Written by and from the perspective of Shannon Miller, a writer at HelloGiggles
When I made the decision to seek therapy years ago, I had two very visceral, opposing reactions. The first was an initial burst of excitement, an eagerness to work on myself and, hopefully, become a more attentive friend, partner, and mother. That feeling was quickly chased by a jolt of panic: I knew right away that I would feel more comfortable working with a Black female therapist, and I also knew that where I lived—a small Florida town with a tiny Black population of less than 3%—would make that difficult.
The relationship between mental health and the Black community is one that is slowly evolving, but while we often talk about ancient, understandably skeptical attitudes toward therapy, we don’t talk enough about the modern roadblocks we face when we try to get help. As a Black woman, searching for therapy means looking for a professional who is equipped with the best understanding of how our identities inform and influence our experiences. How we navigate the world is colored by both racism and sexism, and that has such a major effect on our mental health that it makes it nearly impossible to avoid those topics during therapy. Our unique experiences must be properly contextualized and factored into our care.
“Health professionals—especially those who are treating minorities—have to be mindful that treatment is not a one-size-fits-all for them,” said Patrice N. Douglas, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “What works for white patients may not work for Black patients, so it is important to get as much understanding and cultural training to give the best treatment as possible.”
Part of that understanding includes having a working knowledge of our relationships with the negative stereotypes that impact us daily. Without that, we run the risk of linking with a professional who not only lacks the cultural competence, but is also potentially working under those implicit biases. For instance, the Angry Black Woman stereotype—one that maligns Black women as aggressive, hostile, and ill-tempered—is so pervasive that it can greatly impact how we receive, or are sometimes denied, mental health treatment. A report published in the journal Social Work in Public Health notes that when mental health professionals fail to acquaint themselves with the stereotype, they often incorrectly cite certain symptoms, like mood swings, irritability, or just genuine responses to oppression, as evidence of this trope.
Read more on HelloGiggles.com.