La’ Toya Broughton, a Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Clinical Psychology student at Fielding Graduate University, has received the prestigious Research Travel Award 2023 from The Society for Prescribing Psychology, Division 55 of the American Psychological Association (APA). Her groundbreaking research, titled “The Dichotomy of Religion/Spirituality within Black Communities when Prescribing Psychotropics,” has earned her this recognition.

La’ Toya was one of four recipients of the award, and she was honored with public recognition, a plaque, and a monetary prize. What makes her achievement even more exceptional is that she was the only research award recipient invited to the Science in the Morning Poster Competition, which is a testament to the quality and significance of her research presentation.

When asked what receiving the award means to her, La’ Toya shared:

Winning this award is a deeply personal and profound achievement for me. This recognition validates my dedication to understanding the complex dynamics of mental health within underserved communities and signifies a critical step in my journey toward reshaping mental health systems to better serve the most vulnerable populations. The award acknowledges the importance of my topical research presentation, “The Dichotomy of Religion/Spirituality within Black Communities when Prescribing Psychotropics,” and its potential to shed light on a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of mental health treatment. This award holds special significance as it represents more than just academic recognition; it symbolizes my commitment to fostering genuine empathy and respect within the field of clinical psychology. It’s a testament to the countless hours of research, the dedication to understanding the intricate relationship between religion, spirituality, and mental health, and the determination to address the unique challenges faced by Black communities in accessing appropriate mental health care.

Receiving this award at the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, D.C., and being identified as the top poster presenter by Division 55 is not only an honor but also a responsibility. For me, it underlines the importance of my work in bridging the gap between mental health and culture, and it motivates me to continue advocating for the normalization of mental health discussions within underserved communities. Ultimately, this award is a heartfelt reminder that my passion for reshaping mental health systems is not in vain, and it fuels my determination to make a lasting impact in the field of clinical psychology.

Summary for Submission

Mental health awareness has been increasing over the last decade and medications to alleviate various symptoms continue to evolve (WHO, 2022). Despite this, there are still factors (e.g., ethnoracial bias, clinician cultural sensitivity) that contribute to prescribers’ improper choices when prescribing to Black individuals (Buser, 2009; Snowden, 2001). Research highlights the significance that religion/spirituality has on seeking out psychological services, although few studies address attitudes about psychotropic medications and how religion/spirituality contribute (Lawson et al., 2000; Matthews et al., 2006). This review examines research on the role of religion/spirituality on Black communities’ attitudes toward using psychopharmacotherapy.

Socioeconomic inequalities, ethnoracial discrimination, historically unethical research, and medical practices contribute to distrust of prescribing clinicians and psychotropics (André Christie-Mizell, 2015; Breland-Noble et al., 2006; Keating & Robertson, 2004; McKenzie & Bhui, 2007). Studies reflect the Black community’s refuge in religious/spiritual leaders, yet these factors may be attributed to the stigma of taking psychotropics (Ward et al., 2009). Consequently, the Black community may rely on religion/spirituality instead of psychopharmacotherapy.

Overall, prescribers should consider the influence of religion/spirituality on Black individuals’ receptiveness to psychotropic medications. Future studies should explore the role of intersecting identities on attitudes about psychotropic medications. Clinicians should receive comprehensive cultural sensitivity training on factors that contribute to the Black community’s distrust. Traditionally, responsiveness and responsibility of obtaining psychotropic medication and/or education have been the sole responsibility of individuals within the Black community. Instead, it should be equally the duty of clinicians to learn about this topic.

About La’ Toya Broughton

La' Toya Broughton

La’ Toya Broughton

La’ Toya Broughton is a passionate mental health advocate and aspiring clinical psychologist dedicated to championing the needs of underserved populations. Her unwavering commitment lies in reshaping mental health systems to better serve the vulnerable, ensuring that resources reach those who need them most. La’ Toya is driven to blend her extensive research experience with her innate compassion, seeking to analyze service efficacy and implementation, with the overarching goal of addressing client concerns from a place of profound empathy and respect. Her research pursuits, which have encompassed children of varied backgrounds, illuminate the intricate interplay between education and psychology, probing into the factors influencing children’s behavioral and mental well-being, and unraveling the educational disparities across diverse cultures. La’ Toya’s journey is further enriched by her hands-on experience working with youth in agencies and overseeing a social service department, in addition to currently working with adult individuals within the realm of community mental health. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Texas Tech University, her short-term aspiration is to complete the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Clinical Psychology at Fielding Graduate University to refine her research skills, deepen her understanding of clinical psychology practices, and gain multifaceted expertise. In the long term, La’ Toya envisions owning a consulting firm and private psychological/behavioral health practice where she will offer not only traditional therapeutic services but also research-informed consultation to educational institutions, organizations, businesses, and corporations, emphasizing the critical role of mental health in productivity and societal normalization. Her ultimate goal is to shape mental health policies at local, state, and national levels, making a lasting impact on the field of clinical psychology. La’ Toya’s academic journey, rich in research experiences and resilience, has primed her to successfully navigate her path toward becoming a licensed clinical psychologist, driven by an unwavering passion for mental health advocacy across cultures, but particularly intracultural focuses within the Black community.

About the Author: Fielding News

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