Black therapists are not only tasked with addressing the psychological well-being of their Black clients but also serve as cultural translators and advocates for them. Because of this, it’s often beneficial for Black people to have a Black therapist who fully understands what they endure daily. Alma, a mental healthcare company, shared insights from Black therapists into the top concerns they often encounter in their work with Black clients.

The Weight of Performance Expectations

The Black community can often feel pressure to excel and surpass expectations, often at the expense of mental and emotional well-being. The necessity to navigate predominantly white spaces while upholding a facade of strength and resilience contributes to the burden of performance expectations.

Joycy Lacombe, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, says the pervasive pressure to perform is deeply engrained in the psyche of Black individuals.

“There is this pervasive feeling to perform, over-perform, and produce to survive. It has been passed down through generational trauma, and it’s time for us to give ourselves permission to be released from this ideology about our identity,” she noted.

Lacombe specializes in trauma and employs neurological interventions to help clients break free from negative thinking patterns and forge healthier neural pathways. Her approach acknowledges the historical burden of performance expectations while offering tangible strategies for liberation.

Imposter Syndrome and Workplace Microaggressions

Leslie Davis, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, shared her experience with certain Black women who question their abilities.

“I often work with high-achieving Black women who struggle with imposter syndrome and experience microaggressions in the workplace where they don’t feel safe to make reports to HR but they feel safe to share their experiences with me as a Black therapist,” Davis emphasized.

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon commonly experienced by high-achieving individuals. But within the context of the Black community, it is exacerbated by systemic racism. Black women, in particular, face intersecting challenges as they navigate both gender and racial biases in the workplace. The reluctance to report microaggressions to HR reflects a broader issue of distrust in organizational support systems.

As Alexis Fintchre, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, elucidates, imposter syndrome manifests in “debating the worthiness of the accolades they earn/receive.”

Fintchre’s observation sheds light on the internal struggle faced by many Black individuals as they navigate predominantly white spaces. They feel there’s an expectation to “dull their Blackness” to conform to Eurocentric norms, which adds another layer of complexity.

Confronting Racism and Inequality

Racism and inequality permeate every aspect of society, exerting a profound impact on the mental health of Black people. From systemic injustices to interpersonal discrimination, the cumulative effects of racism can lead to feelings of invalidation, anger, and despair.

Black therapists like Dawn Bell, recognizes the importance of validating clients’ experiences while equipping them with coping mechanisms to navigate oppressive systems.

“I often hear about the negative impacts of racism and inequality in my treatment of Black clients. I validate their experience, provide effective strategies to combat the symptoms, and advocate for self-actualization,” Bell shared.

By validating experiences and offering strategic coping mechanisms, Bell empowers her clients to confront systemic injustices while nurturing their journey towards self-actualization.

Breaking Generational Curses and Healing Family Dynamics

The legacy of generational trauma weighs heavily on many Black people. From economic disparities to patterns of communication and emotional expression, there is a chain that many are looking to break.

Therapists like Shani Philip, specialize in addressing these intergenerational wounds, guiding clients through processes of introspection, forgiveness, and healing.

“The Black clients I work with present with issues in family dynamics, specifically their desire to break generational curses, including cycles of poverty and other effects of systemic racism as well as communication styles within the family unit,” she shared.

Philip guides her clients toward breaking cycles of adversity, fostering empathy, and nurturing healthier familial relationships.

“I work with many clients who are new parents and we spend a lot of time doing inner child work which includes unpacking the emotions, needs, and experiences of their younger selves,” she continued to explain. “Through healing the wounds of the past, they find that they can break the cycles and be more empathetic and emotionally available in parenting their children.”

Overcoming Mistrust in Mental Health Services

Historical injustices, such as the exploitation of Black bodies in medical research have created a deep-seated mistrust in mental health services within the Black community. This skepticism is compounded by contemporary disparities in access to care and the underrepresentation of Black professionals in the mental health field.

Therapists like Cherise Small recognize the importance of building trust and rapport with their clients, prioritizing cultural competence and sensitivity in their practice.

“I find that my Black clients often express concerns about whether therapy will be effective and have mistrust in the mental health system, fearing judgment or lack of support,” she explained. “I begin by creating a welcoming environment, assuring them of my support, and building rapport. This foundation allows us to develop a safe space where I offer compassion and support, encouraging them to share their deepest thoughts and feelings without fear.”

Small prioritizes the establishment of a safe and welcoming therapeutic environment, dismantling barriers to effective mental health care.