It’s only in recent years that the stigma of seeking the help of a therapist has lessened, yet it’s still extremely common for people to feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help. This is especially true in the African American community. The idea of therapy is a foreign one in this community, with it often being looked down upon, and the person seeking help appearing as weak. Just like in any community, not knowing where to turn for help is an isolating experience. The fact that the stigma is lessening slowly means more and more African Americans will feel more comfortable seeking the help they need.
Common Reasons African Americans Avoid Therapy
African Americans suffer from the same mental health issues as anyone else who seeks therapy. This means you have the exact same right, as everyone else, to seek help. Choosing to work with a therapist can be a difficult decision when there is already a stigma against it, but the following issues can often be deterrents as well. The below issues, though legitimate reasons for fearing therapy, should not become issues if both you and therapist go into your sessions with a mutual understanding. As we explain here, there are four major areas that concern African Americans when it comes to therapy:
- Ethnic Identity: Understanding how your ethnic identity affects your specific issues is something therapists should make a priority. It can be common for people to make assumptions about the cause of your issues, thinking they are caused by your instances with racism or lack thereof. Asking you to share your personal experiences is any easy way for therapists to understand where you’re coming from as well as empowering you to feel that you can say anything in this safe space.
- Desire to Be Understood: To summarize African American therapist Shemiah Derrick, everyone who seeks the help of a therapist seeks to be understood and seen. With the current political and social climate, it’s becoming increasingly important for African Americans to feel safe and understood when it comes to therapy. You may wish to work with an African American therapist, believing that you’ll share experiences. When you find your therapist has had different experiences, this can be disappointing and alienating. Explaining your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment leads to understanding, not just working with another black person.
- Presumptions and Perceptions: Moving through the world as an African American person in a predominantly white space means that there will be certain presumptions and perceptions made about you, based solely on the fact that you’re black. In a white world, you are often perceived in a certain way and this can force you to act differently, to avoid this presumption about your character. When it comes to therapy, your therapist wants you to be you; they can’t help you with your issues if you feel you have to act a certain way.
- False Pretenses: The last issue that may occur is a false pretense that all African Americans respond to therapy in the same way. It’s possible you’ll come across therapists who are under this pretense, and you’ll want to avoid them. Their methods will be the same for every African American they work with because they are expecting the same result. Thankfully, the majority of therapists understand that every person is different, and each person responds differently to therapy.
Thriveworks McDonough therapists work hard to create a safe space for you to work with them, encouraging you to freely speak your concerns. If you are suffering from a mental health issue and need help conquering it, please seek the help of an experienced therapist at Thriveworks McDonough for African American therapy. Schedule an appointment today by calling (678) 853-5849.