All Articles Tagged "therapy"
When I tell people I’m a therapist I get a variety of reactions. Some people tell me they don’t know how I have the patience to listen to other’s problems, while some express uninformed and incorrect views about the profession. No, I don’t have a couch in my office and no I don’t just tell people to take deep breaths when they are angry. Mental health is one of the most misunderstood fields, which leads to many people living their daily lives with undiagnosed mental illnesses. Research shows that Black women are more likely to suffer from depression and Black men are at a greater risk for suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental illnesses than the rest of the population. With diagnoses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder being so prevalent in the Black community, therapy can help more than it can hurt, but stigmas keep people from facing their issues. Here are five of the biggest misconceptions about psychotherapy.
People of color don’t go to therapy
When someone told me that therapy was a “white people thing” I was appalled and disappointed. As an African-American therapist who treats people of color predominately, not only was it an insensitive statement but an enlightening one. It helped me see how people of color shun the idea of seeking mental health treatment. People of color are very resilient and deal with adversity on their own terms, but there are benefits to having someone to speak to that is unbiased, non-judgmental, encouraging, keeps your business private and empowers you when you feel like giving up.
Therapists tell you how to run your life
One of the biggest myths about therapy is that the therapist is there to tell you what to do. Therapists help clients come to a conclusion about what they want to do or how they want to handle a situation. We can’t tell you what to do with your life. It’s all about intrinsic motivation, resolving ambivalence, raising awareness and putting things into perspective. We use our interventions to help you figure out what’s best for you. So frankly, the client is doing most of the work. The therapist is just the agent of change.
Therapists haven’t learned from experience, only books
Many clinicians have been through their own trials and tribulations, but for some reason many clients believe otherwise. I’ve been told that I probably come from a predominately white neighborhood or that my childhood was stress-free, which are assumptions that are totally wrong. My past issues are exactly what landed me in my position. My education gave me the scholarly foundation and credentials needed to access and treat the people that I can relate to.
Therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists are the same thing
Folks always get my credentials or my role confused. I’ve been called a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, everything except what I am. As a clinical social worker I do assessments, diagnoses and psychotherapy. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who does psychiatric evaluations to see if there is a need for medication. Psychologists can also do therapy, but they are qualified to administer certain tests and assessments that explore cognitive and intellectual abilities as well.
All you have to do is show up to your session every week
Just because a client is consistently coming every week doesn’t mean that change is automatically going to happen. The client has to be ready to open up and address any issues they have. They have to be ready to implement some change, otherwise there will be no progress. Sometimes clients feel like nothing has gotten better since attending therapy and are quick to point the finger at the clinician. Yet they rarely stop and ask themselves what have they done to help the therapeutic process besides showing up. The client has to be ready and willing to put some effort into changing things about themselves and their life.
Nowadays it seems like everyone who’s anyone has taken a seat on a therapist’s couch at least once. The Real Housewives do it, Couples Therapy specializes in it, and Iyanla Vanzant helps people fix their life on a regular basis.
But you don’t have to be going through the same kinds of struggles celebrities do — or any struggles for that matter — to seek out therapy. Once upon a time, spending time and money with a professional came with the stigma that you were dealing with some serious issues. But today, Cynthia, Kenya and NeNe aren’t afraid to make an appointment to hash out their disputes with one another in front of the camera. My, how times have changed.
There are lots of reasons to go to a therapist, even if you feel like you’re happy. From helping you figure out friend drama to giving you direction or a place to vent, here are a few great examples of how a little time on the couch can help.
Dating isn’t hard; loving yourself is hard. You see millions of people on dating sites, at speed dating events, going to match makers, and they’re completely wasting their time because they haven’t done their personal work yet. If you’re not clear on who you are, you can’t possibly be clear on what you need in a partner. Too many people make the mistake of changing from the outside in—of adapting to their partners, and changing with the changing tides of their relationships. But if you operate like that, every relationship will end in disaster because, ultimately, your true self will want to break through, and all of the facades and lies that upheld your relationship will fall apart. Learning to love truly yourself might be difficult, but once you do it, dating will be easy. Here are eight personal issues you need to address before dating again.
