Several published studies indicate that Black women experience mental health disorders at a higher rate than our counterparts. Moreover, Black women face numerous barriers when it comes to accessing mental health services, making it difficult to seek treatment. However, a recent Pew study revealed that Black women actually seek out mental health services at a higher rate than Black men.
The decision to pursue therapy can be intimidating, yet it is an incredibly empowering choice. Taking that first step towards a therapy session is a significant move towards self-care and personal growth, and I deeply appreciate the efforts Black women are making in this regard.
As a Black woman, it is crucial to acknowledge the unique experiences and challenges that we face. We’ve written previously about the importance of finding the right therapists for your needs. When selecting a therapist, it is important to consider seeking professionals who are culturally competent and experienced in working with Black women. They will have a better understanding of the intersectionality of race, gender, and culture, providing a safe space where you can openly explore your unique experiences and challenges. By recognizing these factors, you and your therapist can navigate the nuances of your experiences, fostering a deeper connection and understanding.
Therefore, it is essential to articulate your needs and goals to your therapist clearly. Discuss the specific challenges you face and what you hope to achieve through therapy. This will enable your therapist to tailor their approach and techniques to meet your specific requirements. Here are some questions to ask during your initial therapy sessions to help you feel comfortable with the person with whom you will be most vulnerable:
- How would you describe your therapeutic approach or orientation?
- What experience do you have working with individuals who have similar concerns or goals as mine? Do you have knowledge of or an understanding of any specific concerns or identities that are important to me?
- How do you typically structure therapy sessions?
- How do you approach goal-setting and measuring progress in therapy?
- Can you explain the confidentiality and privacy policies of your practice?
- What is your stance on incorporating cultural or identity-related factors into therapy?
- How do you handle potential conflicts or disagreements that may arise in therapy?
- Can you provide some information about your professional background and training?
- Are there any additional resources or activities you typically recommend outside of therapy sessions to support clients’ progress?
- What is your perspective on the length and frequency of therapy sessions?
- How do you involve family members or partners, if applicable, in the therapy process?
- What is your approach to self-care and preventing therapist burnout?
These questions can help you gain a better understanding of your therapist’s approach, establish rapport, and ensure that you are both aligned in terms of goals and expectations. Feel free to ask any other questions that are specific to your needs and concerns as well. Embracing your voice and agency as a Black woman is important. Advocate for your needs, express your emotions authentically, and actively participate in the therapeutic process. Recognize and celebrate the resilience and strength that you possess. Acknowledge the progress you have made and the obstacles you have overcome. By affirming your resilience, you empower yourself to continue growing and healing.