Unfortunately, a negative social stigma can make seeking mental health therapy more difficult than it should be, but not all people feel that stigma equally. Some bear the weight more acutely. A 2008 study of African Americans who participate in mental health therapy showed that one third believed that their social circles would view anxiety or depression as being “crazy” and that they could not talk about those struggles with their family members. Many African Americans have seen mental health counseling as airing dirty laundry with outsiders, and they see counselors and therapists at lower rates than other ethnic groups. A 2010 study showed that White Americans receive mental health care at nearly double the rate as Black Americans. But studies are also showing that this stigma may be shifting. African Americans are seeking mental health care at increasingly greater rates.
A 2013 Washington Post article entitled, “Therapists say African Americans are increasingly seeking help for mental illness,” chronicles Jinneh’s story. After losing her mother as a teen and while struggling with depression, Jinneh was prescribed an antidepressant, but her community talked her out of taking the medication. Four years later, Jinneh was still struggling with depression when her college roommate urged her to get the help she needed. The article sees Jinneh as one story within a larger trend. “I’ve seen an increasing number of African Americans who feel increasingly less stigmatized about coming in and seeking therapy and who also recognize the healing power of therapy,” said psychologist Jeffrey Gardere in the article.
The positive trend is fueled by several factors—things like increased awareness of mental health and greater access to care. Thriveworks Charlotte is committed to offering therapy that is culturally sensitive, including therapy for African Americans.
Building Up Trust
Part of the stigma that surrounds mental health care stems from distrust of a process that is unfamiliar. As people become more familiar with the process that mental health involves, they often drop their stereotypes. At Thriveworks Charlotte, each client receives individualized care, but here is an idea of what therapy can look like…
First and foremost, any therapeutic relationship is built upon trust. Clients often set the pace and goals for counseling. When people first begin therapy, there is often a time where the therapist and the client get to know each other. A key to healing is establishing therapy as a place where each client feels safe—where they can share hopes and dreams, challenges and setbacks, difficult experiences and successes without fear or shame.
The therapists and counselors at Thriveworks Charlotte understand that a big aspect of building trust is showing cultural sensitivity to a client’s race. For many African Americans, their cultural background and race will play a big part in therapy. Some people advocate for a “colorblind” approach that does not acknowledge race at all, but people are whole beings. Their race matters, and our therapists are sensitive to how people experience the world through their community, culture, and race. Our therapists are ready to examine their own perspective and build mutual respect through empathy.
As trust is built, therapy can address any topic that a client wants to address. For example, many African Americans seek out a therapist’s help for the following…
- Grief counseling
- Career advancement
- Racial trauma
- Child therapy
- Anger management
- Substance Use
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Eating disorders
- Suspected abuse of a child
- Job loss
- Executive coaching
- Couples and marriage counseling
- Psychiatric testing
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sexual identity issues
Respecting Community and Religious Support
Another aspect of the stigma that can surround mental health care is that many perceive therapy in opposition to the support they receive from their religion or their community. At Thriveworks Charlotte, we understand that an individual can receive amazing encouragement and assistance from their family, their friends, and their religious leaders. Our counselors and therapists do not see their work as a replacement for these important aspects of an individual’s life. Instead, the professionals at Thriveworks see their work as another form of support within an individual’s life.
When people face serious mental illness, their support networks play a key role in healing. Pastors, friends, and family members can carry a portion of the burden, and so can therapists and counselors. Some aspects of healing are best addressed among friends, but others are best addressed with a mental health professional. A key example is when an individual needs medication. When people need care that their community cannot provide, it may be time to see a mental health professional.
Scheduling Therapy at Thriveworks Charlotte
If you are African American and you are considering therapy, know that the therapists and counselors at Thriveworks Charlotte understand the difficult decision you are making. We respect your desire to reach out for help, and we respect your ethnicity. When you are ready to make the call, we are ready to meet with you. It takes courage to start therapy, and we have done our best to be supportive from the moment you first dial our office.
When you contact Thriveworks Charlotte, a person will answer your call—not a voicemail or automated response. You may also have your first appointment within 24 hours. There is no waitlist, so you will never be put on one. We accept most forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend sessions.
Let’s work together. Call Thriveworks Charlotte today.