A few weeks ago, my phone rang with a call from an unfamiliar number. On the line was yet another new therapist reaching out to schedule yet another first appointment.
I was introduced to the benefits of counseling during college, where I was a psychology major. As a student, I was given 12 free therapy sessions per school year. I learned to love therapy. But I was unprepared for just how hard it would be to find a mental health professional of color in the real world.
Growing up Black taught me that strength and persistence were nonnegotiable, and I learned to internalize my issues instead of expressing them. I was bullied throughout my childhood and was the victim of consistent and unwanted sexual advances in my adolescence. My husband and I were both living in poverty when we got married.
I’ve grown and defied the odds of my youth, but that cocktail of experiences has left me with a lot of residual anxiety and occasionally depression. Sometimes I feel like I’m one fruit short of a basket case.
Today I’m a military spouse and one of only a few people of color living in an almost exclusively conservative, white area of rural America. I’ve rotated through eight different therapists over the last six years, trying to find someone who can counsel me. When the new therapist called, I felt hope and dread. I believe in therapy, and I want it, but several bad experiences have left me skeptical.
Seeing a white counselor comes with a lot of anxiety. When I was en route to my first session with the new therapist, I saw a car covered in Donald Trump supporter bumper stickers in the parking lot, and I prayed it did not belong to my therapist. Living in a red state means coming to terms with the fact that it’s a genuine — if not likely — possibility that I could end up entrusting my mental health to someone who supports Trump. Seeking help makes me feel vulnerable enough, but the fear that my therapist will deny my reality is terrifying.
I’ve tried using mental health care directories to locate therapists in my area who understand the experiences of people of color. Unfortunately, all of those searches returned white faces. I’ve asked…