Top 3 Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy

May 27, 2010

1) “I’m Not Crazy” 

There is a belief that is quite common I find, and not just with Black folks, that therapy is only for those people who are severely disturbed.  In fact, therapy is useful for many issues, including:  job or family stress, difficulty getting along with others, personal crises, like grief, or identity issues, or just feeling misunderstood or not heard and supported.  Of course therapy can be helpful with more serious conditions as well. 

What is the meaning of “crazy” anyway?  In some cases, I think not getting help is the crazy thing when it becomes clear to the person and their friends or family that help is needed.  

 2) “I Have Enough Support from Other Sources” 

This is actually a good reason.  One African American “survivalism” (or pattern of behavior we have passed down through generations)  we use that still works when it is available is interdependence. In African philosophy this is stated:  “I am because we are”.  We’ll call it a healthy network.  When we have a firmly established network of supportive friends and family who get us, and we can talk to, often there is no need for therapy.  It is important to note that if the issue is serious (like hearing voices or severe mood shifts) and not getting better through the usual support system it may be better to seek professional help as an adjunct to the system.

3) “That Would Mean I am Weak and Cannot Handle My Problems”

There is still stigma attached to mental health issues and mental health treatment.  Many people think:  “Just suck it up!”  But there are many issues such as serious mood disorders that you can’t just “suck up” or ignore or often they get worse.  I have seen that entering therapy can be both a sign of strength and empowering.  I am often awed by the amount of strength and courage present in people who are doing therapy. 

I think we as people of African descent have had to ignore a great deal of our issues historically because there just wasn’t the time, energy or money.  We had to survive.  Addressing mental health issues probably seemed like a luxury for many people in the past.  However, now with so many opportunities to get help, we need to change this pattern.  Each person who is mentally healthy is able to make a better, stronger contribution to his community.  After all: “I am because we are”.

It can be a project to find someone you feel comfortable talking with, but it is well worth the effort.

***This anecdotal information, based on years of talking to people who refuse to get therapy even when they really need it.

5 Responses to “Top 3 Reasons Black People Do Not Go to Therapy”

  1. I have had “Black folks” as therapy clients over the years. I find that the people who come to me are no nonsense and want someone who will talk to them in plain language and not beat around the bush.

  2. I find that most people, no matter the cultural background, appreciate a straightforward, non-condescending approach.

  3. I believe it is crucial for us as a “community” to promote the benefits of therapy; thus debunking social and even socio-religious stigma. The fear of being ostracized, or deemed “weak” and incapable of handling life’s circumstance, is often central to one’s refrain from seeking professional help. An added prohibitor is that of spiritual continuity: “Will I be considered ‘faithless’ if I venture outside of my relationship with God?” As a minister, it has now become a requirement; yet, the parishoners are not often aware of this. If we as a “community” take an indigenous approach, perhaps (just perhaps) we can convince our loved ones to follow suit. (Great topic).

  4. […] See also: Top 3 Reasons Why Black People Do Not Go to Therapy […]

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