Content warning: “Profane” language, and mentions of disordered eating.
It’s true: I love the podcast Therapy for Black Girls created and curated by Dr. Joy. Her work is a ministry in my life. I’ve known her since my time as a master’s student at the University of Georgia where she and another Black woman mental health professional co-hosted a sista circle in what was the African American Cultural Center (now Multicultural Services and Programs). To say that I was excited when she dropped the podcast series is an understatement. I knew it would be good. I didn’t realize that it would be the encouragement I needed to take action in my own life.
On my last #TravelingScholar road trip, I played episode after episode of #TherapyForBlackGirls. I found learning, affirmation, or loving conviction in each episode. Dr. Joy reminds us in each episode to enjoy the conversation but to seek our own personal services as needed or desired. I had known for a while that I needed to return to counseling. Life had been doing what life does *shrug*, and I knew I needed to work through some things. Some folks might call my issues self-actualizing/higher order Maslow issues, but I know myself well enough to know when a sista needs help. I’m a helping professional by training (Go Student Affairs!): I can see the signs.
The issue was that I, Dr. Joan, needed to get out of my own head and go sit on a therapist’s couch. As qualified/credentialed, loving, compassionate, knowledgeable, and equipped as my friends are for supporting me, I needed to do some mental and emotional labor that would work best when aided by licensed, professional help. Between my disordered eating habits, major life transitions, ongoing grief, and relative uncertainty about major life decisions, your girl needed some help. I found someone who met my criteria, made my first appointment, and haven’t looked back since.
The process has been appropriately challenging and supportive. My therapist is a direct and loving communicator, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve already done some liberating work. Apparently, I’ve got some guilt and shame hiding in my life and said shame and guilt undergird my perfectionism #WhoKnew. My therapist sends written prompts between sessions to continue the work until we meet next. I share passages from my personal journals (plural) with them. I don’t hide with them. They can’t help me if I’m what my friend’s five-year-old son calls “a liar lying a lie”. They call me on my bullshit because they don’t know Dr. Joan. They know Joan: a person who sought them out to make progress with/deconstruct/understand/redefine/build anew some of the things that needed more attention. I don’t have to put on with them. I can (and do) speak hard truths that are in direct conflict with each other, and there is room for the tension. They remind me that I am the expert on my life and that they are simply a trained guide for the journey. I am (re)minded of my own truths. I simply get to be.
This post is my attempt to share my experiences with and understanding(s) in why I chose to return to counseling as a means of encouraging folks to seek assistance who are able and willing to do that. What we not gone do is use this post to guilt folks into therapy or shame folks for not (continuing to) seek(ing) professional mental health services. There are a host of reasons why a person might be unable or unwilling to seek therapy. I recognize the immense privilege in having health insurance to cover most of the associated costs of professional help, having access to a culturally compatible professional, and not having a history of poor counseling experiences. I shared all of this here to add to the words of people who labor to end stigma related to mental health and mental health services.
So, Basically… Therapy is working for this Black girl *insert praise dance*. I am working through shame, guilt, and perfection and returning to the fullness of love that I am. I’m a Black girl, and I go to therapy. There’s no shame in my game [see what I did there ;)].