May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We’ll be chatting with several professionals throughout the month, who will offer their expert advice and tips as we push for healthier minds.
As we continue to break barriers and erase the stigma associated with therapy in the Black community, we wanted to address one of the key topics that many people overlook. Selecting the 'perfect' therapist can seem like a very cut-and-dry thing, but you want to ensure that the professional you entrust to help you reach your best mental state, is actually right for you.
Oftentimes, we may choose a therapist based on the suggestion of someone else, and we stick with them out of fear of having to start the process over. But, according to Dr. LaNail R. Plummer, the CEO of Onyx Therapy Group, your goal should always be to be seen and heard above all else.
"Oftentimes, we as Black people seek support from a deficit mindset. By the time we seek help, we are in dire need, so we take the “first available” person or the person who “may work.” And, while that may work for crisis counseling and immediate need, it is not helpful for long-term support," Dr. Plummer shares. "Think of it this way, would you want your emergency room doctor to be your regular PCP? Probably not, because your emergency room doctor is centered on quick issues, and immediate fixes, and won't always have time for you because their focus is on those who are in crisis."
As someone whose life and work is centered on transformative healing and is reinforced in knowing that Black men and women
are choosing to be and able to be all the things they want to be—the Onyx Therapy Group founder shares a few key tips for selecting the right therapist.
"One should look for a therapist that can see you. And, there is a process to ensuring that the therapist has the ability to actually see you. While I do think that where a person earned their degree is important, it is also important to ensure that the therapist has enough empathy to see life through your lens because only then, can the therapist truly understand your feelings, thoughts, decisions, and behaviors. And, through this, the therapist, who sits in the intersection of objectivity and empathy, can guide you towards the emotional and psychological goals you want to achieve while remaining clear enough to not project their own stuff on you."
A few questions you should ask as you 'interview' mental health professionals include: Have you worked with clients that look and live like me? Do they have some of my shared identities? What were your experiences and what did you learn about working with people like me? Even when you feel secure in the answers provided, you still have the right to "break up" with your therapist, if you feel as though they aren't meeting your needs or expectations.
"In any situation when you are not feeling seen, heard, or understood, you should walk away. However, as we grow and mature, we should yield towards communication before termination, which allows us the space to express our needs and wants, our hopes and visions, and our goals and objectives," Dr. Plummer explains. "This open communication also allows for others to correct their mistakes and/or shift as needed. So, yes, one should break up when they believe it is time…but that should only occur after communication has occurred."