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I. Understand African American Therapy

Everyone faces life stressors that can impact their mental health. Black Americans may seek mental health therapy from African American therapists because this type of therapist already understands Black culture and psychological stressors specific to the Black community.

Mental health therapy can help you understand that you can improve your situation. With the right therapist, you can learn to control or eliminate symptoms that have been troubling you and make changes that promote healthy behaviors and a happier life.

What you should know about mental health therapy:

  • What’s it like to get mental health therapy?
  • How to find an African American therapist near you
  • What does mental health therapy help with?
  • How can you prepare for mental health therapy?
  • What are common mental health therapy treatments?

II. What’s it like to get mental health therapy?

You may seek mental health therapy for many reasons that deal with mental illnesses or emotional difficulties. African American therapists may treat depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, substance abuse, phobias, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and many other mental health issues. Therapists can also help you work through stressful situations that put a strain on your mental health, such as relationship problems, job loss, sexual abuse, domestic violence, losing a loved one, or a serious illness.

Not everyone is affected by mental illness in the same way. Black Americans may face personal, societal, and cultural differences when it comes to depression and anxiety, which African American therapists may better understand. Every person should watch for signs that they might benefit from mental health therapy. For example, it’s common to feel sad, angry, anxious, worried, or even hopeless sometimes. When these feelings are overwhelming and/or linger for a long time, it might be time to seek professional assistance. Frequently drinking to excess, difficulty focusing on work or everyday activities, or engaging in behavior that’s harmful to yourself or others can all signal you need some mental health help.

Symptoms of mental disorders and emotional difficulties can affect your ability to function normally and your quality of life profoundly. Black Americans may need additional help from African American therapists to overcome the stress and physiological and psychological impact of discrimination, racism, and inequity fully. Mental health therapy can address all types of distressing symptoms, assist with severe or ongoing stress, and improve your overall well-being.

African American therapists near you may take a variety of approaches to provide you with optimal mental health therapy. Treatment may combine various forms of talk therapies, cognitive behavioral therapies, and Black-centered psychology. Medications may be combined with therapies for diagnosed conditions.

III. How to find an African American therapist

Look for a therapist who’s professional that you feel will be comfortable to talk to and make you feel understood. Finding an African American therapist near you could be challenging as this group of professionals is often underrepresented in the field of psychology. If you can’t find a therapist who’s a good fit for you in your geographic area, consider teletherapy, which lets you receive therapy online through video conferencing.

Finding the right therapist depends on many factors that might influence your comfort level. These might include a therapist’s age, gender, and views on spirituality or sexuality. Minority patients may be sensitized to racial insults, making race and ethnicity a vital part of the therapeutic relationship. African American therapists effectively deliver culturally sensitive mental health interventions to African American patients and can honestly discuss ethnic and racial factors to quickly increase trust and mutual understanding.

If you’re seeking therapy for a specific concern, choose a therapist who’s had experience addressing your issue with other clients. More importantly, ensure you choose a qualified therapist. Every state requires mental health professionals to be licensed, which usually includes earning a master’s or doctoral degree, thousands of hours of supervised training, and passing a state licensing exam.

Therapists set their own fees, which largely vary based on education, experience, specializations, location, length of therapy sessions, whether they accept insurance, and whether they offer a sliding fee scale based on your income. Most therapists charge per session and may recommend a set number of sessions to address your issue or leave this open-ended. Cost is one of the biggest barriers to mental health treatment. Many therapists will work with you on a sliding fee scale, but they don’t always advertise this, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

IV. What does mental health therapy help with?

African American therapists understand the customs, attitudes, and behaviors of Black Americans, making them better equipped to address common mental health issues directly affecting the Black community. Mental health therapy can help with:

  • Racially motivated trauma: Race-based traumatic stress can be a response to a racially motivated encounter, such as a hate crime. Some individuals of racial and ethnic minorities experience racial discrimination as psychological trauma, sometimes leading to PTSD.
  • Depression: Depression can occur in anyone of any age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Chronic depression or major depressive disorders impact how you feel, think, and act.
  • Anxiety: When exposed to high levels of social or economic stressors, increased anxiety may lead to disorders that cause lingering anxiety that often becomes worse over time.
  • PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in anyone who’s witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Studies show the African American community has a high rate of PTSD.

V. How can you prepare for mental health therapy?

Consider what you want from mental health therapy and what concerns you want to cover. Write down what’s bothering you most and document your specific symptoms, how long you’ve had them, and their intensity. Document any medications you’re taking, especially those prescribed for symptoms related to your mental health. Create a list of family members who have dealt with mental health issues, what those issues were, and the outcomes. If you’ve been to therapy before, note what worked and what didn’t. Have this information ready to share with your African American therapist, so they have an overall picture of you.

VI. What are common mental health therapy treatments?

The treatment used in mental health therapy can vary based on your specific problem, but it often involves a combination of psychotherapies or talk therapies and sometimes medications. African American therapists may utilize one of several methods.

African-centered psychology

African-centered psychology focuses on the importance of African culture and the history of racism and oppression in understanding the psychology of Black Americans, which includes the emotional, psychological, and cognitive development of African Americans.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) fosters a collaborative relationship and recognizes that you’re an expert on your own problems, making this therapy distinctly advantageous for African Americans. Culturally adapted CBT further helps by focusing on Black American culture, including spirituality, family issues, and identity. CBT helps you target specific problems and how to solve them.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

Trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT) is an intervention designed to reduce cultural trauma in Black American youth. It’s a relatively short-term approach and can be used to treat PTSD and reduce negative responses and maladaptive behaviors arising from exposure to trauma. It maximizes parental engagement in supporting their children.


Medications may be utilized along with mental health therapies, which most often include psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. In some cases, talk therapy alone may be all that’s needed. In more severe cases, medications may be used first or throughout treatment. Medication use is based on your individual needs, personal preferences, and medical situation. Commonly used medications include antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, stimulants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. Each medication has potential side effects, so consider your options carefully.

VII. What else can help?

To get the most out of your therapy, your therapist will likely give you homework assignments related to specific goals to do in between your sessions. These assignments typically focus on what you learned during your therapy sessions and may include activities, such as journaling, practicing coping strategies, and rehearsing new skills. Exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep are physiological strategies that can help you mentally.

VIII. Sources