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Meet the Psychotherapist That is Pushing Forward Mental Health in the Black Community

Meet the Psychotherapist That is Pushing Forward Mental Health in the Black Community

 

To say that our mental health has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic is an understatement. And talking about it has been vital as many of us are more vulnerable. We have lost loved ones as well as jobs, we have stress over virtual learning, how to stay safe from COVID in public, and information regarding the disease changes daily. The list is truly endless.

 

Aside from COVID-19, other short and long-term economic and societal consequences of the pandemic as well as other current events such as racial injustice, climate change, and the upcoming election have led to the significant increase in mental wellness conversations. This year, we have seen a substantial surge in discussions surrounding mental wellness – particularly among communities of color.

 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems compared to the general population. Many in our marginalized communities of color suffer disproportionately from economic uncertainty, from COVID-19 and from racial tension or unrest.

 

They also experience less access to care and services. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 63% of African Americans believe a mental health condition is a personal sign of weakness.

 

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental wellness is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Approximately 450 million people currently suffer from both internal and external conditions impacting their mental wellness, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

 

Sadly, the increase in mental health issues is driven by many factors including loneliness, lack of support systems, and two large culprits—screen time and social media.

 

 

During the pandemic, one trend that has been beneficial to the general public is the acceleration of people seeking therapy-based online communities to keep feelings of loneliness and isolation at bay.

 

Fortunately, a trailblazer in minority outreach, Psychotherapist Ashley Bryant has developed an online resource for people of color who wish to find culturally aware therapists where they can view profiles, ask questions and book appointments via the site TherapyInColor.org.

 

 

Therapy In Color is about having a community where people of color come together, learn from one another, heal together and remove the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. It is Ashley’s belief that mental wellness should be all encompassing and include helping the mind, body, and soul.

 

“I remember going to weekly therapy sessions where I didn’t connect with my therapist,” says Bryant. “People of color deserve a therapist who ‘gets’ them.”

 

In addition to being a Licensed Professional Counselor, Ashley Bryant is a mental health speaker who has a passion for speaking to others about overcoming trauma and inclusivity in mental health advocacy. I recently spoke to her about the importance of destigmatizing mental health in communities of color, tips to maintain mental wellness, more about her website and online community, Therapy In Color.

 

Meet the Psychotherapist That is Pushing Forward Mental Health in the Black Community

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What inspired you to go into Psychotherapy?

What inspired me to go into psychotherapy was, really dealing with some of my own life experiences. I lost my mom at an early age on my 17th birthday; and after that, I started dealing with a lot of depression of suicidal ideation. That’s when I had my first experience with therapy and going to see a therapist.

 

With my experience with therapy, I realized that there was not a lot of therapists that looked like me, and as a result, I was experiencing difficulties with relating to a therapist. It was then that I desired to “Be the change I wanted to see.” I wanted to be able to help other others heal from trauma once I had gone through and done my own healing.

 

 

 

 

Give some background on your website, Therapy In Color.

I created Therapy In Color to help connect Black and Indigenous people of color with therapists of color. There is a lot of stigma among communities of color when it comes to seeking therapy. And there can be difficulties with finding someone that you can relate to, that understands you. Therapy In Color helps eliminate the stigma associated with people of color seeking therapy and being able to find someone that to relate to.

 

Therapy in color

 

 

 

Therapy in color

 

 

Have you seen an increase in Psychotherapists of color over the past decade?

I have actually. More Black and Indigenous people of color are becoming therapists as the stigma around therapy is dismantled. So not only are we seeing more black Indigenous people of color seeking therapy, but we’re also seeing them becoming the practitioners as well.

 

 

 


Why is it important that we dismantle those myths surrounding therapy – especially myths regarding African-American women and mental health?

When we look at people of color, Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience mental health problems when we compare them to the general population. Another statistic that says 63% of Black Americans think that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness.

 

So it’s very important for us to highlight the importance of mental health and how seeking mental health treatment is not a sign of weakness. I think culturally and historically, we have gotten used to dealing with trauma and dealing with situations on our own as a sign of resiliency. We can still be resilient while still reaching out to get the assistance that we need.

 

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We know that there are different things that are stressors for people of color that may not affect other communities. What have you discovered during your time as a Psychotherapist in regard to that difference?

Yes, there’s a lot of differences – one of the most prominent differences right now that everyone is talking about is racial trauma. Racial trauma is a thing that people of color deal with, and so it’s even more important to be connected with someone who is culturally aware and culturally competent, who understands the effect that racial trauma has.

 

There’s also many disparities in healthcare. We see that in mental health as well, which are some of the other differences when working with people of color versus the general population that we have to deal with.

 

 

 

How can people safeguard their mental health on a day-to-day basis during these unprecedented times?

One of the things that I encourage individuals to do is to keep in mind that social distance is physical distance. It’s not where you don’t have communication with the people that love and care about you. So you really want to make sure that you keep in communication with others so that isolation doesn’t affect you.

 

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Journaling is also a really good tool to utilize. To be able to get your thoughts and your feelings out really helps.

 

Any other type of mindfulness exercise, like yoga, stretching, things like that to bring you back to the present, meditation, prayer – anything that’s going to help bring you back to the present – to where you’re not focusing on other things and what you can’t control.

 

 

 

What about tips for people who want to seek out therapy or have already found someone, and they’re going to see a therapist for the first time?

I really encourage people to do research on the therapist they’re interested in choosing to ensure that it’s going to be a good fit. You want to make sure that whatever issue that you are wanting to navigate through in therapy, that the therapist has the skills and the experience that helps you with that particular issue.

 

Another thing that I tell people to do is tell a close friend or close family that you’re going through therapy. oftentimes there is anxiety whenever we go through therapy – especially when it’s the first time. Sometimes even before you get in the door, you’re like, “Oh my goodness, I think I should cancel.” But if you tell someone that you love and that you trust that you’re going, it like a piece of accountability to keep you from backing out at the last minute.

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What are some things that people should do during their first therapy visit?

Taking notes is a really good idea. Whatever questions that you have that you’re thinking about before you go to therapy, write them down because it never fails that when you get there, you forget those questions. Also, ask the therapist about their experience, their background, and about their approach to treatment.

 

Most importantly, make sure that you’re thinking about your goals. When you’re walking away from your therapy visit, What do you want to have achieved? Keeping your goals for therapy as your focus will enable you to look back after each visit and say, ‘You know what? This was worth it.’

 

 

 

For more information, visit TherapyInColor.org.

 

 

 

 

About Our Guest

Ashley Bryant, LPC
 
Ashley Bryant is a Psychotherapist who works with individuals and couples encountering mental health challenges. Bryant specializes in helping those who are wanting to find themselves after experiencing trauma. Her journey from adversity to healing began as a teen after the loss of her mother. She fought battles against grief, depression and even suicide attempts eventually recognizing that her life’s purpose revolved around supporting others in their own journey to inner peace. Her expertise has been featured nationally on TLC’s My 600-lb Life, US Weekly, Life & Style Magazine, InTouch Weekly, Daily Mail, PBSGood Day DC and more.

 

Makeba Giles is a Digital Content Producer and founder of Faith Health and Home, a digital space with information and resources for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to help families live an inspired lifestyle.

info@faithhealthandhome.com

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