If you don’t have a history of depression, it can be very shocking and confusing to experience depression in your adult years. By the time you’re “grown up” you’ve usually learned the tools to remain happy and hopeful, like keeping healthy and close friendships, finding a supportive relationship, getting regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep, taking your vitamins and having goals. If you’re doing all of these things, waking up every day and finding that your usual tools are not working and you can’t chase depression away it can be confusing. The very idea of going to therapy can scare some people because they think, “If I see a therapist, that means something is very wrong with me.” But plenty of functional, stable people see therapists every day, just to stay in check with their own thoughts and emotions, plus depression is more common than you’d think. Here are 15 signs it’s time to go to seek therapy for your depression.
At some point, Black folks are going to have to realize that we are on our own.
This is especially true if you are poor and Black.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about therapy. And how CNN is reporting that Black people are less likely to get an appointment with a therapist based on the color of our skin.
To study whether therapists had biases, researchers hired actors to record voice messages for 640 therapists in New York. In all the messages, the actors read scripts saying they had been feeling down, had insurance and would like to make an appointment.
The scripts varied the names, vocabulary and grammar to reflect race and class differences. For example, the name Amy Roberts was supposed to indicate that the caller was a white middle-class woman, whereas Latoya Johnson was used for a black middle-class woman. The scripts for working-class individuals used more slang and some grammatical errors.
The researchers waited one week for the therapists to return the calls, which went to a voice mailbox created for the study. The researchers recorded whether the therapists agreed to see the new client and whether they could accommodate the desired time, which was a weekday evening.
Middle-class black women and men were about 30% and 60% less likely, respectively, than their white middle-class counterparts to hear back from a therapist agreeing to see them. Working-class individuals fared even worse: Women and men, regardless of race, were about 70% and 80% less likely, respectively, to get an appointment, compared with white middle-class individuals.
No surprises there. Still, this is kind of depressing – pun intended.
According to CNN, the study, which appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, was authored by Heather Kugelmass, a doctoral student in sociology at Princeton University. Generally speaking, it is best to not make sweeping statements based off of a single study, but as CNN has pointed out, Kugelmass’s study also mirrors previous research, which has suggested that various other biases including income and weight may hinder a client from receiving proper mental health treatment from a therapist.
The article also mentions that working-class people were also less likely to get a call back at all.
The current study found that therapists’ response rate was low in general, with only 44% returning the call. In many cases, the therapist left a message saying he or she did not have availability: Only 15% of inquiries resulted in a therapist offering an appointment time.
Therapists were less likely to call back if the clients sounded black and working-class. Only 34% of black working-class individuals got a call back, compared with 49% of black middle-class and 51% of white middle-class individuals.
“As consumers, or potential consumers, of mental health care, we would like to think that everyone deserves a response,” Kugelmass said.
Overall, 28% of the middle-class white individuals seeking care were offered an appointment, compared with 17% of the middle-class black group and 8% of the working-class white and black groups.
What’s interesting here is just how dismal the response rates to folks’ mental health help queries are in general. Is anyone taking mental health seriously here? I mean, this is America. The place where people roll up into movie theaters and start shooting all because some strange voice in their heads told them to do it. We better start taking mental health seriously.
But back to Black folks…
There is this common belief among many that Black people are anti-therapy. While not conclusive, this study does raise the poignant question of what happens when Black folks make the effort to help themselves but are still rejected? And perhaps the reason many of us don’t seek out therapy is because we already know that people are not interested in helping us.
Personally, I have had good experiences with therapy, although I do feel that race was one factor in my decision to stop going. (My therapist was White and young. And while she was very insightful, due to my history with White folks in positions of power, I just couldn’t develop the trust needed on my end to be fully comfortable telling her all of my business).
I also want to take this opportunity to point out that Black people help everybody. No, for real. Just check out this article on a 2012 W.K. Kellogg Foundation report, which suggested that Black people are more likely to donate to a charity than their White counterparts. And while you’re at it, make sure you check out this video by ABC News on another study, which suggested that Black people are eight times more likely to be heroes.
It’s a damn shame that we can’t always expect the same kind of empathy and compassion back.
