It can feel like there are more reasons to not come to therapy than to come. You have to be strong, you show up everyday, but you feel like you’re crumbling inside. Even thinking about going to therapy competes with the messages that were passed on from our parents, grandparents, from church. The stigma to enter into therapy is huge. You might have even tried therapy before and thought:
“They just don’t get it.”
“There’s so much happening, there’s so much going on. I need help.”
We, as people of color, don’t often do therapy. Then sometimes we try therapy but we don’t feel it’s a good fit. I feel a strong pull culturally. I know personally the ways that we slip and not take care of ourselves due to the stigma about receiving treatment for mental health.
I Know the Damn Struggle
The story may be different, but I know the struggle. I sought out this field to help people. I knew that there were not many African American therapists, but when I started counseling, I would have folks make comments. Brand new clients have come into session and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, you’re a black lady!” I knew when I heard that, I’m here for a reason. Trust in communities of color is so major. My clients can trust that the experiences they have are really resonating with me.
Because of the stigma, I like to explore with my clients their expectations around therapy. The therapy room is a space that is suited to best serve them. The space is open for what they want it to be. Often, folks have a narrow vision of what therapy is before they come. When I start with a client, I always honor their bravery for coming to this space and highlight the strength in that first step. I’m always thinking about what was that point of crisis that led people to walking in my door. I help give them the tools to decrease the potential for more crisis or breakdowns in the future.
It’s Heart Work, Not Hard Work
I have been attracted to the helping profession since I was a teenager. In my professional career, I have done extensive research in the area of African Americans and mental health. The work has always been heart work, not hard work. I’ve mentored young adults and I love to teach. What I uncover through my research and teaching, informs my practice. Therapy is fun! I do like to have fun in session. Humor is important. I love joining with clients in listening to music and bringing in expressive arts.
I received my Masters in Social Work and Master of Public Health. My education continued with obtaining a Doctorate of Philosophy in Health Promotion and Behavior. I currently serve as faculty at UNCW School of Social Work. I am the Founding Member and Lead Faculty Mentor to the interdisciplinary Minority Student Research Group. Additionally, I’m on the board of directors for Seeds of Healing, non-profit.
Embrace the Journey
I hope all my clients eventually realize they have more strength than they realized when they came in the door. Therapy can be a one-stop-shop, but it’s not a one-time fix. It’s a journey and a process. Therapy is a process of learning new ways and skills. It’s actually freeing. Once my clients take the edge off of themselves for having to find a fix right now, they are able to embrace the journey.
In my experience, people start and stop therapy because that’s life. Of course, I want them to continue to come but if my clients discontinue, they can always come back. You’ll get scrambled and go off. But when they come back, I know it’s because it feels like home and you can always come back “home”.
I know I have gifts that can be used and shared, and as a therapist, I’m here to help guide and serve folks like me.