Personal Stories
February 15, 2024

Two Chairs Therapists Discuss Therapy in the Black Community

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At Two Chairs, we’ve invested in matching people with a therapist who’s right for them — and for some people who seek therapy, big part of that equation is a person’s racial and cultural identity. For therapy to be successful, the relationship between the client and the therapist is essential, a relationship that can be strengthened by shared experiences and understanding.

This Black History Month, we’re shedding light on some of the pieces of that relationship and the therapy experience when it comes to the Black community. Only around 4% of therapists in the United States identify as Black, and it’s crucial to have these conversations so we can raise that number and improve mental health care for Black folks.

We sat down with Two Chairs therapists Kadrea Forte, Natashia Leonard, and Akila Bacon to hear their thoughts on their experiences as Black therapists, stigmas around mental health in the Black community they want to address, and why having a therapist who understands your identity and culture is so important. 

What is something you’d like to share about your experience as a Black therapist?

Kadrea Forte, LMFT: I feel honored to be able to hold a safe sanctuary for my Black clients. I’ve noticed my clients can easily open up to me because we have a shared cultural identity, shared understanding, and they don’t have to explain themselves. There's a lot of authenticity, vulnerability, and magic that happens in the therapy space.

It can also be challenging because sometimes I hold an extra weight and responsibility on my shoulders to be able to help my clients. So I've realized the importance of taking a pause and being attuned with my own needs and setting boundaries. 

Natashia Leonard, LMFT: I love that I have the opportunity to help erase the stigma of mental illness for Black clients. I desire to help normalize therapy for other Black clients. We share many of the same experiences and our communication styles are similar, which makes for a normalized, comfortable and trusting therapeutic experience for Black clients. 

Akila Bacon, LMFT: It’s been challenging as well as rewarding. The challenges have been with racial issues that have presented during sessions with non-Black clients and the microaggressions that have presented in the workplace. The rewards are helping my fellow Black community have a better understanding of their mental health. It’s comforting to know I’m not only doing my due diligence as a mental health professional, but also offering a space to dispel the taboos of discussing mental health within the Black community. 

What is something you’d like other Black therapists to know?

Kadrea: About 4% of therapists in the United States are Black, and we need more of you. You matter. You deserve a seat at the table and to show up unapologetically. There are future clients that you are destined to serve, and you can help break those cultural and generational stigmas within our community.

Natashia: It is not a secret that there is a stigma around mental health in Black communities due to discrimination and mistrust of the healthcare system. Black therapists are important. There is a small population of Black therapists in mental health. We help support a safe space for Black clients to acknowledge the need for mental health care, ask for help, and be supported empathetically while getting mental health support. Black therapists, you are needed and you are important! 

Akila: The statistics prove that there are less of us in this field, and we should extend all efforts to support one another as much as possible — it's not a competition. Providing a safe space for your fellow Black clinicians is just as important as providing a safe space to our clients. Make sure your voice is heard with client- and self-advocacy, and with confidence and boldness. There are other future Black therapists you are mentoring unbeknownst to you, and they are looking up to you. Be the display of Black excellence in mental health. 

In your eyes, why is it important for people who identify as Black to work with a therapist who understands their identity?

Kadrea: Having a shared experience with my Black clients really helps validate their feelings and makes them feel seen and heard without any explanation or judgment. It gives them a voice and they are able to thrive in their authenticity within the therapy space. Additionally, it gives the client permission for them to show up authentically in other spaces and cultivate an abundance of self love within themselves. 

Natashia: The experience of being Black is uniquely challenging. Black people want to be heard, understood, and need a safe space to express themselves without prejudice or judgment and be treated with dignity and respect. Taking care to understand the experiences with socioeconomic status, generational trauma, culture, religion, language, and acknowledgment of social injustices is equally as important to Black identity.

Akila: There’s so much rich history in the Black experience that can be a learning experience for a non-Black person, although, a Black person having to teach their experience in the therapy room can be an added negative experience that can be invalidating. Having someone that can understand your experience without explanation is therapeutic in itself. 

What’s one stigma about mental health you’d like to address?

Kadrea: The negative stigma towards taking medication*. I’ve seen some of my clients make tremendous progress with the support of therapy combined with medication. Although it does come with potential side effects, taking medication doesn’t make you crazy. 

Natashia: Many Black adults (especially older adults) view mental health conditions as a weakness and a punishment. There are feelings of guilt and shame connected to the need for mental health care. There is also resistance due to past discrimination and mistreatment of Black people by the healthcare system. Mental health care has improved, and this is why the role of Black therapists is so important: to help erase myths about mental health in the Black community. 

Akila: The negative stigma of individuals perceived as “crazy” for addressing their mental health needs with therapy or medications*. The negative perception around mental health has been more damaging to individuals that need the help, and they are afraid of the negative stigmas that have been precipitated by society. These stigmas are generational cycles of misinformation that can be changed with increased awareness of mental health. 

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Kadrea: Black History Month means to me, “Celebrating Magical Blackness” and unapologetically celebrating our accomplishments, our culture, our hair, our style, our rich history, our voice, and the resiliency of the challenges we have faced as a community. Most importantly, paying homage to my ancestors who fought for my freedom and liberties that I have today. I celebrate and honor who I am everyday when I look in the mirror. “I am Black and I am proud.” 

Natashia: Black History Month is a time to celebrate the struggles, accomplishments and contributions that Black Americans have made in this country. Black History is American history. For me, Black history is not minimized to 28 days of the year. I honor and celebrate the culture daily. I do so by continuing to support my community through my work and I am very honored to be in the position to do this work. 

Akila: Black History Month is celebrating history that focuses on the “Black and Beautiful.” The Black culture has so much richness that our heritage extends globally to the arts (i.e., music, theater, paintings, food and language), traditions, and style. I celebrate daily because it's who I am. I enjoy teaching my daughter about Black culture and our heritage.

*Two Chairs does not provide psychiatric care and cannot recommend medication for mental health management. If you want to know more about it and if it’s right for you, talk to your doctor.

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