Race-Based Stress and Empowerment Program (RBSTE) is both a group-based intervention for Veterans of color who have experienced race-based stressors and racial trauma, as well as a consultation program for mental health providers to learn how to conduct a group of this nature. The intervention incorporates and adapts evidence-based psychotherapeutic practices including mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive and behavioral strategies, and empowerment. The current format has eight modules that are designed to promote healing, self-care, engagement in healthcare, community engagement, and active coping styles.
People of color, especially Black/African Americans and Latinos, experience a myriad of health disparities. Veterans of color have been shown to also experience an increased risk of mental health diagnoses such as mood disorder and PTSD. Although racism has been identified as a factor leading to these racial/ethnic health disparities, few interventions have existed to address this factor, even fewer in a formalized package, and none designed with a Veteran focus. Even VA’s website on PTSD in Minority Veterans highlights the need for novel interventions. The RBSTE intervention is designed to mitigate the toxic effects of racism on health, such as increased depression, anxiety, anger, and PTSD symptoms, and lessen health disparities by increasing active coping and engagement in healthcare.
Veterans have expressed strong statements about the group such as “RBSTE empowered me to find my voice and speak my truth, unapologetically from a proud black skin,” and “The program is very valuable for Veterans like me who have never had the opportunity to have their concerns listened to, and who were never treated like their concerns really mattered.” The RBSTE group consultation team has assisted in starting these groups in over 25 VA facilities serving hundreds of Veterans. In one VA setting, approximately 40% of Veterans were engaged in mental healthcare for the first time or re-engaged for unmet needs.