Is Therapy for Black People? Reflections from a Black Woman Therapist
By Victoria Smith Ellison LCSW
What is therapy?
If you have never been to therapy or don’t know someone who has ever been, you may have questions about what therapy is and who it is for. According to Psychology Today, “Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or usually just "therapy," is a form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems. Provided by any of a variety of trained professionals—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counselors—it involves examining and gaining insight into life choices and difficulties faced by individuals, couples, or families. Therapy sessions refer to structured meetings between a licensed provider and a client with a goal of improving some aspect of their life.” (Source: Psychology Today)
There are different types of therapists with different approaches and exploring the process of therapy can feel overwhelming. In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to share reflections about whether therapy is for Black People and tips on getting started on your journey.
Why therapy for Black people?
The history of anti-blackness and systemic oppression in the United States does not exclude the mental health field. While there is still much growth needed in the mental health field, therapy can still be helpful for Black People.
Isolation is a tool of oppression. Access to therapeutic spaces for individual and collective healing on one’s terms, with guidance from culturally responsive therapists, is an act of self preservation in a world that not only silences but has and continues to erase Black People’s existence.
Possible Way that Therapy Can Support You
You may be wondering how one hour of therapy each week can make a difference in your life. The reality is that each person’s journey is uniquely theirs. While we may have shared history and culture, our experiences as Black People are not all the same. Therapy can create space for you to explore all parts of yourself. Therapy can create space for you to explore the range of your emotions and needs. Therapy can create space for you to build skills to manage daily stressors. Therapy can provide a space for you to reflect on your past (including Ancestral Legacy), acknowledge your present and envision the future that you want for yourself.
The skills that you can learn during your therapy sessions can have long term impacts on the ways you show up for yourself, your relationships and how you navigate the world based on what you need at different points in your life.
Tips on Exploring if Therapy is Right For You:
Every therapist has a different style and some styles may not fit your needs. You may want to see a Black Therapist. You also may be open to seeing a non Black Therapist. A number of therapists offer free consultations and I encourage you to schedule time to ask potential therapists questions to get a sense of how they can support your unique needs. Additionally, you may participate in several consultations or even work with several therapists before you find the right fit for you.
Here are a few directories where you find potential therapists:
Therapy for Black Girls Directory
Inclusive Therapists Directory
Therapy is a service that can carry a financial burden for some people. If you have access to health insurance, check in with your provider to see what coverage they offer that can support your mental wellness journey. Additionally, some therapists and community based mental health agencies may offer free, low cost or sliding scale rates which may help make therapy services more accessible.
At Artesian Collaborative, we accept a number of common insurance providers and also offer sliding scale rates. Learn more about starting therapy with Artesian Collaborative here.