The stigma around receiving help for mental health has improved significantly, but it is still there. All to often people will not seek out counseling for fear of being labeled ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’, and even if they do seek it out, there are always those hurried glances behind the shoulder as they quickly walk into the therapy’s office, hoping no one they know saw them.
Facing the demons in your head is a phenomenal feat of courage and strength and add in the beast of social constructs and opinions- it is truly amazing how strong the human soul is.
What’s more is that the beast of social stigma is larger for some populations than others. And African-Americans often get the brunt of it.
In a study conducted in 2013, “54.3 percent of adult Black/African-Americans with a major depressive episode received treatment in 2011, compared with 73.1 percent of adult white Americans.”
Why is there social stigma against going to therapy for African-Americans?
This social stigma is a result of many factors. Many African-Americans say part of it is their community which is often built on family, friends and faith, that discourages going to therapy. The three core values offer themselves in many positive ways through creating a rich culture. However, many may feel they should be able to deal with their struggles by talking with their family and community, or maybe going to church.
After all, why would you talk to a stranger about personal struggles when you have family?
It’s a fair question, however some people’s struggles are more severe than others. Just because someone’s uncle dealt with depression without therapy, doesn’t mean you have to.
Another issue that adds to the social stigma around going to therapy is the lack of trust in which therapy is built on. African-American’s in particular can have a mistrust of the medical (mental or physical) community.
And for good reason. The final Tuskegee Syphilis Study participant passed away in 2004. The study involved around 400 African-American males who had syphilis. The participants were never told they had syphilis and never received proper treatment for it, even when Penicillin came a successful treatment for it. Although the horrors of that study seem far away, the scars it, and others like it, left on the African American community are not ones soon to be forgotten.
Fighting the stigma at Colorado Springs Thriveworks
Since that study, however, policies outlined in documents such as the Belmont Report offer strict codes to provide safe and equal care to all patients. It is a code we at Colorado Springs Thriveworks follow not only because it is law, but because as mental health practitioners it is in our core beliefs to provide care to all who need it with minimal risk and maximum benefits.
We also understand the importance of family and community and do not want therapy to replace that.
In fact, there are many benefits that are derived from confining in loved ones. Which is why Colorado Springs Thriveworks works in conjecture with your home life. We want to encourage communication between you and those close to you and get you to a spot where you can rely solely on your community for support. We have some clients who even take a loved one into the session with them, so they can have that community support even when talking to one of our counselors.
Our therapists and counselors are also open to all religions and encourage the talk of faith in our sessions if it is a central part of your life.
Community and therapy should work together to provide the best care for you! Talking with an outsider has its benefits as well. Aside from being trained to specifically address your struggles, an outsider can provide unique outlooks on the problems and add a fresh perspective. Colorado Thriveworks is a judgement free office, and everything said within the session is confidential. There is no need to worry about us judging you or people finding out what was said.
What does Counseling for African Americans look like?
In many ways, it looks the same as it would across all ethnic groups.
And in many ways, it looks very different.
The counselors at Colorado Springs Thriveworks believe someone’s ethnic heritage plays a role, from very small to very large, in the making of a person’s unique personality and life. We do not practice “color-blindness”.
Color blindness is a theory some practitioners have adopted, saying that the human brain is the same across all races and therefore should be treated the same.
In one sense, that is correct. We all have the same brain structures, but that physiological aspect is only part of it. The environment you grew up in and the one you surround yourself with now has up to a 60% impact on your current personality (the other 40% being genes). And that’s just personality. Other aspects of who you are, like how likely you are to have depression for example, offer different numbers.
The point being, we can’t treat everyone the same because not everyone is the same. The African-American community is one of hard work and family, one that strives as a collective unit instead of individuals. Amongst other traits, those are ideologies that are important to you, so they are important for us in the therapy session. They can not be ignored, because ignoring ethnic heritage is ignoring a rather large part of what makes a person unique.
Often times, African Americans will seek treatment for the following (although this is by no means an exhaustive list):
- Discrimination, Racial Trauma
- Grief counseling
- Career counseling
- Child and adolescent therapy
- Anger management
- Couples and marriage counseling
- Substance use and abuse
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Life coaching
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
It takes courage to seek therapy and can take even more if you are an African-American. Colorado Springs Thriveworks understands the difficult decision you are making and will be there to help you through. Your ethnicity is a special part of who you are, and we respect that and your desire to remain true to it.
We have no waitlist and offer evening and weekend services. If you are looking for relief, our counselors would love to meet with you. 719-266-3919