overall had good experiences, these were mostly achieved in spite of the current mental health system, rather than because of it. First, the history of psychology is examined, showing its racial origins. Then, conversations with ten clients of colour, using a narrative method, are analysed using concepts from Critical Race Theory. This research reveals several important factors in experiences with mental health in general, thresholds to mental healthcare and the care itself. Thresholds can be: being perceived as different, a high pressure to perform, being expected to do emotional labour and cultural values. Part of these experiences might be caused by therapy being (perceived as) a Western phenomenon. To lower these thresholds and provide people of colour with adequate mental healthcare, cultural sensitivity is needed. However, participants report a lack of cultural sensitivity in Dutch mental healthcare. To close the gap between White people and people of colour in Dutch mental healthcare, this paper recommends further research in the context of the Netherlands. Specifically, this can be achieved by examining current policies of mental healthcare institutions, and testing certain forms of cultural sensitivity in order to improve policies and trainings for therapists.

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Maja Hertoghs, Samira van Bohemen
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Kooijman, M. (2021, June 20). From craniology to cultural sensitivity: An explorative research on the experience of people of colour with Dutch mental healthcare. Sociology. Retrieved from