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Sunday, May 26, 2024

HELP! We need Black psychotherapists!

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May is Mental Health Awareness month, and there is a lot of conversation in our society today about mental health. So, what is mental health versus mental illness? According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental health is defined as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological or emotional well-being. Mental illness is a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illness is typically associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Everyone deals with mental health, but not everyone experiences mental illness. So, after you understand what the different between mental health and mental illness is, and if you identify that you need help and want to seek treatment, then where and how do you find a therapist?  More specifically, a therapist of color? A minority male or female? Gender affirming?  These are questions that a lot of people struggle with trying to find the answers to after they make the decision to seek out therapy. To say the least, the struggle can be so discouraging that you might change your mind about seeking treatment or settle for a therapist that could cause your experience to be less than enjoyable.

To put it plainly, there are not enough Black therapists in this field, and the truth is, many Black people are specifically searching for a Black clinician, and they are having trouble finding one.  Once a person finds a black therapist, another common issue that they face is being put on a waitlist due to their high demand, which further delays treatment. The unfortunate reality is that there are not enough Black therapists, mental health nurse practitioners, psychologists or psychiatrists working in this industry. So, let’s look at some statistical data: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), as of 2023, 75.6% of all therapists are women, while 24.4% are men. The most common ethnicity of therapists is White (72.6%), followed by Asian (11.3%), Hispanic/Latino (7.9%) and Black/African American (4.0%).

So, what are some of the barriers that contribute to the lack of Black therapists working is this field? For starters, the lack of exposure to this industry, structural racism, and the cultural stigma around mental health and its effect on the Black community. Secondly, many Black individuals view mental health or even mental illness as a “weakness.”  Other factors include: Distrust in our health care system, education, socioeconomic factors, shame, guilt, discrimination, ridicule or just plain fear to name a few.

To say that we need more Black psychotherapists is an understatement, especially with the current mental health crisis that our society is experiencing in addition to the rising minority populations that will soon be the majority.

Contact Joy Boyd, Executive Director of Wellness Counseling and Consulting, at joy@wellnesscc.co. For information on the mental health services provided by Boyd’s practice go to www.wellnesscc.co.

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