(Pictured: Doing some rainy day in enLIGHTenment, lol..)
On the Inside: Tips for WOC Who Are Considering Therapy.
Mental Health is a taboo subject in black culture, especially for black women. We’re taught to seek out any “help” we need from three sources: our mother, our hair salon and our church. We’re taught to “pray it out” and go on like everything is okay. I am a very spiritual person, and I firmly believe in the power of prayer. But I believe that prayer is a supplement, a crutch to lean on - not a diagnosis, and not a cure.
Our communities’ hesitancy to see a doctor of any kind is rooted in the history of our people getting poked, prodded and sliced open by oppressors and conquerors in the name of ‘science’ and submission. Our distrust and fear of subjugating our bodies, let alone minds, to evaluation by someone we are not close to and who is not a part of our community, is valid and expected. But as black women and people of color, it is so important to practice self-care and seek help when we need it. I know not everyone has the support and resources they need, so I created a quickie guide of questions to ask if you are wanting to seek professional help or need someone to talk to.
- Know when to seek help If you are having any negative feelings/symptoms that disrupt your life, linger or have been coming and going for a lengthy period of time, it may be time to see a professional. Talk to your general doctor first. Sometimes they are able to give you some medicine to help alleviate symptoms while you look for a therapist, can determine if your symptoms are a byproduct of something else (like two drugs interacting) and can usually provide a good recommendation or referral.
- Know what kind of therapy you are looking to try Do your research. Therapy has moved beyond the couch. There are all types of “therapy sessions” you can engage in to help you live life fully and mentally healthy. Keep your values at the core of your search, it will help you find a therapy/therapist that will fit your needs best. Would you like to participate in group therapy or one on one? Would you like your therapy sessions to be faith-centered? Or would you rather try the holistic route without pills instead? These are all things you should think about.
- Know what kind of therapist you are want/need to see. The very shortened version: a psychiatrist’s education is based in the medicinal side of therapy. They are trained to prevent, diagnosis and treat mental illness. A psychologist’s education is based in the counseling side of psychotherapy. They also treat and evaluate but cannot prescribe medicine like psychiatrists can. A counselor, such as a pastor, can help you sort through issues but usually does not hold doctorate levels of training in psychotherapy like a psychologist or psychiatrist does.
- Diversity. In college I started getting anxiety and panic attacks, (which I will blog about next). While I have never gone to therapy for an extended amount of time, by law, I had to see a psychiatrist in order to be prescribed anti-anxiety meds. My therapist was a first generation, mid-thirties, Indian-American woman. I felt comfortable having a WOC as a therapist, but there was one thing she said to me that solidified it for me. As I was telling her about my anxiety, she kept nodding her head and quipped, “Black women and Indian women experience a lot of the same experiences and anxieties being Women of Color.” Obviously, there are some differences, but the fact that she had already connected with me on that level was very comforting to me. She took my gender, my race, my experiences into consideration instead of “erasing” them or pretending like they weren’t significant factors. I only needed to see my therapist once and I quickly weaned myself off of the anti-anxiety meds within 3 weeks in favor of a more holistic treatment, but my experience was a good one. Being comfortable with your therapist will make it easier for you to go back to her and/or be honest with her if you are having adverse reactions to meds or start experiencing other symptoms.Unfortunately, depending on where you live, and on the bigger front that most therapists are white males, it may not always be easy to find a WOC. Your next step is to find a therapist that works in a heavy POC populated place, around lots of different types of people or straight up ask them about their work in diversity.
- Insurance. Make sure your therapist takes your insurance. This seems obvious, but many health plans don’t cover mental health or have certain clauses pertaining to mental healthcare. If you really like the practice or therapist, but your insurance won’t cover it, then at least you will be prepared ahead of time if you need to budget or find someone else.
- What is your specialty in? Research and ask about a therapist’s credentials and background just like you would a regular physician. Most therapists specialize in an area. You’d probably pass up a therapist who specializes in Geriatric depression.
Therapy isn’t just for people going through a hard time, either. It can be a way to release, revive and learn more about yourself, too. I hope these tips help any woman looking into therapy feel more at ease in their search. If you have any more tips, let me know!! Namaste.
Next up: Some helpful natural ways to alleviate feeling down and/or anxious.