Therapy While Black
“We don’t need therapy. We just need to pray.”
“Everything will be better. Just keep moving!”
“Honey, we’re Black women. We don’t have time to be upset.”
“Why do you need to go to therapy? So you can tell all our business?”
If you’ve ever experienced a mental health issue, you’ve probably tried to “therapy while Black,” or TWB as I’ll call it. While trying to TWB, we run into all sorts of phrases and stigmatized beliefs like the ones above. And the hard part is, the folks who say it aren’t trying to be mean or discouraging. They’re trying to support you towards wellness; it’s just steeped in some unhelpful belief. When we think about therapy and mental health challenges, both are highly stigmatized.
Especially in historically oppressed and marginalized groups.
When a member of one of these groups is having difficulty, we tend to fall back on the, “we’ve been through worse,” mentality. We cling to our spiritual beliefs, hoping that through divine intervention and no good works of our own, we’ll be able to solder through. We try to hide our difficulties, burying them with the rest of our well-hidden generational traumas and curses. We’ve spent so long trying to overcome oppression, barriers, prejudice, hate, discrimination, and removal of basic human rights based on our identities, that we don’t even have the energy to care for our well-being. But mental wellness is just as important as other wellness and we need to act like it.
I am the daughter of a social worker and a trained mental health clinician. I still have to convince myself to take care of my mental health. I had to make myself go to grief counseling instead of it being a natural thing to address. It’s hard to overcome all of these beliefs that I should be strong because I’m a Black woman and that’s, “what we do.” But we’re just as gentle and in need of love and care as anyone else. I think that since I work in behavioral health, I should be able to withstand more stress and anxiety than folks not trained in it. But Black behavioral health professionals need as much wellness shepherding as those they serve. I think that since I am a Christian woman, that I will be able to pray my way through everything. Although prayer is a part of it, I believe God sends the people (like therapists, coaches, and mentors!) who can fulfill those prayers.
The point is, Black mental health is super important.
And you know what? I’m really excited to be here, in 2023, where there’s resources for people of color to get the care they need. I’m glad to be a part of the behavioral health system that serves people and creates safe environments for LGBTQ+ folks. What a blessing to be in a time when gender as a barrier for care is something that is actively being overcome. How wild is it that, although there's work to do, we have people who represent us in the behavioral health field?
This blog post has no tips or tricks. This is a personal expression of gratitude for BIPOC behavioral health professionals, joy for the resources, and a hope that we’ll continue to destigmatize mental health care in all communities of color.