Black people don’t do therapy; we go to church” is a statement I’d heard countless times in my community. We didn’t discuss mental health so much in my family either. And when the concept of therapy did come up, it was doubly dismissed as a privilege purely for the rich, and something only white folks did. But after I suffered from insomnia and anxiety for more than five years, my friends started suggesting I find a therapist. It never crossed my mind that racial dynamics would play a part in this treatment—but then they did.
I am a black gay woman in an interracial relationship. I have survived sexual assault. Knowing I wouldn’t want to explore this with a man, I looked for a female therapist and by chance ended up with a woman of color. Our shared experiences as marginalized people made me feel safe, understood, and validated. She understood how the subtle nuances of my oppression impact all aspects of my life, including my mental health. She understood racial income disparities (the Economic Policy Institute reported in 2017 that black women would have to work seven additional months to make as much as white men do in a year, for example), and she took that into account when suggesting coping mechanisms (holistic treatments, classes, and even medication can be expensive and out of reach). Her language was inclusive, empathetic, and intersectional, and it helped me immensely.