I’m not sure if you know this, but Black Therapists exist. Currently, we are only 19.8% of the counseling profession but, hey, that’s major progress compared to a few years ago.
Thanks to the internet and social media, mental health awareness is increasing and the stigma against “getting help” is slowly but surely fading away, especially in communities of color. I’m not saying Black folks are lining up outside counseling centers waiting to lay their burdens down, but things ARE shifting and we Black Therapists are here (DSM-V in hand) to answer the call.
If you’ve decided to work with a Black Therapist or invite one to join your practice, there are some things you ought to know:
Black Doesn’t Mean African American
Not every person who identifies as “Black” is African American. The Diaspora includes hundreds of countries, thousands of languages, and millions of individual perspectives. You don’t have to keep track of them, but it’s important to recognize that one label does NOT fit all. Every Black Therapist carries a unique ancestry that enhances their clinical toolbox. Multi-cultural representations of Blackness within the mental health profession are empowering to clients that may be hard to reach and retain in therapy.
We Want Diverse Clientele Too
Black Therapists don’t just see Black clients. We want a diverse clientele just as much as anyone else. Many Black Therapists do specialize in seeing clients in the Black Diaspora, but most of us are open to seeing anyone, regardless of background, for whom our skills are a good fit. If you are considering seeing a Black Therapist, don’t be shy! We appreciate diverse clients and want to hear from you.
We Cannot Absolve Your Guilt
Black Therapists who work with diverse clients may run into “white guilt.” White guilt describes white clients’ apprehension to “take up space” in sessions when working with Black clinicians. They feel guilty about being privileged and want to atone for it. Clients can manifest this guilt in a variety of ways, from censoring their speech (i.e. avoiding complaining or constantly addressing their privilege) to putting their Black Therapist on a pedestal. The truth is: we are NOT here to absolve you of your guilt. You don’t have to prove to us that you are “one of the good ones.” All we want is for you to feel safe, so we can talk about your real issues.
Sometimes, Our Jobs ARE Worse
Let me get real for a second. Institutional racism is definitely still a thing! Sometimes Black Therapists get crap jobs compared to their white colleagues. A friend once told me that, out of her entire grad school cohort, only her white classmates were working in private practices or college counseling centers. Her classmates of color were stuck in low-paying, community-based jobs with long commutes, complex caseloads, little to no supervision, and mountains of paperwork.
Here’s another hard truth: many Black Therapists are forced to take crap jobs if they want to reach Black communities. Funding is scarce in communities of color, and the programs that serve them are usually running on bare bones. Black Therapists are often faced with a tough choice: make a decent living (to pay off a mountain of student loans), or work with the people that need our help the most.
We NEED Diverse Colleagues
Finally, Black Therapists NEED diverse colleagues! We are by no means the majority in our profession but other races are vastly under-represented. As a multicultural counselor, homogeny makes me sick to my stomach. Where are my Afro Latinx and Latinx counselors? Where are my South Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, and Persian counselors? What about my Pacific Island, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and Indigenous counselors? Where are my Bi-Racial and Multi-Racial counselors? Clients don’t come in one color. Neither should we!
Authored by Kimoré Reid, Ed.S, LPC, NCC