Here’s What You Need to Know as a Black Girl Looking for Therapy
Finding a therapist can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms—but finding a compassionate mental health provider as a Black woman can feel impossible. Black women not only have to worry about being vulnerable to a stranger, but they also have to consider whether their therapist will understand the racism and microaggressions they face.
In addition to the social stigma surrounding mental illness and accessing the proper treatment, Black women face additional barriers to seeking support, including financial concerns, unique stressors, and a lack of appropriate providers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Black adults are more likely than white adults to report mental health issues. However, only approximately 30% of those who need mental health treatment receive it.
Whether you’re searching for a culturally competent therapist or thinking about starting psychotherapy for the first time, here’s what you need to know.
Why is cultural competence so crucial in therapy?
Your relationship with your therapist can significantly influence the effectiveness of your therapy sessions. In many cases, clients who feel like their mental health professional doesn’t understand them are more likely to drop out of treatment. In addition to difficulty forming a therapeutic alliance, a licensed psychologist who lacks cultural competence may not use the best treatment approach or may fail to tailor your treatment to your specific cultural and mental health needs.
Cultural competence isn’t only about race. A culturally competent therapist should feel comfortable addressing things like:
- Gender and gender identity and expression
- Socioeconomic status
- Sexual orientation
- Ethnic identity
Of course, working with a provider who shares your race, gender, and background isn’t a requirement, but forming a deeper connection with your therapist can lead to better mental health outcomes. According to a 2011 review of studies, African-Americans had strong preferences for therapists who were also Black. When working with a Black therapist in NYC, clients’ perception of their relationship was better, which led to better psychological outcomes.
Mental Health Resources for Black Women
Within the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths of Black women like Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson have only added to the trauma that Black women carry—with few resources to cope effectively. In a society where women of color are frequently marginalized, mental health resources can help women connect, talk openly about mental health issues, and combat stigma. Some valuable mental health resources include:
- Therapy for Black Girls (TBG) features a therapist directory of culturally competent therapists that can help Black girls navigate what it means to be strong, happy, and independent. Created by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Therapy for Black Girls also offers TBG merch and a podcast with a weekly conversation dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental health in the Black community and encouraging the mental wellness of Black women.
- The Therapy for Black Girls Sister Circle, previously known as the Yellow Couch Collective, provides a safe online space for women of color to support, encourage, and learn from each other.
- The Balanced Black Girl Podcast is a weekly podcast dedicated to helping Black women feel their best. The Balanced Black Girl Podcast hosts a weekly conversation on mental health, personal development, self-care, as well as advice from wellness and relationship experts.
- The Loveland Foundation empowers communities of color, with a particular focus on Black women and girls. Through its therapy fund and partnerships with other organizations, The Loveland Foundation prioritizes opportunities, access, validation, and healing for the Black community.
- Ethel’s Club is an online platform dedicated to celebrating people of color. While they have a physical location in Brooklyn, NY, the community also has a big following on social media, allowing members to connect with other POC from around the world.
- The Therapy Group of NYC, an online therapy platform, uses scientifically based methods and intelligent technology to connect clients to compassionate therapists, regardless of their personal preferences and requirements. Especially during COVID-19, the ability to access therapy sessions online can help clients navigate mental health issues from the comfort of their own home.
Finding a Culturally Competent Therapist
As a woman of color, it’s normal to want to find a therapist who looks like you or shares your background. It’s understandable—but finding a Black therapist can be difficult. Unfortunately, Black women make up less than five percent of psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental healthcare providers in the United States.
If you can’t find a Black therapist that meets your budget, scheduling needs, or other requirements, consider searching for a healthcare provider who is open to learning about you and your life experiences. Your provider doesn’t necessarily need to specialize in mental health, and many primary care providers and gynecologists prescribe medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental illnesses.
Above all else, it’s important to remember that mental health is an important conversation. Even if you can’t find a Black mental health professional in your area, opening up about your mental illness to your healthcare provider is the first step to seeking treatment. In many cases, your provider may be able to refer you to a colleague for additional treatment, such as psychotherapy, counseling, or EMDR.
Online Therapy for Black Women
If you’re experiencing stigma or you don’t know how to start your mental health journey, don’t worry—online therapy can help you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with.
Working with an online therapist who specializes in Black girl therapy or mental healthcare for people of color can help you feel more understood, heard, and respected. A culturally competent therapist should recognize and respect your perspectives, beliefs, and values.
If you’re interested in working with a licensed psychologist, the Therapy Group of NYC can help you find the right fit.
Our authentic and data-driven therapists provide continuous guidance and compassionate care to help you become the best possible version of yourself. We’ll help you navigate your mental health, work on your personal development, and build the resilience needed to navigate difficult situations in the future.