Some of the common stigmas that prevent people from choosing therapy are a fear of not feeling accepted due to gender, sexuality, culture or race and ethnicity; a fear of being judged, and a fear that the therapist will try to put you on medication. There are many reasons why you may feel uncomfortable about going to therapy and your feelings are valid. If you are a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), you may have had a bad experience with a Therapist or Counselor and feel that therapy is not for you. It’s a sad reality that as a person-of-color, our history with professionals is painful (do your research) and the stories we have heard may have prevented you from seeking professional help even when you need it.
Your feelings are valid. As a black woman who is queer, a mother raising a black daughter, I know how difficult it can be to find Therapist that looks like me. I am Self-love Therapist and I am dedicated to ending mental health stigmas and merging mental health and self-love practices non-traditionally. There are Therapists out there who can relate to you. You are not alone.
Most people can benefit from talking to an unbiased professional about their concerns but if you have had a bad experience or have heard stories of white supremacy, racism, and discrimination from mental health professionals, you may feel uncomfortable. If you are considering seeking a Therapist, here are the 5 things you need to know about therapy:
1. You have the right to choose your Therapist
Once you call that number on the back of your health insurance card or do a search for a therapist online, or discuss finding a Therapist through your Primary Care Physician, you have the right to decide the type of Therapist you desire. You can be as specific as you desire to be. If you desire a therapist that identifies as she, he or they; if you desire an Asian, African American or a Latinx therapist, you can request that. You can request a therapist that is a part of the LGBTQIA+, a Christian or Muslim Therapist; you have permission to choose. Use your voice and ask for what you desire.
Need to know: Not every community has access to the demographic options for a Therapist that are listed above. It’s unfortunate but a reality that many struggle with because you may desire to speak to a professional that you feel can relate to you. Just like you seek treatment for your physical health, it may take time for you to find the therapist that is right for you; don’t give up.
2. Therapy does not mean cure
One of the most important goals of therapy is learning to cope with your concerns. Coping is not curing; coping is building a tool belt of skills and practices that will help you navigate through your concerns. When you begin therapy, don’t expect to feel better immediately and to never battle with your concerns again. Expect to learn what works for you to help you cope with your struggles and how to use those practices outside of therapy.
3. Therapy is not just for people with mental health concerns
You may be struggling with depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or a mood disorder and thinking about therapy. You also may not be struggling with those concerns but you may have a personal or professional concern that you are trying to overcome. If you are struggling with trusting yourself to quit your job, a breakup, being an entrepreneur, grief and loss, accepting your past choices, or with time management, these are also reasons to go and talk to a professional to help you.
You do not have to wait to go to therapy when you are at your lowest moment. Therapy is for you if you are considering it. If you have health insurance or if you can afford to pay for therapy out-of-pocket, make the choice to find a Therapist.
4. You should feel included in your sessions
When you are meeting with a Therapist, you should be a part of your sessions by making choices and deciding what you would like to discuss. Your Therapist should not be telling you what to do or how to feel, but instead giving you advice and support throughout the treatment process that you are comfortable with. Your Therapist should not use language that is discriminatory, degrading, or belittling. It is your Therapists job to be unbiased, to avoid judgement, and to not shame you for being who you are.
Your thoughts, feelings, and opinions matter, so share them with your Therapist. If something is not working, if you feel uncomfortable, unsupported, or unheard, talk to your Therapist about what you are feeling. If you have met with your Therapist for more than three sessions and you don’t feel connected or that they are not benefitting you, it is okay to terminate services with them and find a new Therapist. Your sessions are time that you are paying for whether it’s through your health insurance or not. If you don’t feel included in your sessions, it may be time to look for a new Therapist.
5. If you leave sessions without something to work on, it’s not therapy
Talking to your Therapist about your concerns is an essential part of the therapeutic process so that they can help provide you with the best support. Venting is essential in sessions, but venting is not the only thing that you should be doing in therapy. Venting is just the first step and taking action is the second step. It may feel like you do not have control over your concerns, but you have some control in your ability to cope and your Therapist is meeting with you to help you build those coping skills.
Your Therapist should be assigning you Action Plans or homework to complete in between sessions. Coping requires practice and you have to apply what you are working on in therapy in your everyday life.
Medication management without therapy is typically not enough to cope with mental health concerns, you have to DO THE WORK, so consider it a Red Flag if your Therapist is not assigning you things to work on in between sessions.
Therapy is not always accessible and affordable due to the cost of a copay, transportation, and in some cases finding childcare in order to attend sessions. Websites like e-Counseling provide a list of online counseling and therapy services that can help you find the best online therapy that meets there needs, including Talkspace. If you are struggling to find support, alternative therapeutic and self-care support are options to help you cope with your concerns.
Here are some Free Self-love Resources and how you can Become a Heart Advocate and use self-love as a way to cope with your concerns (all sessions are virtual and are available at a lower cost than a typical copay).