Dear Black Man: Therapy is for You Too

Since opening up about going to therapy I’ve had many people reach out to me inquiring about my experience. Some are curious because they want to try it out. Some are asking for friends or family members they think need it. I’m so happy more people are choosing to take steps toward improving their mental health.

One group of individuals I’ve encountered who need an extra push when it comes to considering therapy are black men. I’ve had conversations with black men in therapy who have expressed shame about being in treatment. They often don’t want to tell their loved ones about it. I’ve also had conversations with black men who have considered therapy but have not taken that step. Being seen as weak is a real fear. You don’t have to be vocal and shout to the world about seeking treatment.

I can try to convince you to seek therapy all day long. But, I thought it would be more beneficial for you to hear from other black men who’ve sought therapy. I asked the men to describe their overall therapy experience and to give advice to other black men. Most of my readers are women but if you have a black man in your life who’s skeptical about therapy, share this with them.

Experiences

Experience: Positive. Draining. But overall pointing me in the right direction.  

Advice: Go with an open mind. Stick with it. It takes time and several sessions to start to get to heart of what ails you.

Anonymous, 32, in therapy for 4 months

 

E: Amazing to look at another person’s perspective of your situation and come to the realization that you do have layers of undiscovered things in your psyche.

A: Get rid of every stigma that may make you feel less of a man if you go.

Anonymous, 32, off and on for 5 months

 

E: Helpful and calming

A: Let the preconceived notions go. It does not mean you are crazy or make you less of a man. It can be helpful and sometimes essential in you maintaining your mental health.

Andre, 41, 6 months

 

E: I thought it was helpful to gain perspective, reflection, and at times indirect guidance.

A: Seek therapy, other folks are doing. Also, I think therapy advocates should consider the benefits of incorporating routine therapy or therapy-like activities in elementary, middle, and high schools….and not just reserve it for the students that are cutting themselves etc.

Anonymous, 33, 2 years off and on

 

E: I was very happy with the experience. It helped me learned about a lot of issues I had concerning my father and insecurities and my father has been married to my mother since 1982. It was tough at first but it definitely helped my relationship with my father and we are doing better. My relationship with significance other has gotten better to because I communicate better and have learned how to take criticism without feeling attacked.

A: You have to do this for yourself! The hardest part is just showing up. Once you show up you’ll be glad you did. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find out more about yourself and wanting help it doesn’t make you weak there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Christopher, 31, 3 months

 

E: My first time going was while I was in a relationship and my girlfriend at the time wanted me to see her in that setting, and listen as the therapist translated things for us. Luckily for me, I was able to see the type of therapy that would be most effective for me. The doctor was a very non traditional therapist, and during that visit she even recommended MDMA to get us over a vulnerability hump in our relationship.

After seeing how amazing she was with my girlfriend, I decided to find my own therapist who was similar to work on maintaining my happiness, finding ways to be vulnerable in all my settings, and figure out where I needed fine tuning. I’ve never felt I had any mental illnesses, but I do strongly believe that all Black folks should see someone to deal with underlying issues we think are a part of life. Like the anxiety we get from systemic racism, and the depression and stress that sometimes comes with that. Since seeing therapists of all types, some very traditional, some far from traditional, I’ve been my happiest, knowing I’ve been given the tools to keep myself on track and help others as well. I’ve since become a mental health first aid professional, helping others in their emergencies and giving resources.

A: It’s imperative that we talk to folks who aren’t emotionally invested in us to get their unbiased thoughts and feedback. Being strong isn’t being silent, it’s talking and sharing and being vulnerable.

Darnell, 34, 6 years

 

E: The experience in therapy was generally positive. I was able to identify some neurosis and anxiety developed from early trauma. It was helpful to have that knowledge of self.

A: I would say that while frightening to be vulnerable, please do it. You can take your time working with a therapist of your choice. It can be helpful to find a therapist of similar to background. I had an additional barrier working with an affluent white woman therapist. She was fine, but her practice was in her home and I was met with aggression and suspicion when coming to my sessions by her neighbors. I was afraid because of that.