If you have made the decision to go to therapy, then you’ve probably already discovered one shocking fact: therapy is expensive! Even if your insurance is helping with some of it, it still might be a $200 a month expense you hadn’t planned for. You may have discovered another thing about therapy that you’re not crazy about; if it’s not hurting, then it’s not working. Making progress in therapy is going to require going through some emotions that you don’t want to face. That’s because typically, we develop damaging behaviors (like the ones we are dealing with in therapy) by avoiding those same painful emotions. Something in life is so traumatizing or upsetting that you turn to something else to avoid the feeling associated with it. Eventually, your “coping” mechanisms become problematic, and you realize you can’t avoid therapy any longer. So, since you’re spending money, and trudging through painful emotions, you don’t want to drag this out any longer than necessary. Here are eight mistakes that are slowing down your progress in therapy.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population. Included in this statistic is the one-third who actually get treated, which is an extremely small group. It left me thinking about the people who aren’t diagnosed or treated. It also left me thinking about my own situation. I often think about what depression looks like, it’s many faces, and it always brings me back to that Zoloft commercial where the white bouncy blob struggles to function and do simple tasks. A storm cloud settles over it. I can relate.
Sometimes I go through short periods where I’m questioning what my life means. Some days, like the bouncing ball in the Zoloft commercial, I’m disinterested when it comes to doing anything. There are some days where I feel like a lazy bum, and I’m ashamed of it, but I’m too lethargic to get up from my bed and be productive. Sometimes I get extremely overwhelmed, stressed, and I worry about everything. Some days I feel trapped in my own skin and just stuck in life.
There are times when I’m dealing with these sporadic bouts of despair. However, I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with depression. I am, for the most part, a happy person. But when things are bad, it feels as though they are on a downward spiral and I sink into it. Sometimes it’s the big stuff that triggers it—like being overwhelmed with work, weight gain, feeling unmotivated to write, or family issues—but often enough, feeling low is also triggered by other things as simple as crappy weather, being in stuck in a dismal city, a rough night’s sleep or too much sleep. I don’t know how to define what I feel as anything but depression, but there are times when I feel that because I haven’t been clinically diagnosed, my phases of sadness aren’t as valid, as strong or as clearly defined as depression as they are for those who have been clinically diagnosed and who are medically battling for their mental health. So, often times, I ignore it and wait until I get over it. I felt I was being politically incorrect by saying things like “I’m depressed,” so I sought out a deeper understanding of what it really means to be just that, even when there is no clinical diagnosis. I had to ask myself, am I just extremely bummed out or am I really depressed? And what is the difference?
I’ve found my own form of therapy in being able to have open discussions with friends whenever these dark feelings arise, and I’ve learned that there are levels to mental health that go way beyond a clinical diagnosis. I’ve learned that whether I’m bummed out for weeks on end without reason, or I’m temporarily feeling helpless because nothing seems to be looking up in my life, these aren’t issues that need validation in order for me to seek whatever help or counsel I deem necessary for them. So does not being clinically diagnosed invalidate my depression? Nope, not at all.
Love Lesson: How to Heal Your Love Traumas with Therapist Meg Batterson
Today, we’re doing a love class with Meg Batterson a licensed psychotherapist practicing in New York City. Meg does after care for guests of a nationally syndicated talk show where I am a recurring life coach. Meg works with couples and individuals.
Abiola: Tell our readers about your work, Meg.
Meg Batterson: I work in private practice in the Flatiron District. I’m a relationally oriented therapist; I’m always curious how we as humans impact each other and how our environment impacts our well being. I seek to help people live out their potential, actually paradoxically, by supporting them where they are. I really feel like I want to help my clients be present with their feelings and not get stuck in the past or worry too much about the future.
I give talks about what I call “post-traumatic love disorder.” I coined that phrase because I feel like so many of us are like the walking wounded out here. One of the most common situations that I encounter as a coach and when I speak to large groups is women telling me, “I know it should be over but I can’t let it go.” Why can’t people just walk away?
Letting go is a really tricky lesson to learn in life both while you’re in the context of a relationship and also when something ends. One theory actually is that attachment is such a powerful bond. In the beginning of a relationship we release those intense chemicals like oxytocin that make us bond together. That’s really important for survival because it’s about procreation and we need to bond together in order to have a child.
