A mental health professional’s ability to lead you through beneficial internal work is determined by a lot of factors. I have worked with some therapists who were educated at prestigious schools and completed training through notable organizations, but whom I just didn’t click with enough to want to come back to see.
Likewise, I’ve met with therapists who were new to the profession, but who seemed to understand where I was coming from enough to make some solid suggestions for ways forward. I believe that success in mental health is a mix of skill level and knowledge as well as just pure giftedness.
That being said, I started seeing a therapist who was a dark-skinned woman like me a few years ago, and the transformative work I’ve been able to do under her guidance has made me realize something: a dark-skinned woman having a therapist who is a dark-skinned woman has been a winning combo for me. It was also a winning combo for my mother when I was growing up, leading me to believe there’s an additional benefit to having a therapist who looks like you.
My current therapist is someone whom I can relate with on additional levels. I feel there are things I can say to her that she will understand more readily than someone else. This isn’t to say that others have no capacity to understand, but there’s less explaining, less back story, less having to catch people up when your therapist is another black woman. Not all of her suggestions or responses to me are framed from the perspective of race first (in fact, they only are if I ask her to do that), but when that subject is brought up, I feel her insights are more applicable to my situation because she has navigated a similar fate. In some cases, she has solutions I haven’t had time to discover yet. I appreciate that type of specialized support.
Having a dark-skinned woman as my therapist is also another form of positive imagery. Positive promotion for dark-skinned women is a must, and this can come in many forms. Magazines like DDS are great examples of this in media, but in everyday life, what role models can dark-skinned women and girls look to? A therapist whose hair and skin tone match or come close to theirs could be comforting. It could be inspiring, too. As the level of mental health support needs that are common to most black women becomes more evident, it can hopefully inspire more dark-skinned girls to contribute to the field of psychology through becoming licensed practitioners as adults.
You should be careful to only allow the guidance of your mental health journey to be handled by someone who is trusted, and who you feel comfortable with. While my suggestion to seek out a mental health professional who is a dark-skinned woman like you is motivated by the results I found and that my mother found, there is no guarantee that it is the answer for you. It is merely a suggestion. But above this suggestion, if you feel that you need mental health support, someone to talk to, and help feeling okay, you should simply seek out a mental health professional as soon as possible. Treat it like an open wound that needs stitching. Mental wounds need attention, too.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.