Cultural Competence Classes

In 2019, Walk the Talk America formally partnered with Zephyr Wellness to provide cultural competence classes for mental health clinicians who wish to improve their understanding of firearms culture. The introductory class, At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health, delivers entry-level information on the nuances and intricacies of what constitutes “gun culture” as we know it.

What You’ll Learn
  • Statistics on firearm suicides
  • Myths and stigmas surrounding gun ownership
  • Firearms culture in America
  • Function, handling, use, and safe storage of firearms
  • Live-fire experience on the range
  • Plus, earn 3 CEU credits toward your profession

Attendees receive board-approved continuing education credits while learning about WTTA, its mission and history, and statistics about firearm suicides, as well as the myths and stigma surrounding gun ownership as it relates to the overall hesitation gun owners express about seeking mental health treatment. They also learn about three basic components of the firearms culture in America: beliefs, behaviors, and activities. After that, they receive elementary knowledge on the function, handling, use, and storage of firearms through both classroom instruction and a live-fire experience on the range. The final activity is a debrief conducted by WTTA’s clinician training and the attendees discuss how to apply the knowledge they just received in their clinical setting.

Our long-term goal of these classes is to create a multi-stage certificate program wherein clinicians can advertise themselves as Gun Culture Certified. Roughly 42% of Americans on average either own a firearm or live with someone who does,1 meaning that almost half of the clientele who will ever enter counseling have a gun at home. With firearm suicides on the rise,2 mental health practitioners should become fluent at having conversations with gun owners during their mental health struggles and those involving children of parents who own guns.

Walk the Talk America chiefly desires to prevent suicides by firearm. However, we also aim to increase understanding and appreciation, not just among gun owners about mental health care, but also among counselors about what gun ownership really means. By bringing the two cultures together through formalized education, training, and outreach, we plan to bring more healing to all who need it, free from judgment or fear.

Sources
1. Ruth Igielnik and Anna Brown, Key takeaways on Americans’ views of guns and gun ownership (Pew Research Center, 2017), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/22/key-takeaways-on-americans-views-of-guns-and-gun-ownership.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Increase in Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999–2018,” https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db362.htm.

Upcoming Classes

Founder of WTTA, Michael Sodini, giving a presentation to mental health professionals
At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health — The Introductory Course

This course is the first of three parts. If taken in succession, completion will result in achievement of full WTTA certification in firearms and mental health culture. The introduction course is designed to cover the principles of firearms, firearms culture, and suicide prevention and intervention as they relate to firearms.

At the end of this course, attendees will:

  • Increase understanding of suicide by firearm and its disproportionate presence in American culture, particularly as it relates to overall firearm deaths
  • Improve their understanding of the stigma related to mental health care among gun owners including veterans and first responders
  • Learn how to validate emotional experiences of gun owners
  • Increase their empathy and understanding related to gun culture
  • Improve their understanding of firearms broadly, including types, classes, and uses;
  • Gain new information on expected standards and need for clinical contributions to the field
  • Understand “red flag laws” and transfer laws, along with clinician responsibility and ethical scope in Nevada

Wednesday, October 28

8:30 am – 11:30 am PST

Location: Online

Cost: $45.00 with CEU Certificate (3 CEUs) OR Free for Information Only

Presented by Jake Wiskerchen, Michael Sodini, and Rob Pincus

An instructor with an assault rifle educates class of mental health professionals on its use
At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health — The Introductory Course

This course is the first of three parts. If taken in succession, completion will result in achievement of full WTTA certification in firearms and mental health culture. The introduction course is designed to cover the principles of firearms, firearms culture, and suicide prevention and intervention as they relate to firearms.

At the end of this course, attendees will:

  • Increase understanding of suicide by firearm and its disproportionate presence in American culture, particularly as it relates to overall firearm deaths
  • Improve their understanding of the stigma related to mental health care among gun owners including veterans and first responders
  • Learn how to validate emotional experiences of gun owners
  • Increase their empathy and understanding related to gun culture
  • Improve their understanding of firearms broadly, including types, classes, and uses;
  • Gain new information on expected standards and need for clinical contributions to the field
  • Understand “red flag laws” and transfer laws, along with clinician responsibility and ethical scope in Nevada

Tuesday, December 1

8:30 am – 11:30 am PST

Location: Online

Cost: $45.00 with CEU Certificate (3 CEUs) OR Free for Information Only

Presented by Jake Wiskerchen, Michael Sodini, and Rob Pincus

What makes our class unique?

What makes our training program so special is we are bringing two worlds that have historically been kept apart from each other by bad information. Our class gives mental health professionals the opportunity to come into a relaxed environment to gain a better understanding of “gun culture.” This is important given how many citizens own or work with firearms. On the flip side, we at WTTA get the opportunity to understand the perspective of the mental health clinician. This gives us all a chance to understand the factual laws and what a mental health professional can and can not do.

Clinicians get a better understanding of the fears that gun owners have which helps them shape their approach and language when discussing firearms ownership. Many of the students in the class were unaware that firearm owners have fear in confiding to a therapist about their gun ownership. The common narrative was that clinicians could have your firearms confiscated if you confided that you might be struggling with your mental health. In most states, this is simply not true. Many people avoid seeking help because of this belief, which in some cases, could lead to a mental health crisis that could be deadly. When gun owners feel comfortable that their therapist is Second Amendment/Gun Culture friendly, they may be more apt to get help.

Many people don’t have an issue with guns, they are just aren’t firearm literate. This class gives us the opportunity to come together and talk about it while learning. Shooting a firearm can be a very stressful experience. This class gives the mental health professional a chance to go through the process with individuals that understand that. It’s important to have a firearms instructor on the range that can understand what the first-time shooter is going through. Clinicians get to come off of the range and talk about their experience with WTTA members that understand the emotions that come with firing a gun for the first time.
 
Participants get answers to basic questions like “Why does someone need to own more than one gun?” or “What is the controversy surrounding the AR-15?” Many people are afraid to ask these types of questions to firearms owners because it’s such an emotionally charged subject.
 
Our class is designed to help mental health professionals get a better understanding of the gun-owning community. There are many different types of gun owners in this country and this class presents all the nuance in firearms ownership. Regardless of whether the clinician decides to reexamine their approach to tackling this subject with their patients, they will have a much better understanding of “gun culture.”