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Poverty and Mental Health Practice: Within and Beyond the 50-Minute Hour


Please address correspondence to: Lisa A. Goodman, Department of Counseling and Developmental Psychology, School of Education, Campion 310, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. E-mail:


Despite the high and increasing prevalence of poverty in the United States, psychologists and allied professionals have done little to develop mental health interventions that are tailored to the specific sociocultural experiences of low-income families. In this article, we describe the sociocultural stressors that accompany the material deprivations of poverty, and the mental health difficulties to which they often give rise. Next, we outline the psychosocial and class-related issues surrounding low-income adults’ access to and use of mental health services and suggest a conceptual framework to guide the modification of mental health practice to better accommodate poor peoples’ complex needs. This framework describes opportunities for practice modification at three levels of intervention, beginning at the individual level of traditional individual psychotherapy and subsequently targeting increasingly broad contextual elements of poverty.