Counseling for African Americans in Manassas, VA
Certain negative social stigmas can make the choice to go to therapy more difficult than it should be, unfortunately. Not all people experience the stigma in the same way. Some feel it more acutely. A 2008 study revealed that one third of African American, who were currently participating in mental health care, thought that their friends and family members would see their decision to do so as “crazy.” These participants did not feel comfortable speaking about their anxiety or depression with their social circles. This mistrust is often understandable in light of historical abuses within the health care system toward the African American community. Many African Americans perceive going to therapy as airing dirty laundry with people outside of the community, and they seek out mental health care are lower rates than many other ethnic groups. A study conducted in 2010 found that White Americans receive care from a therapist or counselor at nearly double the rate as Black Americans. However, cultural attitudes may be shifting, as more recent studies show that the rate that African Americans are reaching out for mental health care are increasing.
The Washington Post article, “Therapists say African Americans are increasingly seeking help for mental illness,” recounts Jinneh’s experiences. As a teen, Jinneh lost her mother, and her counselor prescribed her an antidepressant to help her as she struggled with depression. Her community convinced Jinneh not to take the medication. In college, four years later, Jinneh was still depressed. A roommate convinced her to go back to counseling and start on the medication. Jinneh received the help she needed.
Jinneh’s story is told within the context of a larger trend. Psychologist Jeffrey Gardere said, “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.” In the past decade, Dr. Gardere said he has seen an increase of 20-25 percent of the African Americans he sees at his practice.
Several factors are fueling this trend—increased awareness of mental health issues as well as increased access to mental health care are a few. Another is a growing awareness cultural sensitivity within the mental health community toward the needs of African Americans as they seek therapy. Thriveworks Manassas hopes to contribute to that sensitivity by offering therapy for African Americans.
Much of the stigma toward mental health care is grounded in distrust. African Americans have many historical reasons to be skeptical of any health care system, and additionally, unfamiliarity with mental health care is a factor. Many times, as people learn more about what mental health care involves, the stereotypes naturally fade and more trust is built. When individuals reach out to Thriveworks Manassas, they received individualized therapy. Here is what that may involve…
Therapists first and foremost seek to establish trust. The client is very much in control of the goals and pace of counseling. At the beginning of a therapeutic relationship, therapists and clients often take significant time to get to know each other so that the therapist can truly understand the client. One bedrock of good mental health is safety—a place where people feel that they can share their dreams and hopes, setbacks and challenges, successes and goals without shame or fear. For many people, therapy is that place.
The staff at Thriveworks Manassas understands that a big piece of trust is showing respect and sensitivity toward a client’s context—including their ethnicity. Some therapists may encourage an approach that is “colorblind” and does not acknowledge race. However, for many African Americans participating in therapy, their ethnicity and cultural background are factors in why they are seeking help. People are whole beings, and their ethnicity matters. Our staff is conscientious of how their own race and cultural background may bias them, and we are committed to building trust through empathy and respect.
As trust grows, the topics that a client feels comfortable addressing may grow as well. During therapy, many African Americans work through issues such as…
- Career advancement
- Grief counseling
- Racial trauma
- Child therapy
- Executive coaching
- Anger management
- Substance use
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Suspected abuse of a child
- Job loss
- Psychiatric testing
- Couples and marriage counseling
- Sexual identity issues
A Cooperative Effort: Religious and Community Support
African Americans have a rich tradition of religions and community support, and at times, mental health professionals have positioned themselves in opposition to these other forms of support. The staff at Thriveworks Manassas understands that it takes a whole community, working together to support good mental health practices. Our professionals know that their clients are receiving vital assistance and encouragement from their community, friends, family members, and religious leaders. We do not want to replace these, but we want to come alongside to provide another form of support.
For example, when individuals face a serious mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, their friends, family members, and pastors can carry much of the burden, as can counselors and therapists. In fact, the best care is often from multiple sources. Communities can support individuals in ways that health care professionals cannot. Therapists and counselors can support individuals in ways that communities cannot. Let’s work together.
Scheduling Counseling at Thriveworks Manassas
If you are considering therapy, know that Thriveworks Manassas is ready to support you with care and respect. When you contact our office, you may have an appointment within 24 hours. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and many forms of insurance are accepted.
Let’s work together. Call Thriveworks Manassas for more information.