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.
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