Mental Health Mentor: Isabelle Lanser

BIPOC mental health professional shares thoughts during mental health awareness month

Isabelle Lanser, M.A., C.Phil.

University of California, Los Angeles

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, we sat down and interviewed our Mental Health Mentor Isabelle Lanser. As a woman of color in the mental health industry, she walked us through some of the challenges she faces in her profession. 

About Isabelle

Isabelle Lanser is a first-generation Haitian/Swedish-American who grew up on the East Coast. She received her B.A. in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and is now pursuing her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at UCLA. 

During her undergraduate studies, her research focused on helping people who have experienced serious mental health episodes reintegrate into their lives after hospitalization. In graduate school, her primary research area is in understanding loneliness, social connection, and building community care services to respond to mental health crises. Additionally, Isabelle is interested in making emergency responses to mental health crises more equitable. 

As a clinician, Isabelle enjoys working with young adults navigating depression and anxiety. 

What has your experience been as a woman of color in the mental health field?

Isabelle: “It’s an interesting time to be entering this profession. Communities of color have long been denied access to mental health services, and in the last decade there has been a push to expand access to care, but there is still a lack of representation on the provider level. It feels like we’re in the middle of a generational shift, and as a provider in training, it often feels like I’m straddling a generational divide.” 

How are BIPOC individuals affected by mental health disparities?

I: “There has been improvement in access to care for BIPOC and people with marginalized identities. However, a significant challenge is the interconnectedness of the mental health system and the justice system. When someone experiences a mental health crisis, police respond the majority of the time, which disproportionately places BIPOC and people with marginalized identities at risk for compounded trauma. Experiences like this can also serve as a deterrent for people seeking help.”

Do you feel there is adequate representation in the mental health field?

I: “The mental health field has a long way to go in terms of diversifying providers, especially among providers at the doctoral level. Around 80% of the psychology workforce is white, so clinicians of color are working overtime to close this gap. I think social media has been a great resource for BIPOC and those with other marginalized identities to find providers and resources that match their needs. Communities like @therapyforblackgirls is a great example of this.”

What’s one thing you would say you would improve about the field?

I: “I think it’s critical that we as a field develop and fund alternatives to involuntary and coercive care (e.g., involuntary hospitalization). For example, if there were more same-day crisis centers outside of hospital settings, people would be more receptive to receiving care. We need to provide a space where people can regroup and consult with a licensed professional without the risk of involuntary commitment. I hope that my work will help push our field in this direction.” 

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