Sterling, VA—Therapy for the African American Community
When people suffer a mental illness, getting help can often be difficult because a social stigma often surrounds mental health care, and unfortunately, certain communities experience that stigma more severely. In particular, a study conducted in 2010 showed that African Americans receive mental health care at half the rate that Caucasians receive it, even though they experience the same rates of mental illness as other ethnicities. There are a variety of factors that have led to this disparity, including historical prejudice within the health care field itself, but more recent studies show that the stigma may be fading. Attitudes are changing as more and more African Americans are seeking treatment for their mental illness and receiving the therapy they need.
Jinneh is a part of this trend. The Washington Post chronicled her experiences in a 2013 article entitled, “Therapists say African Americans are increasingly seeking help for mental illness.” When Jinneh’s mother died, she went into a deep depression. When her therapist prescribed her an antidepressant, Jinneh’s community talked her out of filling it. At the time, Jinneh was in high school, and her depression, which went untreated, did not lift. Years later and still depressed, Jinneh’s roommate encouraged her to see a therapist again. This time, Jinneh took her medication and continued with the therapy. Her depression subsided. Jinneh is now telling her story, and she is not the only one. Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said of his private practice, “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.” Over the past ten years, Dr. Gardere has seen an uptake of 20-25 percent in clients who are African American.
Many factors are fueling this positive trend, including easier access to mental health care and a growing awareness of its benefits. Mental health professionals are also working to provide culturally sensitive care to all people, African Americans in particular. The professionals at Thriveworks Sterling hope to contribute in a positive way to this trend.
Community, Family, Therapy, and Religion: Mental Health as a Community Effort
The African American community has a rich and deep tradition of religious and community support. The mental health community has not always respected the valuable role that family, religion, and community often play in their clients’ lives. The suspicion between the mental health field and the African American community is lowering as more and more, everyone is realizing that mental health can be a community effort. The staff at Thriveworks Sterling aims to work with—not against—their clients’ community networks. Our counselors and therapists acknowledge that friends, family members, and religious leaders can play a vital role in healing. Our staff does not want to replace these support structures, but to play a unique role alongside of them. Just as the community can fulfill a role that mental health professionals cannot, so therapists and counselors can often provide care that those in the community cannot. When everyone is on the same page, working for the same target, then many people can receive the mental health care and the community support they need.
Trust is a bedrock of mental health care. It must be established between a client and counselor in order for the therapeutic relationship to be successful. As African Americans have more access to mental health care, therapists are also working to ensure that potential clients also understand what the process of mental health care involves so that they their understanding can hopefully grow into trust.
At Thriveworks Sterling, our clients receive personalized care. That means clients set many of the goals for counseling and have significant control over its pace. It is important for clients to feel safe during a therapeutic relationship. When the counselors at Thriveworks Sterling begin working with a client, they know that every needs to share their story, their challenges, their wounds, their joys, their strengths, and their weaknesses. In order to be able to do this, they need to feel safe, and our therapists work hard to establish that safety.
Respect is a big way that our therapists establish safety, in particular, respect for their cultural experiences and ethnicity. Our staff does not embrace a “colorblind” approach that downplays an individual’s race. Instead, we know that cultural context matters. Even more, our professionals acknowledge that they carry their own cultural context into the therapy room. Our aim is to build a safe relationship through understanding and empathy. As trust grows, many African American clients may address issues such as…
- Career advancement
- Racial trauma
- Grief counseling
- Sexual identity issues
- Child therapy
- Anger management
- Substance use
- Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Suspected abuse of a child
- Psychiatric testing
- Job loss
- Executive coaching
- Couples and marriage counseling
Setting Up Counseling at Thriveworks Sterling
If you are ready to start counseling, know that Thriveworks Sterling is ready to support you on that journey. When you contact our office, we hope to demonstrate our care from your first call. A scheduling specialist answers our phones and helps our clients make their appointments. New clients often have an appointment within 24 hours of their call. We offer evening and weekend sessions, but we do not put our clients on a waitlist. We also work with many insurance companies and accept many insurance plans.
Let’s work together. Call Thriveworks Sterling today for an appointment.