Mental health expert says, those telling you not to go to therapy probably need it the most

Please share your story about mental health or how you got involved in the mental health profession? 

I never chose the mental health profession; it chose me. I come from a very giving family and have always loved helping others. My grandmother instilled the importance of being a helper to others by connecting and serving members of her community for nothing in exchange. Bonding with my grandmother, Anne through doing good works for others developed empathy as one of my core values.

I am a licensed social worker and I landed in the mental health field (with great reluctance) during my graduate school internship at a psychiatric hospital. The experience shifted my perspective and taught me invaluable lessons about myself, mental health, and the mental health system. My patients were always people first. At the hospital I met attorneys, teachers, doctors, chefs, college students, executives, bartenders, stay at home moms, nurses, IT professionals, music artists, business owners, and more. They were just people with problems that got too big to handle on their own. It emphasized the fact that everyone has a personal life with personal struggles and it was so dope to witness and support them getting their hope back. 

What would you tell people that are afraid of therapy or the stigma that comes along with it? 

A common misconception is that only “some” people have mental health therefore only “some” people need mental health care. Negative! The truth is that everyone has mental health the same way you have physical health! Mental health is one aspect of our health and health requires care and maintenance to be in good condition. Therapy is just like exercise and massage for the mind. The people telling you not to go to therapy are probably the ones that need to go the most, respectfully. 

I would encourage everyone to take control of their lives and health. People who have discouraged you from seeking mental health care aren’t experiencing your suffering the way you are when you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. Their productivity and focus at work is not being affected like yours may be. Their opinions are not saving your relationships that have been impacted by unresolved emotions and trauma. So basically I would just say, do you! Healthy is the new sexy. 

What tools, tactics, people, have you used to stay uplifted and get through tough situations? 

Focusing on high vibrational life and health helps me. The mind, body, and spirit are intertwined, so I use them as my barometer for my overall wellness. My faith in God and my spiritual connection is a strong support for me. I also have an amazing Black woman therapist that I see as often as I need. I practice gratitude and meditation while maintaining a healthy diet with regular exercise to remain grounded and to maintain mental clarity. Over the years I have added more and more to my toolbox, but this is an individualized journey. It’s important to begin self exploration to identify what you need and what really works for you. 

Social media therapy is not a substitute for doing your work. 

Social media therapy is not a substitute for doing your work. 

Social media therapy is not a substitute for doing your work. 

Embarking on your mental health journey is one of the highest forms of self love.  

What would you tell other people that are struggling with mental health that are afraid to seek help?

When I hear this question my first thought is “Wait.. afraid to feel better?” :) 

The struggle doesn’t get better by doing the same thing or by living in the struggle alone. (Lol, why do we think it will? That always makes me chuckle to myself.) The better life that you deserve is on the other side of taking this courageous step to love, care for, and invest in yourself. This is such an interesting journey because our mental health is highly interactive with our environment, yet we are solely responsible for it. I would encourage people to reclaim their quality of life today. It can only get better and that is motivation in itself. Therapy gives people a little light called hope that grows bigger and bigger to drive out the darkness and silent suffering. 

It may be helpful to write down all of the concerns or questions about therapy. When doing your search for a therapist, the list may be used as a guide to interview the potential therapist and learn about the therapeutic process.  A good therapist will welcome your questions and concerns because they help determine if you all are a good match to effectively accomplish goals on this journey. Good therapists understand that therapy is about the client. 

I encourage and emphasize self advocacy. Though I am a partner in my client’s journey, I am very conscious that it is not my own. Therefore, it is important for my clients to advocate for themselves and to make sure they are receiving what they need from our work together. I empower the client’s voice during our free consultation call. Over time, our relationship and work together help them find their voice, identify their needs, and use new insight to make positive changes in their lives and relationships. It’s better on the other side. I promise. 

What does this month mean to you - mental health awareness month? 

Mental Health Awareness Month is very significant to me personally and professionally. Our mental health affects everything about how we are able to live, function, see the world, and interact with others. I enjoy spreading awareness because my work has exposed me to the variety and depth of struggle that people usually try to hide. I know the facade is not real and I know life can be better for so many people. Lack of insight and stigma keep people in bondage way longer than they should be and I love doing this liberating work. 

It’s obvious that racism, sexism, classism, and “other”ism contribute to an underlying chronic struggle that can become debilitating and even life threatening if left untreated. As a Black woman this is especially important for me because through this lens, mental health becomes a revolutionary and rebellious act. It is nurturing yourself and restoring your legacy for generations to come. It is taking an active stand against so many outside societal forces that don’t want us to survive. It is rebuilding our homes, reshaping our relationship with finances and work, reestablishing healthy perspectives about rest and love, reclaiming physical health, reconnecting spiritually in a way that puts relationships over religion, and ultimately, breaks generational curses. It is freeing! 

So when you put it like that it’s hard to not be enthusiastic about harnessing the health and power of the mind to use it in a positive way! 

 Is there anything else that you would like to add? 

Mental Health treatment costs time, money, and is an investment. If we can spend for brunch, shoes, travel, and hair then we should be able to spend to care for the mind that makes it all happen. Social anxiety can ruin a brunch. Perfectionism and social pressure can blow a shoe budget on red bottoms for the ‘gram. Irritability can affect the group flow or a couple’s romance on a trip; while trauma can make it too scary to fly. Being depressed and not being able to take a shower can make a new hairstyle have to stay in the house. The point here is that when your mind is off, everything else is affected. Invest in your mental health and stop trying to short change your therapist. This is life changing work and it deserves to be regarded as such. Invest now, gain stability, and maintain. Keep your therapist on hand like you do for your primary care doctor, massage therapist, or personal trainer. 

I want to plug some directories that I like to use to find help; especially for Black people and those who are subjected to “other”ism. 

TherapyDen 

Clinicians of Color

Inclusive Therapists 

Health in Her Hue 

Therapy for Black Girls

Therapy for Black Men

Melanin Therapy 

Psychology Today

My TruCircle

Association of Black Psychologists 

National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network 

Therapy for Queer People of Color 

Melanin & Mental Health 

Black Female Therapists 

Therapy for Black Kids 

Zen Care

Ayana Therapy 

Anne’s Garden LLC is an Atlanta based virtual mental health clinic that provides holistic mental health treatment and specializes in crisis prevention and intervention as well as mental health maintenance. We can be found at annesgardenmentalhealth.com and contacted at lifegrowshere@gmail.com

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