It’s my impression that something in us biologically feels compelled to stay even just for survival reasons. We need to stay connected as human beings in order to survive. That’s a definite truth. Even though psychologically we’re caught up in a relationship that we know isn’t good for us, I think there’s something biologically — it must also be somewhat psychological — that compels us to stay.
Even if there’s a situation of abuse, there are lots of women in those situations and people often wonder, why do they stay? Well, I think part of the reason that they stay is because of this biological need to stay together no matter what.
That makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
And now here we are in 2014 and we’re surviving, and we need each other but we don’t need each other quite in the same way that we did back then. I think that’s still left over. There are many theories but that’s just one theory.
The oxytocin and those feel-good chemicals that are generated when we’re in love or when we’re hugging someone or when we’re cuddling are addictive chemicals. From an intellectual point of view, that’s great. But if you are a person the situation I mentioned, what should you do in order to break away?
I think one of the keys to that is the body. We have our mind, our brain that’s usually caught up in some obsessive thinking about the person or the relationship. You’re chewing it over and over, and you’re going over everything you did together, all the good memories. Maybe even minimizing some of the bad memories. But I think if you are able to just sit quietly with your body… Maybe you get into some kind of meditation practice or yoga practice or even just sitting on your couch and dropping and checking into your body and not focusing so much on what your brain is telling you. The brain is rationalizing I should stay in this bad situation or I need to stay connected to this person, I can’t let go.
If you drop into your body you kind of allow yourself to drop into that grief process and you make contact with, ‘what is my heart feeling? What am I feeling in my stomach?’ Then you maybe start to get new information that you didn’t have access to when you were obsessing over the old story. When your mind is telling you, this is the right thing for me or I just want it to be, it has to be. I don’t want to be a failure having those obsessive thoughts.
If you drop into the body then maybe you have access to some new content, some new information that can create a new story for yourself. I think people often just want to avoid pain to stay away from the body. They don’t want to drop into that grief process and loss because it’s scary.
Yes! Currently I am running online coaching programs to help clear toxins from our lives. My Love, Body, Spirit Detox is about detoxifying from those toxic love relationships and learning how to do that. The other is called Heal Your Heart. Our mothers and fathers didn’t know necessarily how to heal or to tell us, “drop into your body.”
Some people don’t even know what drop into your body means. It can be interpreted in so many ways so we need education on how do we get out of the incessant thinking. Maybe our parents weren’t able to teach us because they didn’t know, we have inherited ways of being. We learn behavior through what our parents show us and so I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing these programs because I think education is really key for a lot of people in this area.
That’s where we get into trouble because like you said our instinct is to naturally run from pain. People drink or take drugs, or go into another relationships, have sex or whatever it is to try to avoid or numb the pain rather than going into it. We think we’re going to close my heart but the healing comes from opening your heart not from just closing down or shutting down.
Absolutely. And oftentimes we shut down when we don’t have our bridge. We don’t have relationships. I think relationships are another really important factor that plays into this concept of learning how to let go. We need each other, we can’t do things alone. It’s a fallacy to think that you’re this independent being roaming around out there.
Most Americans like to think of themselves as individualists, yeah you can be an individual but we also need to be connected and we need each other in order to heal. Reaching out to your friends, and family, and going into yourself but then going back to others and talking about your story is also really important.
This week is National Marriage Week, a time dedicated to strengthening marriages across the United States. Whether you are married or not, this week is a great time to gather information about what makes a marriage work well and what couples can do to strengthen their union.
Marriage is hard work. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or has never been married. The challenge for any married couple is whether or not they are willing to put in the work to make their marriage work – to make it last.
Making your marriage stronger doesn’t have to feel like hard work, though, because every day things you do can be steps towards strengthening your relationship. We also have to remember that what you need to make your marriage better may be very different that what your friend needs to improve her marriage. We are all in different places and we all require different things from our partners, but here are seven small things we can all do to make our marriages better.
