mental health

5 Things You Don’t Know about Black Therapists

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

Flowers to the Living: A Gift to the Griever

Five years ago May 1st, I lost my sister to domestic violence. It was a sudden, earth-shattering pain that erupted in my gut and flooded my body. I was shocked as I attempted to remember to inhale. As the breath returned to my lungs, my voice forgot its place, and all that came from me was a suffocated shriek. Thankfully, my father knew to tell me to pull the car over before he delivered the news because I was unsure of where I was or how I would get home. In that moment, I remembered that just a few hours before, I’d decided that home was the perfect place to return my sister’s phone call. I’ll do it when I get home, but now I couldn’t go home and make myself a liar. Who would pick up the phone?

 

Grief is such an intricate emotion. “The cycle of grief,” as it is often described, can be confusing for the griever.  It’s not a cycle, with a specific rotation of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is a connect-the-dot worksheet from grade school, the one that you weren’t quite sure of the big picture. All you were sure of is that dot four was a surprising turn from dot three, and the lines did not quite match up. Grief is like that for you, yet the proverbial “they” say you never forget; yet sometimes, you do. You do. And then, you feel those disorganized out of order emotions all over again.

 

You forget when you want to call that number. You forget when you want to hang out or see that person. You forget when for a brief moment, you can breathe again. That moment when you’re happy for no reason at all, and you feel that you don’t deserve it. For some reason, you’re convinced that any moment of relief or joy somehow undermines the meaningful relationship with that loved one.  Still, in your heart of hearts, you remind yourself that they would want you to laugh again. They would want you to live. But the true question is, how? How do you live knowing that someone you love(d) so deeply is not?

 

Often times, therapy is suggested for the griever, but for me, the therapist and the griever, I’ll admit that this process is too frequently pathologized. Instead, I invite the grieving to make room for your pain. Make room because burying your emotions does not put them to rest. Is it not to be expected that you feel something? That you feel nothing? That you feel everything? Grief looks different for every person. I hope that you find someone, be it a friend, loved one, or clinician that allows you to look at your unique process and learn to coexist with that hollow space- that space that reminds you that you’re human and to give flowers to the living while you can.

Authored by Anisha Cooper, LPC, CCTP, NCC

To the Person Trying to Steal My Peace

Despite your insistence on creating discord and dredging up the mud and the muck, despite your determination to drag those around you down into the depths of suffering with you, and despite your call to bypass gratitude, it will not be yours.


I say again: It's. Not. Yours.


My peace is for me and me alone. It calls me to be kind to you and patient with you because you are difficult. You do not control me or my emotion. I hold my power over myself and I will not give myself away. My heart softens as I see you as you are: weak, immobile, and desperate. Desperate for my peace. Well, you will not have it. To let you make me angry is to let you own me and I will be owned by no one. I will not engage you but I will transcend you on the wings of my deep, sustaining, Inner Peace. You will be crippled by the warmth and it's magnitude, it will inevitably shatter your hard-heartedness. I will be unexpected, disarming, and elevated. And you…you'll still be you. But, never, will you have my Peace.



Authored by Daron Elam, LPC, NCC, CCH

Owner and Managing Therapist at Summit's Edge


Why Your Military Clients Don’t Come Back

You don’t get it…


There is a common misconception and limiting belief in the military: “If you haven’t served, you wouldn’t know.” And part of the problem is, mental health professionals too often agree and tend to back away slowly, cowering to the overwhelming feeling of incompetence when it comes to treating veterans. But imagine if we succumbed to that pressure when treating clients who have experienced sexual trauma, depression, or anxiety! The truth is, you may not ever really know what it was like to be in combat, but you’re forgetting one very important thing. The service member in front of you is a person. Just like every other person you’ve treated.


If the veteran feels that you’re not making an effort to truly see them beyond the uniform, they’re much less likely to keep coming back. It’s important for mental health professionals to understand that developing an understanding of the military culture goes beyond just learning acronyms and rank structure. Taking the time to learn about who they are can go a long way to establishing legitimacy in the veteran’s eyes. The idea of, “you should trust me because I’m a professional who can help” means much less to a veteran than showing them that you’re interested in the whole person, and not just the identity of their uniform.


Drink some water and rub some dirt on it…


For service members, enduring hardship without complaint is part of their mental conditioning. This mindset remains even after they separate from the service. Suck it up, internalize, keep your opinions to yourself, and keep your mind on the mission. In the military, discipline is essential to maximize motivation and effectiveness. It is quite literally meant to motivate someone to adapt to the expectations or die.


The common belief is “I should be able to handle this on my own.” Service members are taught to lock their personal struggles in a box and to never speak of the box. Ever. Before you can expect to break through this barrier, it’s important to understand that this method of internalization and compartmentalization is how they survive in combat. Moreover, they are then awarded, celebrated, and sometimes promoted in rank for their heroic ability to detach. These literal decorations present themselves in patches and ribbons on their uniform, serving as constant visual reminders of the trauma they endured. It’s no surprise that when they’re sitting across the room from you being asked questions about their trauma and their emotions that you’re met with a blank stare.


Who’s got my six?


Trust is a huge thing for veterans. From the moment a service member is sworn in, trust becomes just as vital as food and water. They’re taught to trust their fellow service members to have their “six” (AKA backs), they’re taught to trust their leadership and their instincts. They have to trust the orders they’re under, and the training they’ve had. They have to trust that their equipment is functional and that their weapons will work when it’s necessary. Trust is all a service member has to rely on when in combat.


To gain a veteran’s trust is not impossible, but it doesn’t come easy. I was once bluntly told “I’m not going to let you screw with my mind before I get to know who you are and what you represent.” Service members have a sixth sense for BS. They don’t need sympathy and a person-centered approach will send them running for the door. In fact, treating service members takes a bit of grit, character, and humility. For a veteran to sit down with a mental health counselor is the ultimate trust fall, placing not just their own life in your hands but often some of the most precious and meaningful things they can think of…the memories of those they’ve trusted in the past.


Authored by Jamie Hall, Psychotherapist and Veteran at Summit's Edge, LLC.

To learn more about how you can better serve the military population, register below for Jamie’s CE