I am a 23-year-old Black woman who battles with depression and anxiety. There, I said it, and I am not ashamed of it. I continue to be open about the ongoing battle with my mental health in hopes to inspire the Black woman who is scared to ask for help. The pressures from my own community made me believe that “strong Black women,” are not depressed.
As a Black woman, many of us are taught to “pray the pain away,” and if you show any sign of that pain your family will look down upon you for “letting the devil steal your joy.” Though it is these types of mindsets that pass generational trauma on to our children. I decided that healing is what I wanted to pass down to mine.
My first experience with therapy as an adult was in college. Fortunately, I had the privilege of receiving free treatment through my university’s counseling center. I was bold enough to ask my predominately white school to provide me with a Black therapist, which was the best decision I made. My therapist at the time made my pain feel validated. I was able to be open about my childhood traumas and present frustrations with a woman who understood me. Though, after graduating from college, I was heartbroken when I was notified that the counseling center was only available to full-time students and staff. It was devastating to leave a therapist with whom I had built a strong relationship. I felt comfortable with her and I was able to break walls within myself to be vulnerable. This is when I realized successful therapy depends on a strong client-therapist fit.
“When looking for a therapist it is important to interview them, you must see this as a partnership,” said Beverly Clemons Snowden, licensed marriage and family therapist.
“Feeling a lack of empathy and validation towards your feelings are common reasons you can make out that your therapist is not a right fit,“ she adds. Some major red flags to look for: dismissiveness and stereotypical comments.
After graduating I was angry, and the thought of starting over with a new therapist crippled my ego. It took every ounce of strength in my body to search for a therapist while feeling mentally drained. During my search for a therapist, I witnessed the socioeconomic and cultural barriers that felt like discouragement.
My distrust in seeking treatment from a non-Black therapist stems from the lack of culturally responsive mental health providers that are present in most insurance providers. The white psychiatrist that did my intake not only told me that I was dramatic, but made me feel uncomfortable and not safe to express my feelings. As a Black woman, it was a trigger to hear my white psychiatrist constantly tell me I was overreacting throughout the session, and when I told her my feelings felt invalidated, the only response she could give me was: “I am sorry you feel that way, but we are in a pandemic and people are facing worse things.”
As a Black woman my experience with finding a Black therapist though my insurance provider has been one of the most excruciating encounters I have ever faced. It feels similar to running a marathon that has a hurdle on every corner. My efforts to find a Black therapist eventually translated into “finding a Black therapist that my insurance would cover.”
The struggle I face while being in a vulnerable state reminds me why only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receives it. This is why I want to encourage Black women and men currently in pursuit of a career in the field of psychology. I ask that you do not give up. We need you. We need representation so we feel comfortable when we walk into these offices asking for help. We want to get the proper help without negative feedback. As I continue to search for the correct therapist, these resources have proven helpful:
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Black Therapy Love
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Open Path
I tell my story not to invoke fear, but empathy for any Black woman who shares my experience but did not have a platform to tell her story. There are therapy outlets out there for us, and though our journey may be bumpier there is still a light we are all searching for, and that light is healing.
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