Disentangling the Consequences of Systemic Racism and Clinical Paranoia to Promote Effectiveness of a Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Persecutory Delusions in Minoritized Individuals: A Case-Example
Moussa-Tooks AB., Sheffield JM., Freeman D., Brinen AP.
While everyone experiences threats, some threats are culturally specific and not universally recognized or addressed by providers. A prominent example is threat-based worry and hypervigilance in Black Americans and other minoritized individuals, which is higher due to systemic racism and increases risk for psychopathology like clinically significant paranoia. To date, there have been no adaptations of cognitive-behavioral therapies for Black Americans with psychosis, despite the long-standing history of systemic racism in the United States, and its increasingly recognized contribution to psychotic experiences. Accordingly, we present the first step towards developing an adapted cognitive-behavioral intervention for Black and minoritized Americans with psychosis. This adaptation of an empirically supported worry-based treatment for persecutory delusions was accomplished by comprehensive conceptualization and integration of how systemic racism and minoritization drive the prevalence and perception of threats. This contrasts with conceptualizing racism-related hypervigilance and cognitions as worry or ignoring these critical experiences altogether, which is invalidating and neglects optimal identification and intervention on behavioral targets. Using a validating and normalizing approach, the individual was able to identify how frequent threats related to systemic racism resulted in increased worry, vigilance, and distress. By identifying and intervening on the perception of threat and associated worry, the individual engaged in more helpful responses to the threat, which in turn increased participation in more meaningful activities and reduced worry and clinical paranoia. This case illustrates how accurate conceptualization clarifies behavioral targets and increases patient engagement, which together enhance the effectiveness of the intervention for minoritized individuals.