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African-American Therapists

"I'm not crazy, so I don't need therapy." .  .  ."What will people think if they knew I was having therapy?" .  .  . "Therapy is for White people." .  .  ."The therapist may lock me up if I begin talking in therapy."


These are some of the thoughts that keep many of us from seeking help through psychotherapy. Let's address these one by one. 


I'm not crazy, so I don't need therapy. First, "crazy" is not a term the professional mental health community use to describe people with thoughts and/or behavior that are personally distressing at one end of the continuum to abnormally impairing at the other end. What both have in common is a subjective sense of difficulty adapting with ones self or others around them. This is not crazy.


What will people think if they knew I was in therapy? This thought is a holdover from the days when the uninformed public thought that having any mental health care meant that you were crazy. People tended to keep it secret and found it embarrassing if a family member or loved one was seeking therapy. This cloud of stigma hangs over it less so today, but it still is present. One step toward improving our mental well being can be to refuse letting what others may think of us count more to us than what the forgiving God may think of us for taking the healthy step toward seeing an African-American therapist to help us better ourself. 


Therapy is for White people. While it remains true that early mental healthcare in the 19th century held racially biased theories that served to treat African-Americans as inferior served to keep us oppressed, today many White therapists are studying to become more "culturally competent" so they can attempt to provide psychotherapy to us. So, the good news is that therapy is for us too and there is a small growing  oasis of African-American therapists who have lived the life that non African-Americans therapists must receive specialized training to be ready.   So, Therapy is for Our people too! 


The therapist may lock me up if I begin talking in therapy. Long before the popularization of outpatient psychotherapy, mental healthcare hospitalized people for their compromised mental health functioning. Now, there is a boom of psychotherapy clinics for those who seek help in an outpatient clinic capacity. In a setting such as that, the only times that involuntary psychiatric hospitalization could occur against our will is if our mental disposition has become so severely compromised that the mental health professional has strong justification to believe that we pose an imminent risk to kill ourself, kill someone else, or unable to function to care for self. It would solely be an act to save a life. And, even then, most states have laws that prevent such involuntary hospitalizations for no more than a certain number of hours until when a psychiatric evaluation must occur to determine if the hospitalization is warranted. 


So, enough with the unhealthy thoughts that talk us out of seeking psychotherapy. If we are struggling on our own to cope with disturbing events from our past or present then seeking help from a professional African-American therapist may be just what we need to improve ourself. We'd be crazy not to!


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