Making the decision to go to therapy is often the right choice, but certain social stigmas can hold people back. Even more, certain people feel the weight of those stigmas more heavily. In particular, African Americans often face a heavier stigma when they decide to reach out for mental health care. In fact, a 2010 research study found that Caucasians receive mental health care twice as often as African Americans, even though they both experience the same rates of mental illness. There are many reasons for this stigma. One reasons is that African Americans often do not have adequate access to mental health care. Another reason is that the mental health profession has not adequately addressed the concerns and needs of the African American community. In a radio interview entitled, “Behind Mental Health Stigmas in Black Communities,” Psychiatrist William Lawson recounts how he was taught in medical school that African Americans cannot become depressed—a gross falsehood. “Part of it is that many professionals simply don’t know how to diagnose properly African-Americans,” said Dr. Lawson. A shift is occurring, however, and more recent data shows that African Americans are receiving mental health care at increasing rates.
A 2013 Washington Post article entitled, “Therapists say African Americans are increasingly seeking help for mental illness,” explains the shift through Jinneh’s story. In high school, Jinneh’s mother passed away, and she experienced a deep depression. Her therapist prescribed an antidepressant, but Jinneh decided not to fill it after her friends and family members encouraged her not to take it. Years later, while in college, Jinneh was depressed when a roommate encouraged her to start therapy again. Jinneh recovered, with the help of antidepressants and her therapist. Jinneh’s journey reflects a growing trend that Dr. Jeffrey Gardere identifies, “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.” His mental health practice in New York has had an increase of 20-25 percent of African American clients in the past few years.
The professionals at Thriveworks Manassas hope to contribute positively to this trend of increasing access to quality mental health care within the African American community.
A Unified, Supportive Community
African Americans often enjoy a community that deeply values family, faith, and friendship. Mental Health professionals have not always acknowledged the richness of these connections, and even worse, they may have put themselves in opposition to this supportive community. In the past decade, mental health therapists are coming to understand the harm this has caused. In contrast, they are beginning to work with a client’s community support network—not against it.
A unified, supportive community looks like religious leaders, family members, and friends caring for individuals in ways that counselors and therapists cannot. It also looks like mental health professionals offering care that community members cannot. In both cases, the individual’s best interest is the focus, and everyone is pulling in the same direction—working together.
The Therapeutic Relationship and Trust
Successful mental health care is built upon trust. Each client at Thriveworks Manassas receives unique, individualized care for the unique individual they are. Every client has particular hopes and dreams, challenges and traumas, opportunities and hardships. Clients often take the lead in setting goals and pacing for therapy. Counselors are not dictators—they are guides. The counselors and therapists at Thriveworks Manassas work to comprehend the unique experiences and circumstances that their clients face and create a safe space where clients can share freely, without fear of judgment or fear.
Such a safe space means taking each client’s ethnicity and culture into account. Some mental health professionals take a “colorblind” approach that ultimately downplays people’s important cultural and racial experiences. The therapists at Thriveworks Manassas know, however, that context matters. Our own cultural context matters as does our client’s. Our goal is to handle issues regarding ethnicity and race with understanding, respect, and empathy.
As clients grow to trust their therapists, many African Americans begin to address their mental health concerns. Just a few of the issues our clients have addressed during their therapy sessions include…
- Career advancement
- Grief counseling
- Racial trauma
- Child therapy
- Sexual identity issues
- Substance use
- Anger management
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Suspected abuse of a child
- Job loss
- Eating disorders
- Psychiatric testing
- Executive coaching
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Couples and marriage counseling
Setting Up Counseling at Thriveworks Manassas
Take a moment to think about what is happening in your life right now. Is it time to reach out for help? Is it time to meet with a mental health professional? If counseling is the right next step, consider reaching out to Thriveworks Manassas. Our counselors offer culturally aware therapy, and we have appointments available.
When you contact our office, here are a few things that may be helpful to know…
- Our scheduling specialist answer our phones—there is no automated response system or voicemail.
- New clients often have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. When you are ready to get started, so are we.
- Weekend and evening sessions are offered because we know that not everyone can make an appointment during business hours.
- Our therapists and counselors are credentialed on many insurance panels, so that means we can accept many forms of insurance.
Let’s work together. Call Thriveworks Manassas today.