Taj, 30, 6 months

 

E: I’ll be straight up, I did not like my therapist. She was an older white lady, helpful and very succinct but I couldn’t help but feel like she couldnt fully  understand me. I used my sessions as times to vent and check in/ update my therapist on the progress I made since the previous visit. We talked about finding balance in my life overall, my irrational spending habits, anger, and family issues I was having at the time. My therapist advised me to get more sleep, include more physical activity into my everyday routine (because endorphins matter), eat real food, and spend more time doing things I love.

A: When I left therapy I realized that my therapist had only confirmed what my friends and family had been telling me for years. For some reason it just clicked because it was a stranger telling me. It had to be right if EVERYONE was saying the same thing. Going to therapy never killed anybody. If you absolutely hate it you don’t have to go back. In my opinion the whole objective of therapy is to learn coping skills so that you don’t have to continue seeing a therapist. Try it.

Timothy, 28, 8 months

24 Comments

  1. Reply

    erinlivelovelaugh

    March 18, 2017

    I love this post! I think Darnell summed up my sentiments to a tee, “Being strong isn’t being silent, it’s talking and sharing and being vulnerable.” Hopefully as time goes on, more and more will see and understand that there is nothing wrong with seeking help and guidance.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 18, 2017

      Yes I loved all the responses I received from the gentlemen. If it helps at least one man seek therapy, I’ve done my job 🙂

  2. Reply

    SocaMom® (@SocaMomDC)

    March 18, 2017

    With all that black men (and women) have to deal with in this country, it is a wonder that more of us aren’t in therapy. I love all the different testimonials.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 20, 2017

      So many factors as to why we don’t go but hopefully this changes as more people share their experiences.

  3. Reply

    Carissa (The Green Eyed Lady)

    March 19, 2017

    Great Post!!! I loved Darnell’s response! I’ve been in therapy before and like he said it ain’t never hurt nobody! If you dont like it dont go back but at least give it a try!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 20, 2017

      Definitely agree! Glad you tried it, hope it helped!

  4. Reply

    Aija

    March 20, 2017

    This is a great post, we have to stop looking at therapy as something to be feared or something we only do when in crisis mode. I don’t see an issue with seeing a therapist on an ongoing basis??

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 20, 2017

      Yes unfortunately it is feared in our community and I’m just doing my part to break the stigma.

  5. Reply

    OutdoorsyDiva

    March 20, 2017

    I get on my soapbox about therapy all the time! Best money I spent in my adult life. My black male friends definitely shy away from it. However I have alredy made it a point to introduce my teenage son to this to help him work through daddy issues so that he doesn’t grown up carrying all of those emotions and not knowing what to do with them.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      Good for you! I definitely wish I had had the opportunity to go when I was younger.

  6. Reply

    Kiwi

    March 20, 2017

    I think Black Men are the #1 candidate for therapy. I think they are told at a very young age to be A man, and to be strong and to never show emotions and weak but then they hold so much stuff and trauma it will come out in the form of extreme anger or other bad traits.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      Yes! And that’s exactly why some believe they are weak or less of a man for going.

  7. Reply

    Ra'Nesha

    March 20, 2017

    Interesting post! Just not sure what else say mentally health is ignored by men and women.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      It definitely is, and I’m a supporter of everyone getting help (browse my mental health posts ;).. but this one was specifically for black males and stemmed from several conversations.

  8. Reply

    Kita

    March 20, 2017

    Amen to all of this! Our entire community needs to be more open to seeking help when we need it.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      Definitely!

  9. Reply

    beautythatwalks

    March 20, 2017

    Why is this article focused only towards men?

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      I’m a supporter of everyone getting help (browse my mental health posts ;).. but this one was specifically for black males because it stemmed from several conversations about men feeling weak or less of a man for seeking help. Women are definitely more likely to seek help.

  10. Reply

    staciesayzso

    March 20, 2017

    Thank you for sharing these tips. I think it’s hard for men to open up to others let alone a stranger or “doctor” but I know therapy can really help men heal.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      March 21, 2017

      It definitely can!

  11. Reply

    ShaBree H.

    March 21, 2017

    I’ll definitely be sharing some of these reasons. Mental health is such a taboo is so many black families particularly those of West Indian/Caribbean descent. Thank you for contributing to starting this conversation.

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