7 Simple Things That Can Make Your Marriage Better
During my undergraduate tenure at Florida State, I had the fortune of being taught by one of the most important black psychologists in the country, Dr. Naim Akbar. Dr. Akbar, while discussing the psychological state of black people in America, said “every negro living in America needs some form of therapy. When you think about what’s been done to us and our history in this country, America is lucky that it isn’t overrun with a bunch of crazy n*****.”
When asked what it would take to get men, specifically black men, to attend a therapy session, I thought of 1,000 different reasons it wouldn’t happen. When I say “therapy,” I’m making specific reference to sessions which include couches, a licensed psychologist discussing a patient’s feelings, and daily/weekly visits. Discussing black men’s aversion to therapy without talking about the barriers would be pointless, so I’ll start there. Afterward, I’ll discuss how those barriers can be broken.
Men “being men” isn’t the answer
Firstly, we need to understand how the stereotype of men’s emotional disposition can prevent them from seeking therapy. Society says men are supposed to be strong, unemotional, and silent. If a woman needs help, she has an almost endless amount of resources to choose from. The stereotype of the man being strong and silent works against men, especially black men, because we aren’t allowed to verbalize what is wrong with us without being seen as weak. This is particularly destructive for black men because carrying the burden of being one of the most oppressed groups in the United States has been a direct cause of so many young black men ending up in the prison system. The rules need to be rewritten to show black men that talking about problems and dealing with them head on in a safe environment is an example of strength, too.
It starts with the parents
A discussion of how the stigma of mental health and how it’s viewed in the black community needs to be addressed. What I’ve found in my previous experience as a mental health counselor for “at risk” youth is that parents have a hard time understanding the problems at hand so they’re either perplexed on what to do or believe the problem to be temporary. Instead of parents admitting there might be something wrong, parents simply say “there’s nothing wrong” or the kids are “just acting up.” That attitude is carried for those same children when they turn into adults. Rather than concede there is an issue, black boys grow up to be black men who think “there’s nothing wrong” or that whatever is bothering them will simply go away. A refusal of their parents to acknowledge a little black boy’s actions not being “normal,” turns into black men who can’t own up to the notion of something not being quite right with them and to then seek help.
Therapy ain’t cheap, or just for white people
The last barrier I wanted to touch on are the costs associated with seeking treatment. A cursory glance on your favorite search engine will give you a wide array of prices on therapeutic services. The price can range from $60 an hour all the way up to $250+ an hour. Certainly nothing to sneeze at. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a large portion of the black community believes therapy, on the whole, is “for white or crazy people.” Ignorant? Absolutely, but I’ve seen it and heard it a hundred times over so I know this line of thought exists.
We know the problems, what are some solutions?
So how do we combat all of this? These solutions are available, but I’ll admit they’re not as easy to do as they are to write about. For starters, there would need to be a paradigm shift in the way men are treated in society. We need black men to realize that seeking help to deal with certain issues is perfectly acceptable. Being able to ask for help, instead of carrying the entire world on their shoulders, needs to be seen as a sign of strength. Not the other way around.
Secondly, the stigma of seeing a therapist needs to be reduced. Building up more support in the black community about the benefits of attending therapy sessions, black parents being able to admit they may need some outside assistance in finding out what’s wrong with their child, and newfound respect for the work mental health professionals can help tremendously.
Finally, though therapy costs can be costly, I’ve noticed that there are insurance policies available that can cut the costs down. If that’s not an option, black men can look for other resources that provide an open and safe place for them to share their burdens. Whether it’s group therapy, counseling sessions at whichever college they attend, or simply talking to someone else about what’s going on, there are alternatives to traditional forms of counseling and resources for those who can’t afford to pay the full cost. One just has to look for them.
Getting men to go to therapy, no matter the race, is a tall order. As a black man, I can attest that gender stereotypes, how mental health is viewed, and the costs associated with therapy are definite barriers to seeking help in this manner. Though I talked about some other solutions, I also want to take the time to say that black women can definitely play an integral part in pushing men to seek help as well. Author Charles W. Chestnutt once said “when it is said that it was done to please a woman, there ought to be enough said to explain anything; for what a man will not do to please a woman is yet to be discovered.” In other words, plenty of men out there will do anything to please their woman and if going to therapy is what would make her happy, he’d damn sure at least consider it.