Black Women Going To Psychotherapy Is Being Normalized And I Love It

November 26, 2017  |  

People of color often have this distorted idea that if you go to therapy, you’re severely mentally ill, aka “crazy.” I’ve often heard “I don’t need no therapist to tell me what to do” when the suggestion of seeking help is mentioned. Psychotherapy is not only for people who have serious mental illnesses and it is definitely not about being told what to do with your life. It’s more so based on the client’s own intrinsic motivation and wanting to change. Thanks to Molly (Yvonne Orji) on Insecure and now Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) on Spike Lee’s Netflix reboot of She’s Gotta Have it,  it is clear as day that us psychotherapists are not here to tell you how to solve your problems.

After Nola was attacked by an aggressive catcaller one night as she walked home, her friend Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham) suggested she “talk to someone.” Initially, Nola went the spiritual route, getting cleanses and trying to rid her body of the bad energy. She eventually ended up on the couch of Dr. Clarice Jamison, played by singer Heather Headley.  Thankfully so, because Nola was clearly traumatized. Seeming spaced out, feeling like she lost control, the exaggerated response when startled, being easily triggered by certain pet names like baby girl and even detaching herself from her three lovers at one point were all symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Throughout Nola’s meetings with Dr. Jamison, she never told her what she needed to do. She never tried to run her life. She asked open-ended questions, gave her tools to help her regain her confidence, encouraged coping skills, validated and acknowledged her feelings and helped her put things in perspective. When Nola sat down, Dr. Jamison asked her what she wanted to accomplish. When Nola was at a loss for words and tearful, she normalized her anger and reassured her that her attack was not her fault. Dr. Jamison followed Nola’s lead.

Nola and Cloridina normalized the therapy experience and showed that as a Black woman it’s okay to open up to someone about your problems. The suggestion that Nola speak to someone rolled off Clorinda’s tongue effortlessly. Plus, she emphasized that Dr. Jamison was a Black woman, which helps to decrease hesitance because there is a relief that you will be understood and a bit more comfortable sitting across from someone who looks like you and is familiar with your experiences. Nola was a very engaged client as well, which helps show that sitting down and talking about your feelings is helpful and healthy and not taboo.

Once Nola left Dr. Jamison’s office, it was up to her to take what she discussed in therapy and implement it. She was in control, which is something people think therapy strips them of. Nola helped to shut that false perception down.

Many Black women go through traumatic things and keep it to themselves. They feel like they can’t cry, invalidate their own feelings, think that no one will understand them or they would rather repress their feelings than confront them. Through the portrayal of Black women on television lately, the therapeutic experience is being reframed as cathartic, helpful and necessary.


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