Not long ago I viewed a YouTube video entitled, “Black Folks Don’t Go to Therapy.” How could that be true when I know otherwise? As a practicing psychologist I work primarily with racial and ethnic minorities and many of them are in fact Black. I have come to realize that, yes, Black folks do go to therapy. However, what is more accurate is that Black folks do go to therapy with someone they feel they can trust and that has their best interest at heart.
It is true that the field of psychology, much like the medical system and pretty much any other institution of “care,” has explicitly and implicitly harmed people of color. Misdiagnosis, premature use of psychiatric medication, unnecessary psychiatric hospitalizations, and ineffective therapeutic care is a real reality for Black folks and one that I dare not take lightly. These realistic concerns far too often serve as barriers to seeking help.
Many researchers have identified stigma, lack of knowledge, lack of affordability, lack of trust, impersonal service, self-consciousness, age, social class, and lack of cultural understanding as primary factors that impact Black individuals attitudes about seeking. This poses the question, how can Black folks get beyond these legitimate barriers to get the support they deserve in an effective and culturally competent manner?
The following outlines a few strategies for those interested in seeking mental and emotional support:
Before the first session: Engage in a little self evaluation. What kind of support do you need? What patterns are you noticing in your life that cause you distress? What are your “symptoms”? How do you feel about seeking counseling/therapy? What kind of counselor/therapist do you want? Take some time to get recommendations from trusted friends or research on the Internet for providers in your area. Generally, there are profiles listed that offer you a picture of the provider, a summary of their therapeutic style, format and cost of their services. Be picky. Determine the characteristics needed in a provider that will help you to feel most vulnerable and safe.