Why my Black Female Therapist is Important
There once was a superstition, in the Black community, that going to a therapist means one is bizarre, crazy, or out of his/her/their mind. However, seeking therapy isn’t as taboo as people had assumed. Millennials appear to be having more conversations regarding their trauma, stress, and overall mental health. Having a therapist or life coach seems to be what’s in nowadays but is it really beneficial? How does one even start the process of getting on someone’s big comfy couch… or shall we say Telehealth… to get help?
This interview-style blog is a collaborative piece about why we chose to seek therapy from black female therapists.
1. In general, what led you to seek therapy?
My depression and anxiety led me to seek out therapy. I was dealing with a lot of life transitions at once: laid off work, bills beginning to pile up, looking for a new place to move, the passing of my grandmother, and no longer able to afford my previous therapist. I felt as if I had become a burden to others by always coming to them with my problems, and oftentimes felt as if I was misunderstood by what I was trying to express. I needed an outlet to serve as my safe haven so that I can feel at peace again.
This go-’round, I sought out a therapist because I was feeling anxious. Anxious about my relationships with people in my life, my disposition in this world, and my concern for feeling very overwhelmed. Prior to this, I hadn’t met with a therapist in approximately two years. I assumed after receiving new insurance that I was not covered for mental health services. While I wanted to sign up for mental health apps and meet with therapists, insurance aside, that was a bill I was unable to foot. I began to feel burdened by stressors weighing me down and finally called my insurance company to learn that I am covered and that the list of qualified therapists I was allotted to meet with was extensive.
2. How did you find your therapist?
I found my therapist via recommendation from another black female therapist that I found on TherapyForBlackGirls.com. She was unable to take any new clients at that time, so she suggested a few different places for me to reach out to based on my insurance and location. I was grateful for her recommendation because, without it, I may not have found my therapist as quickly as I did.
One of my homegirls was raving about her therapist. She was enthused about their sessions and shared that she felt seen by her. Because my homegirl and I have the same insurance provider, I asked for her therapist’s information, contacted my insurance company to learn if this therapist was in my network, and emailed that therapist immediately after being approved.
3. Why did you choose a Black Female therapist?
I chose a black female therapist because it was important for me to have someone who could relate to me. I wanted to ensure that I was comfortable expressing how I felt about not only being a woman but the stressors I faced being black. I sat in a room with a white female therapist once and never went back.
Choosing a black female therapist meant choosing someone who had a better chance of relating to me culturally and as a woman. I wanted to feel comfortable speaking naturally as opposed to trying to find words that a man or a person who is not of black descent may grasp. Having a black woman as my therapist would mean that she may empathize more.
4. Have you ever had a therapist who is not of black descent? Have you ever had a male therapist?
a. If you've had either, how was your therapeutic experience with him/her/them?
I’ve only ever met with a white female therapist and black female therapists. I vaguely remember the experience I had with the white therapist because it was so long ago. What I remember most is that I didn’t feel comfortable. She separated herself from me by sitting behind a desk. She didn’t give me an initial assessment to understand who I was and gave me what felt like textbook responses without listening to what I said. I also had a female black therapist that seemed as if she tried to connect with me by trying to be my friend. She shared too much of her personal life trying to relate to mine as opposed to guiding me based on my own experience. For some, they may enjoy that, but her environment made me feel as if I could never say what I wanted without interruption and a storytime.
My first therapist was a man of black descent. I was not happy with the services but this was not related to his culture or gender. It was because I felt our sessions were less therapeutic and more of a kick-back. It felt as though I was hanging out with a mentor. The other two therapists I worked with were women though they did not identify as black. One woman was a social worker. I cannot recall the specialty of the other woman but I connected more with her. I felt she empathized with me as a woman and she got to grasp an understanding of the information I divulged to her. The one thing that I did not like about all three of these therapists is that when I labeled my anxiety as a problem, they normalized it and said there is nothing wrong with me. Their response made me feel I was crazy for feeling anxious, self-critical, defeated, and stressed. When I tried to highlight patterns I’ve noticed about myself and how it relates to my family, career, and dating, I was labeled as ‘fine’. I honestly continued attending sessions because I was hoping that with time, they would see the light but it seemed their electric bills were never paid. I think it’s obvious our connections and rapport were low as I am now on my fourth therapist within a span of seven years.
5. What do you like most about your therapist?
I love that my therapist makes it a priority for me to feel comfortable. She allows me to have a few moments before each session to slow down before sharing and a few moments at the end of each session to reflect through mindfulness techniques. She also acknowledges my growth by remembering what I mentioned in previous sessions that I most likely wouldn’t remember otherwise. Even when she goes on vacation, she makes sure to give me work to do in place of our sessions to ensure I still make room for my mental health and self-care. I’ve been seeing my therapist for a little over a year now and can honestly say I have only missed one session, and even then I was able to reschedule within the same week.
I appreciate my therapist for taking time to listen to my story and understand my trauma and my reasonings for labeling them what I have. She never undermined my experiences. Although she shared that some things I had experienced are common, she made it clear that commonality did not make it right. For the first time in my therapeutic history, I felt heard and understood. I never feel rushed when I’m explaining things I’ve encountered or expressing my emotions. She helps me feel validated. I also love that she is a systemic therapist. She knew that the causality of what I had experienced as a child and day to day with others has an impact on who I am.
6. What do you like least?
I honestly don’t dislike anything about my therapist. I am truly grateful for her. She was placed in my life at the perfect time and keeps me accountable for the goals I set for myself.
In the beginning, I hated that she was so popular because it was hard getting an initial and follow-up appointment but after speaking with her about that annoyance, we made a routine of scheduling two sessions in advance.
7. What suggestions do you have for anyone seeking therapy?
We believe it’s important to take your time when searching for a mental health provider. Therapists are not one size fits all. It may take a few consultations and many sessions before you find your perfect fit but it will be worth the wait! Explore websites like Psychology Today or social media pages of mental health providers to find a clinician who suits you. Some websites allow you to filter your search regarding location, specialties, religious preferences, gender, and more. If one therapist isn’t meshing well with you, don’t be afraid to cut ties and move on. Speak with your insurance provider to learn about your benefits. Consult with friends or family members because they may know of a therapist who may be a good fit for you.
For more insight on our opinions about therapy check out episode 8, “How May I Help You”, of our LoveLoudd Podcast. During this episode, we discuss difficulties and positive highlights with being miles away from home while attending school in Atlanta. Simoné recites a beautiful original poem, “Diluted Exterior”. For our Hot Topic, we discuss Mental Health, our encounters with it, and our perceptions as a result of what we witness.