Many people often ask me, “What made you want to be a therapist?” and I often follow up with the common answer – something along the lines of, I always knew I wanted to help others and love listening to people vent about their problems and be able to help them feel better.
But really, it’s much deeper than that.
You see, therapy and mental health seem to be taboo topics in the black community. Mention the word therapist and you suddenly feel a cold sensation in the room – everyone gets quiet, gives you the side eye or mentions the word ‘crazy‘.
I grew up in a family where I firmly believe no one ever sought therapy, and if they did, they DEFINITELY weren’t telling anyone about it. You grow up believing that what happens at home, stays at home. You don’t tell strangers your business. You pray about it or go to church when you are going through hard times. “There’s nothing that shrink can do for you that you can’t do for yourself”.
But, where has that mindset gotten us? Being scared to acknowledge that we are struggling mentally and forcing ourselves to ‘get over it’ usually results in our thoughts and behaviors becoming maladaptive as a means of coping with what’s going on rather than being able to effectively process it. Fear of being ‘crazy’ or being called ‘crazy’ prevents us from getting the help that we may really need.
You go to a doctor when you’re physically sick. You go to the dentist when you have a toothache. So why is attending therapy when you’re stressed a no go?
I do believe that part of the reason is because we as black people do not feel connected to or feel that we can relate to a therapist, especially one that is not a person of color. The Behavioral Health community is saturated with white providers. In talking to my clients, I’ve learned that many feel that it’s hard to relate to a white provider versus a provider of color. How can you expect me to go into a room with a random old, white woman and spill my life story out to her and feel like she understands what I’ve been through?
Wanting to change that and make the mental health field more diverse, I continued on my path to becoming a therapist. Being able to be a person of color, being able to represent our community to 1) normalize mental health treatment and 2) allow people of color to see that they have options to treatment and can find someone they can relate to or connect with.
Working in the more under-served communities of Washington, DC, I’ve learned that our people feel more comfortable exploring mental health treatment and therapy when they don’t feel like they’re crazy, when they feel like their therapist is just another person of their community that they can relate to and when it’s not forced down their throat to get services. Less pathologizing and diagnosing them with disorders because of the way they deal with the stressors that life has presented them and more empathizing and normalizing their experiences has proven so much more successful in the black community.
And that’s the approach that I aim to continue to take. I hope to shift the perceptions of Mental Health and the therapeutic process, to make it more accessible and relatable for people of color and to normalize the experiences.
Currently, I work as a Therapist in the Southeast and Northeast communities of Washington, DC. I work with both children and adults and specialize in exposure to trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault and the stressors of foster care. I am trained in and most frequently practice Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). Although these are the primary theories in which I practice, I implement various interventions and techniques from other theoretical orientations as well.