Why There Needs To Be A Universal Call For The De-Stigmatization Of Black People Going To Therapy
written by: Chelsea Glover-Jordan
What makes it difficult for you to commit to a therapeutic relationship with a trained clinician? For some, it may be because they think they don’t have the time. For others, it may be because they’ve had a therapist and either it was a bad experience, or they don’t want to start the process over while reliving through their trauma. For many, it may simply be because they are not ready to peel back the layers of all the trauma while unlearning self-harming behaviors. Whatever the reason is, it’s important to understand that ‘therapy’ is not a dirty word and at some point in EVERYONE’S life, it should be a reality. I unapologetically place a tremendous emphasis on the need for the promotion and uplifting of black mental health.
Here are 3 reasons (because there certainly are more) why all black people need a therapist at some point:
1. To unlearn behaviors and mindsets
How many times have you heard your mama or grandmother use rules like “what happens in this house, stays in this house” or instead of apologizing to you as a child, they ask you if you’re hungry or if you want to go to the store with them? It has been basically ingrained into the most unfavorable parts of the black culture to be secretive. We are not to talk about our business outside of “this household”. But why? Why should one stifle their emotions and experiences out of fear of embarrassment for the sake of the family? The family isn’t always the answer, and neither is prayer (that’s another common misconception). Sometimes, professional help and resources are warranted in addition to the culturally accepted remedies. What makes a child not worthy of an apology, an acknowledgment that in some way they were wronged? Who sets that rule? These toxic mindsets and behaviors perpetuate cycles of black people with poor boundaries who are not privy to how to express themselves in the most effective ways. Even if these exact standards were not in your black home, I am almost 100% certain that some variation of them, you have been exposed to at some point in your life. It’s time to unlearn them!
2. For empowerment and validation
We all need cheerleaders in our lives. People who see our potential sometimes before we even realize it on our own. In a world that has systemically stripped down the black mind to wallow in a poverty mindset (emotionally and financially), feeling seen and heard is vital to the evolution of black mental health. Your therapist is there to empower you, validate your emotions and experiences, and provide you with tools that help you be the best version of yourself possible. Emotionally safe spaces in the black community are imperative to help us combat negative self-talk and to build the community we deserve, communities others have historically taken away from us.
I have clients who I see on a monthly basis. These are clients who have successfully completed their treatment plans but are not quite ready to let go of services. Sometimes maintenance sessions are necessary to hold you accountable to the therapeutic techniques possibly implemented outside of therapy. This is a less intensive way to continue engagement in bettering and sustaining a better mental and emotional foundation. Try to break away from responding ‘fine’ to people when they ask how you are if you’re really not fine. In this instance, you may simply need someone to vent to, to bounce ideas off of, to help hold you accountable, or to simply check in with from time to time. Black people need that! Maintenance is as important as building a muscle, one that you want to strengthen and to engage in on a more normal basis.
Furthermore, because we have only begun to scratch the surface of what black people have been through over the past 400+ years and what we continue to endure as a result of racism, systemic oppression, generational curses and toxicity, and trauma-responsive mindsets, black people should be lining up down the block to acquire a therapist. We deserve every chance possible to take a stab at being the best versions of ourselves, especially considering the not-so-savory start our ancestors got when forced to enter into a country that saw them as inferior. We deserve a more inclusive, well-rounded, and resourceful approach to the essence of ourselves. This includes not being ashamed to ask for help and not ashamed to be okay with not being okay. But I digress.