“What happens in this house stays in this house” is a common phrase in Black households. With this belief, a lot of people are drowning because they choose to not talk about what is going on or share those “family secrets,” according to Joy Boyd, founder and executive director of Wellness Counseling and Consulting.
According to Mental Health America, 4.8 million African Americans have reported having a mental illness. Of that 4.8 million, 1.1 million reported a serious mental health illness in the past year. Between 2008-2018, serious mental illness rose among all ages of the African American community. Although African Americans of all ages are less likely to die from suicide, African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than white teenagers. Amongst African American adults with mental illnesses, binge drinking, smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), illicit drug use and prescription pain reliver misuse are more frequent.
Barbara Humphrey, licensed addictions counselor, shared common misconceptions that people have about therapy.
“The oldest one is that you lay on a couch; two is that it’s directive and it’s not. It is only revealing, and the individual has freedom of choice. People also think it can be long, but it could be either long or short. You don’t have to have issues all the time, you could simply be challenging the meaning of life.”
Humphrey is currently working with those in juvenile detention and has found that young people are often the ones pushing for family therapy.
“The young person, mostly females, are calling to their parents to get involved in family therapy to make changes within the family,” said Humphrey. “A therapist’s role is to create an atmosphere that facilitates a dialogue where we can focus on the topic or need at hand.”
Joy Boyd has over 13 years of experience in mental health practice, and as a licensed mental health clinician, she uses a variety of therapeutic approaches to cater to each of her clients.
“I serve a diversity of clients; however, a majority of my clients are minorities. Because of that, we are able to code switch in therapy sessions: We can talk frank about certain things; we can relate on different levels. It’s those types of things, so we’re able to talk like that in sessions calmly,” said Boyd.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Boyd has noticed a rise in patient numbers.
“With the onset of Covid, when we had to shelter in place, a lot of people struggled with anxiety, depression and the transition of having to be isolated,” said Boyd.
Although she services all, the majority of her clients are African American adults between the ages of 18-50. According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 2% of an estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. are Black, and just 4% of psychologists are Black.
“There is a need and there is a shortage of African Americans in this field. So, as practitioners, we make up nationally three to four percent of clinicians. Trying to find a minority female is very small and few,” said Boyd.
Similar to Humphrey, Boyd said that her services are directly based on each client’s individual needs, which are often based on generational influences.
“There are some clients that come in that just need an ear, they just need someone to talk to, and so we stay right there. There are some clients that come in and talk about past trauma, and they want to work on trauma, work that has affected them from childhood to present, and how they should move past this trauma,” said Boyd. “When you discover some things, especially generational things that have just been engrained or passed down, when you have that awareness, a lot of times we are looking at breaking those cycles.”
Contact staff writer Braxton Babb at (317) 762-7854. Follow her on Twitter @BLIEVESHEWRITES.