Choosing A New Therapist As A Black Man: Other Things I Wish I Would Have Known

In the previous post, I described some things I wish I would have known my first time in therapy. There are a couple of more things that I would like to share. After being hospitalized and seeing available clinicians at the school’s counseling center, I decided to leave school to address my needs.I had to find a therapist and to be honest I knew nothing about finding one. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know who to ask and was kind of ashamed to ask. I had insurance but I was unsure about my benefits and I had no idea how I would pay for it if I had to. So many questions to go along with the voices in my head. I just wanted help but I wanted to make sure I got help from the right person. Someone that made me feel comfortable.

From my previous experience, I knew what I didn’t want…

  • someone who sees me as a number instead of a person
  •  a person I felt like I couldn’t relate to (race)
  • I was also a little shaky about seeing a lady therapist

(I do not have these same beliefs now when choosing a therapist but I was new to this at the time and I was guided by my own ignorance)

Due to the severity of my issues and the concern expressed by my family, my uncle suggested that I see a psychologist that he knew and this considerably changed my life.

I was scheduled for an impromptu appointment and I was accompanied by my uncle.

I was nervous. I wanted and needed help but I did not want to be disappointed. All I could do was reflect on my previous encounters. I could literally feel my heart beat increase and I was breathing heavy. A part of me wanted to come up with an excuse to go back home and ball back up in the bed.

We walked in the office and the receptionist was a black lady.  There was a slight sigh of relief as I thought "Ok. The doctor employs blacks. He may be cool. Relax Shaun. Relax."

But then I thought, "Maaaan I’m about to see a Psychologist. There’s no comfort in that."

Then the doctor came out.

"What’s up Shaun? My name is Kendell" and the invisible weight of anxiety lifted off of my shoulders.

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I looked to see that the doctor I was referred to is black man. Not only is he a black man but he’s a young black man dressed in a t shirt, jeans, and some J's (Jordan sneakers). I never met this man before, I did not know his educational background or skill set to address my needs, but there was a sense of comfort there because he looked like me.

You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes the cover of the book makes it a little more enticing to open up.

After a couple of sessions, we were able to hit on a lot of different things and my new therapist was able recognize that some of my issues were outside of his scope. Therefore he referred me to someone, a white male psychiatrist, who could address those needs. This experience helped me learn something else about therapy

  • When attending therapy, just because you like a therapist does not mean that’s the therapist for you. A good clinician will recognize when their skill set and knowledge does not correlate with your needs and will refer you to a clinician who can (Dr. Jasper is great at what he does and we made progress, but he understood that I needed something that he could not provide at the time)
  • Do not take it personal. The clinician truly wants what is best for you. I had to trust his recommendation and understood that sometimes this can be a trial and error process. It is not an exact science.

It can be difficult to find a black male in the mental health field, but seeing a mental health professional that looked like me allowed me to soften my stance on seeing a therapist and I was able to make strides in improving my mental health. Dr. Jasper not only helped me address my mental illness but he also helped me break the stereotype that the counseling field is just for women or the majority population.

Thanks Dr. Jasper