The stigma around mental health and seeking therapy is often a barrier that prevents many black women from seeking the help they need. When a friend or family member suggests that you go to therapy the immediate reaction is often "What's wrong with me?" Now if it were a physical illness the reaction may be different, but the negative stigma behind mental illness creates a sense of feeling insecure. At other times, one may feel that she is not strong enough to overcome whatever is happening in life on her own or through prayer.
Now don't get me wrong, I pray multiple times a day for strength and guidance, but I also believe that God placed people here to help us through our earthly journey. For those who choose therapy, please know that you are just as strong as – or maybe stronger – for seeking professional help. It takes a healthy amount of courage to admit that you need help. Not many people want to admit that they are depressed, anxious, grieving, or overly impulsive, and definitely don't want backlash from their community for seeking help.
In addition to the stigma surrounding mental health, a lack of trust is among the factors that hinder black women from seeking help. The first step in any relationship is finding someone you are compatible with and feel comfortable around. There is no difference when finding a therapist.
Before you choose one, ask yourself is the therapist inviting, genuine, and honest? For some, finding a therapist that is culturally competent and comfortable with information regarding race, gender and sexuality is of extreme importance. If you think having a high-quality culturally competent therapist is for you, check out this specialized therapist directory created by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford of Therapy for Black Girls.
Finding a therapist may be one of the most challenging parts of the process, but don't give up. After completing your first session, be sure to reflect on what you liked and didn't about your therapist. If you decide not to continue therapy, it would be advantageous to still attend a follow-up session to share your reflections. The therapist may be able to adapt and adjust his or her approach or refer you to someone who may be a better fit. You may have to try a few therapists out before you find "the one," but this is the most important part of self-advocacy. Lastly, if you have an amazing therapist don't be afraid to recommend them to others if you think it could benefit them!
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