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Today is:
Why African Americans,
Don't Go To Therapy?
By Tonya Ladipo, LSW

There are many different ideas about why African Americans don't seek therapy. Here are some of the more prevalent ones.


"But I'm not crazy"

While it's true that some people with mental health issues seek therapy, it's really a service for anyone.   Therapy is a paid service that connects you with a trained professional who provides you with the support you need to live a healthier and happier life.  

When I first met "Andre" he was apprehensive about seeking therapy. Overall, he felt that his life was manageable and that he did not have enough problems to go to therapy. He certainly was not "crazy". After several discussions about the purpose of therapy and its benefits to him as a rational person, Andre was able to accept his desire for therapy.

In fact, in a recent session Andre said that the healthiest people he knows are all in therapy.   But the people he knows who have the most problems aren't in therapy.  

Recognizing that your life is not how you want it to be or that you need additional support is exactly when therapy can be helpful.  


"I can talk to my friends and family"

When we talk with our family or friends, sometimes we don't tell them everything that's going on in our head or in our lives.   This isn't to be deceptive, but it is because we care about our friends and family. And we care what they think about us.


Keisha came to see me because she was thinking about leaving her husband.   She recently found out that he had an affair.   But her family adored her him and she was afraid of what they would say.   She hadn't made up her mind about leaving, but she needed someone to talk to.

When you're concerned with what others are thinking and feeling, you cannot focus on yourself and your own needs.   That's the benefit of therapy.   You can share all of your thoughts and feelings without worrying about the therapist.   As backwards as it may sound, it can be easier to talk to a stranger.  

Keisha was relieved to talk about her marriage with someone who was not judging her or telling her what to do.   This freedom allowed her to be honest with herself and decide what is best for her.   Ultimately, she decided to stay and work on her marriage.  

Does this mean that your family and friends aren't helpful to you?   Absolutely not.   It means that therapy can add to the support that they provide, helping you in a very different way.


"It's another racist system"

As African-Americans, we know the persistent racism in our country.   It exists on a large scale and in our daily interactions.   We have many reasons to be suspicious of outsiders, to be distrustful of their motivations and actions.   The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is a perfect example of why we are wary of outsiders.   Going to therapy poses another opportunity to encounter racism and discrimination if you're met with an insensitive or ignorant therapist.


When I worked in an agency, I often saw African-American clients who immediately said, "I'm so relieved that you're Black."   Some felt more comfortable with me because they felt that they did not have to "teach" me about our culture.   Others had encountered racist beliefs with White therapists.

"Ayanna", an African-American woman in her 30's with two children, previously met with a White therapist before coming to see me.   The therapist was surprised to learn that Ayanna attended and graduated from college.   When the therapist asked about Ayanna's children and family, she asked if the children had the same father.   At this point, Ayanna knew that she wouldn't be comfortable with a therapist who assumed that she was uneducated and had children with different men simply because she was African-American. continued on page 2

African-Americans can benefit from therapy
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