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What’s Stopping Black Women From Going to Therapy?

Guestpert : Dion Metzger Category : Women's Issues Tags :

Dion Metzger, MD is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who manages her own practice in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Metzger is currently on faculty as a professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia and Morehouse School of Medicine. She is the author of The Modern Trophy Wife: How to Achieve Your Goals While Thriving at Home.


African Americans are 20% more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health issues yet they are less likely to seek help compared to their white counterparts. Here is the reason why that is and how we therapists are working to overcome that Why does this hesitation exist? -Cultural differences- black community are instructed to rely on prayer or rather just “tough it out” instead of going to therapy. It is seen as sign of weakness to need a “stranger” to help with problems. Depression and anxiety has also been labeled as a “white man’s disease” -Prayer VS. Therapy: many women I work see going to therapy as a surrender rather than empowerment. They believe stepping into a therapist office means stepping away from their faith. I often spend time explaining that therapy and prayer are not an either/or situation. My patients spirituality is incorporated into their treatment as it’s a part of who they are. -Shortage of Black therapists: Patients often seek a therapist who can Identify with their struggles and have specialization for their needs. I will have black female patients seek me out specifically because they feel they couldn’t connect with a male or even a therapist of another race. This is ok. For all patients regardless of race, age or gender, finding a therapist that you can connect with is what matters the most. Why do black women need therapy now? -More Bias: Black women have a lot on their shoulders as they can’t face double bias as a woman and also a minority. - Breadwinning stresses- Upwards of 80% of black mothers serve as breadwinners compared to 50% of white women. Black women are seen as the nurturers and supporters of their family but are often neglected as needing support themselves What can be done to encourage black women to go to therapy? -Improved Accesibiloty: Therapists are building more accessible networks with resources such as “Therapy For Black Girls” and “Ourselves Black” magazine. Social media has also been a convenient option to connect patients and therapists where the lengthy search of going through a list of names has been replaced with a simple hashtag search. - Educating about the sequelae of untreated mental health symptoms. As mental symptoms are often minimized in black community, I talk extensively about how serious untreated mental illness. It can lead to drug/alcohol abuse, suicide attempts and stress related diseases which can include increased risk of heart attack and stroke.