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What Every Black Therapist Wants Her Potential Black Clients to Know. 

FEB 8 2021 | 6 MINS                                                

Written By Brandie Janay Sanders

Black Mental Health Matters.  

We have learned from the Black Emotional And Mental Health Collective that “Black people are 7 times more likely to live in areas with limited access to mental health care. There is a shortage of black mental health providers, and only a third of Black people who need mental health services receive treatment.” Every black therapist wants you to know that we hold ourselves to a very different standard than some of our counterparts. We know the struggles of systemic racism and discrimination and the effects it has on mental health personally. We want to encourage people of color to seek out therapeutic intervention as opposed to chucking up certain things as,” just the way it is.” 

Therapy is not just for white people.

As Eddie Huang said in a recent NY Times article, “…people on the margins aren’t afforded the privilege of being complicated, whole, human beings in America; we have to create that existence ourselves.” Therapy is a place to be human. And black people, like all people, need to feel human. We hear it all the time when black people, especially youth have a struggle they are encouraged to simply, “Get over it.” Each and every time the black community dismisses the vital role of therapy, we contribute to the very construct we want to end. Every time we tell a seemingly healthy and successful young person that therapy is not for them simply because “black people don’t do that”, we silently tell them the same thing that racism does—there is no room for you to be more than what we have already defined you to be. In the words of Esther Boykin, “the resistance to and outright demeaning of mental health within the black community is the antithesis of everything that civil rights stand for. Movements like Black Lives Matter, Because of Them We Can, and the Civil Rights movement boil down to one common denominator—humanity. Therapy, at its core, is the honoring and healing of the humanity within each of us.” 

We understand why people of color are resistant to therapy.

We get it… literally. You may have been taught all your life that your higher power is the only help you need. You may have had bad experiences with school counselors or school social workers in the past. Well, let me say every single back therapist is more than aware of the ways our profession continues to silence Black voices while upholding a system of White centering and white supremacist ideology. That is why we are here. We want to make sure your voice is heard and heard accurately. We want to represent black mental health and wellness and be clear that white supremacy has no place in Mental Health. 

We advocate for you in more ways than you know.

We advocate for you in more ways than you know. In a room full of predominantly white coworkers we ask the hard questions to help others check their own privilege and biases. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “this client does not like me because I am not black.” Well, in fact, this may be true. It is because you are not black or is because you are defensive to the fact they have doubted your ability to address their shortcomings without bias or aversion to their stories of pain. We challenge others the work who are not black to ask themselves: Are you effectively-prepared to validate and acknowledge the different experiences a black client faces? And yes, this goes beyond the one cultural competency class you may have had in college. The black therapist wants people of color to understand we are unafraid to ask the difficult questions and to discuss race openly in an effort to promote quality care. 

We are not here to give you advice.

If that were the case you would talk to your friends. Therapy is not advice-giving. It is actually the opposite. We are not here to tell you what to do and quite frankly….we won’t because that's not our job to know. It is common to hear people say “I do not want to talk to another person with problems about my problems.” Well, why not? The fact that your therapist has personal struggles of her own has no impact on their ability to help you process your own struggles. In fact, you could argue it makes them more equipped to help you process your own challenges. We Don’t Have The Answers to your problem and no, I am not your Yes-man and do not have to agree with you to help you. We are here to help you reach sound conclusions on your own through reflection, vulnerability, and self-awareness. Therapy at its core is meant to help you recognize that you deserve every opportunity to create happiness and health in your life, despite adversity. You deserve the opportunity to feel fully human and express yourself without judgment. The real freedom from oppression is not in hiding our struggles but in owning them and having the courage to openly seek the tools and resources available to help us heal, instead of dismissing them as normalities of culture. 

FEB 2, 2021 | 6 MINS                                         

DEC 30, 2020 | 3 MINS                                   

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