This directory of black therapists in private psychotherapy and counseling practices in the United States was started over 20 years ago by black therapists. It was begun to assist African Americans who were experiencing normal life challenges such as life stage adjustments, marital and relationship problems, parenting difficulties, mood disorders and personality problems to obtain objective and empathic therapy without worrying about the effects and cultural mis-perceptions of both implicit and explicit racism.
People were uncomfortable
At the time that this website was started, the notion that black clients should seek out black therapists caused alot of discomfort for both clients and providers. White providers saw it as an affront to their self perceptions and their hopes that they would treat all clients the same. The issue for clients was not only about receiving fair treatment, it was about being accurately understood. It was about comprehension of nonverbal communication that occurs between people who have been raised in a similar environment or who at least understand varying black neighborhoods, black experiences and nuances in interactions between blacks and between blacks and whites. Many white providers were and still are in unconscious denial of their often negative racial bias.
People didn’t know how to ask without offending
Black clients would call and whisper, “I hate to ask this but I need a black therapist. I don’t mean any harm.” or they would say, “You don’t know how long I’ve been trying to find you!” So with this site, it is easier.
Some black providers did not want to talk about racism. They were afraid that white clients would not come to them. They didn’t want to be seen as a “black provider”. We know that there are experiences that fall all along a continuum when it comes to racial, generational, economic and gender combinations of clients and providers. Studies have shown that black clients do better, stay in therapy longer and feel more comfortable with black providers.
Many black folks are bi-cultural; fewer white providers are
In the United States, blacks who succeed often do so by being bi-cultural – knowing and understanding the values and language of white America. Unfortunately, it still is not often the reverse. Whites often avoid or have no entry into black culture. They may know only what they’ve seen on television and through the highly skewed lens of some news media. Some of that limited exposure may be true for clients as well. In some fairly closed black neighborhoods, contact with whites may be limited to teachers, police officers and annual doctor’s visits. Most of those experiences put the black person in the submissive position, with the white professional in a position of authority. Those arrangements are not conducive to the honest sharing and accurate validation essential to therapy.
We knew that one day we could mark a milestone
As envisioned twenty years ago, when the site began, we knew that one day we could mark a milestone where white viewers and providers would understand why black clients need a choice of white or black providers just like they need a choice of a male or female providers. White providers would know and understand that there are things they don’t know and don’t understand and that those things are crucial to black clients for whom one of their challenges is the daily wear and tear of microaggressions. In addition, for some clients, chronic pings of mistreatment make them especially sensitive to words and expressions of white providers which cause them to terminate therapy early.
A very small example is the therapist’s assumption about a client’s ability to pay. Not only therapists, but whites in many other positions, make an assumption that if you are black you are unable to afford good treatment. Many also assume that if you are black you are intellectually unable to understand relationship dynamics. (Seriously.) There are assumptions about our ability to resist drugs, promiscuous behavior and our moral values about family and marriage.
Another reason, this directory is needed is because referral sources tend to be prejudiced toward people they know.
White medical providers tend to refer clients to white mental health providers. White school administrators tend to refer their students to white mental health providers. Many black providers in private practice in many parts of the country know that since O.J. (the murder case which enthralled the country), there has been a noticeable drop in white clients going to black providers.
Often, clients are told by doctors and schools that they don’t know of any providers of color.
We hear this over and over again and it was the primary motivation for starting this website. Churches often see faith as the issue when members ask for relationship, financial or addiction help. While faith and spiritual belief is so important, there are practical skills that therapy can teach, which greatly improves your ability to assess and handle problems of daily life as well as sudden crises.
We also wanted a forum in which to educate clients of color about the truths and myths of therapy, especially where they are depicted as conflicting with some of our cultural beliefs and traditions. We wanted to mention how CPT (time) does not work for therapy since the time schedule is the framework for a successful practice where we can be sure to keep things running smoothly.
As time goes on, we see the need for opening up the site to comments so that you can make us aware of what’s happening in your individual communities. Your access to mental health care may be hampered without a free flow of information. We also see a need to highlight social justice issues that affect each and every one of us.
ONE DAY, we hope that our cultures will be unified and that we all will have a comfortable familiarity with our differences and similarities such that assumptions will be nullified and implicit bias will be minimized consciously.