June begins National Men’s Health Month. The purpose of this month is to encourage the men in your life to take care of themselves. Three years ago, during this time, the world around us was changing in many ways. We all paused and witnessed the murder of George Floyd which led to questions about the mental health of Black people in America, especially for Black men. When we talk about the mental health of Black men in America, we cannot forget the intersecting stressors that impact this population including racism, classism, and the distrust that Black people in America have when it comes to medical providers.
Statistically, Black men are less likely to seek help when they have a problem including being less likely to seek mental health services, in comparison to non-Black men. When they do seek help, their symptoms may be missed or underdiagnosed due to cultural differences in how depression, trauma, and other mental health challenges are defined and understood. This causes them to move further away from acknowledging their emotions and feelings, especially those that could be symptoms of mental illness including sadness, stress, tiredness, pain, etc.
Like any other group that is often denied opportunity to express their emotions or be vulnerable and honest about their experience, Black men might find it difficult to exist in a therapeutic space. Even the idea of starting therapy can feel overwhelming. If you are a Black man interested in seeing a therapist during National Men’s Health Month, here are five tips to help you get started.
5 Tips for Black Men Interested in Therapy
Tip #1: Do not be afraid to try multiple therapists.
There is no perfect fit when it comes to finding a therapist. However, do not be afraid to do multiple consultations. Most therapists offer the chance to talk with them before you begin services. This is the best time to ask them about their approach and figure out whether they would be a great fit. You want to make sure it is an environment that feels safe for you.
Tip #2: Be honest and be willing to challenge yourself.
I always tell patients that what you do within our time together is important but what you do outside of time together is even more important. It takes time to build rapport so that might impact how much you are willing to share in each session. Confidentiality is huge and what you share in each session should not go beyond the therapy space. Yet, healing cannot begin to take place without truth-telling and vulnerability on the part of the patient.
Tip #3: Do not give up quickly, healing takes time.
Therapy is a process and journey just like healing. There are times when you might feel like you are making progress and other times you might find yourself back at where you began. It is very easy to give up during the process so finding people to hold you accountable is important. You can be honest with your therapist about the feelings that are coming up so that you both are able to unpack them during the session.
Tip #4: Acknowledge your own bias and stereotypes around therapy.
We all come into therapy with certain bias and stereotypes around what it means to receive help. In the Black community working with mental health providers is a newer trend that still comes with hesitation and distrust.
Acknowledging those beliefs in the beginning can be helpful as you begin the journey. As a therapist I am always looking for feedback so if there is more or less of something you need during the session it is important to let your therapist know. This approach allows the patient to face some of the bias and stereotypes they express directly.
Tip #5: There is no right or wrong way, it is all about trying.
Many times, patients wonder if they are doing it right and it is important to challenge that concern from the beginning. There is no right or wrong way to do therapy because everyone’s process looks different. Therapy is not a one size fits all and we can not guilt or shame ourselves into healing. I remind patients that trying is just as important and if something does not work, we can figure out together the best tools and strategies for you.
If you are interested in learning more about therapy and how we can partner with you as you begin your mental health journey, please reach out to our Behavioral Health team at 919.237.1337, or learn more about our services here.