For nearly two years, we’ve experienced collective trauma. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a flood of anxiety, stress, fear, loss, and instability across the world, creating a mental health crisis. Black people shot and killed by police, mass protests, the Capitol riot, and systemic racism have brought another level of pain.
Naturally, Black therapists have been in high demand, despite being underrepresented in their field. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2019 there were approximately 106,000 licensed psychologists in the U.S., yet only 3 percent are Black.
It’s difficult finding a therapist, not to mention finding a therapist that looks like you. This was important to me as a Black woman when I began my search years ago. Finding one who was a good fit and that I could establish trust with was worth the effort.
Within the Black community, there is a stigma towards seeking help for mental health. There is this notion that you don’t need to “tell all your business” to a complete stranger or that there is nothing that prayer and faith can’t fix. These things have done nothing but hold us back from true healing and breaking out of emotional bondage.
After a sexual assault while I was in college, the shame prevented me from seeking professional help. I left school and returned home. My mother took it upon herself to make an appointment for me with a therapist. She did this out of love and concern; however, I walked into that office reluctant and not knowing anything about the therapist other than her name. I was uncomfortable, and she made no effort to get to know me. She barely looked up, as she asked generic questions. I felt as if she were just going through the motions. Worse, I picked up on her language towards me. It lacked empathy and at times seemed as if she was trying to get a certain reaction. The hour passed slowly. I left and never went back.
Needless to say, it would take years before I would seek therapy again. What I knew for sure was that I desired a therapist that I could connect with — a Black woman. But I did some things differently the next time around in order to achieve the outcome I needed. Truth is, you don’t have to wait until something happens or goes wrong in your life to seek therapy. I view it as part of my self-care; it’s regular maintenance as I go through life and grow in life.
Finding the Right Therapist Is Important
It is a brave step to seek mental health support and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So, it’s important to find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and you can actually build a strong partnership with to help you achieve your goals. Trust is everything. As mentioned, the stigma of seeking treatment can be a huge barrier with cultivating trust. Research shows that over 50 percent of Black Americans subscribed to negative beliefs about seeking treatment for mental illness, despite the huge impact racism has on mental health. This fact is important to acknowledge, as you want your therapist to be understanding of the misconceptions that you may have and take a nonjudgmental approach in helping you feel at ease.
In my situation with my first therapist, I felt as though I were just a number and that she had heard it all before. But my traumatic experience was not anyone else’s; it was mine. I needed her to help me and not judge me.
Where to Find a Black Therapist
Once you’ve made a decision to seek therapy along with knowing what you’re hoping to achieve, you can begin your search. Start with asking friends and family for referrals or contact your insurance company. There are so many databases now that can connect you with therapy services (with or without insurance). The great thing is that they allow you to specifically locate Black therapists in your area:
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Therapy for Black Men
- Melanin and Mental Health
- Health in Her Hue (app)
- Open Path Collective
A couple of years ago, a friend suggested that I follow Dr. Joy Harden Bradford on Instagram. Dr. Bradford is a clinical psychologist based in Atlanta. I began watching her weekly “lives” and listening to her podcast Therapy for Black Girls. I utilized her platform of the same name to find a Black woman therapist in my area. I scheduled a free consultation to determine if we were a good fit for each other. To be honest, the first one was not a good fit. Not that she wasn’t qualified; I was seeking a particular treatment and she did not practice that approach. After going back through the process, I was able to connect with one who was perfect for me.
If you can’t find a Black therapist who is available in your area, consider searching for telehealth therapists. Some providers are out-of-state, meaning they can provide services in states they do not reside in. Check the databases mentioned above, as many will indicate whether or not they provide this service. With the pandemic, many providers have incorporated telehealth services into their practice.
I have been asked why I specifically wanted a Black therapist. It’s interesting that no one asks why I prefer a woman therapist over a man therapist. It’s because most people can understand why as a woman, I’d feel more comfortable with another one. A Black woman therapist specifically understands my experiences as a Black woman.
The beauty of creating your self-care means that you are allowed to seek and have safe spaces where you don’t have to explain your humanity, choices, have your experiences questioned (gaslighting), or deal with microaggressions. Therapy is supposed to be a nurturing space for your healing and growth. It’s all about you. Make the best choice for you. You deserve that.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.