Treating Black Trauma; Where Sympathy Isn’t Enough

(Image Courtesy of: WaveBreakMedia Ltd./Getty Images)

By: Zach Fulwood

The issue between Black people and therapy doesn’t end with choosing to accept it as a need. There’s also the matter of finding Black representation within the field of psychology. We’ve already established that getting Black people to seek therapy is hard enough but, finding Black therapists to treat them has proven not to be a walk in the park either. Considering that psychology as a study was founded by White males, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the field be dominated by them. In fact, research shows that as of 2013, 83.6% of psychologists in this country are White with Black psychologists coming in second at 5.3%.

This isn’t to say that White psychologists shouldn’t treat Black patients because their credentials would suggest that they are more than qualified. However, I wonder if Black patients wouldn’t be better off with psychologists in which they had more in common with.

It’s no secret that the everyday experience between Black and White people are vastly different. It’s part of what makes this country so unique. We may not see the world the same way but we can at least come to some common level of understanding about one another. The problem with therapy and psychology as a whole however, is that, sympathy can only go so far. What I’m saying is that, while I can appreciate the fact that you want to work with me and that you detest what I’ve had to go through in my life, the reality is, you simply weren’t given all the tools necessary to treat me as your patient.

Think of it like the relationship between a male patient and a female doctor. Because of how anatomy works, there are some parts that males have that females don’t and though she may really want to help him out, she’s simply unable to identify with the discomfort her male patient is feeling because that’s not a pain they’ve ever been able to share. The same goes for Black people and their therapists. Sympathy is appreciated but empathy is needed in order for the healing process to truly start.

Along with the issue of relatability, there’s also the issue of Black people not being exposed to or encouraged to go into the field of psychology. With such a negative stigma surrounding psychology within the Black community, there’s very little incentive for Black people to want to study it, let alone make a living out of it. There’s also the issue of affordability and whether or not mental health fits under the budget with more pressing expenses looming because if we’re being honest, professionally treating mental health has always been seen as more of a luxury than a necessity.

Truth is, your mental health is as necessary as the air you breathe and the money you need to provide for your family. Mental health is wealth and in a community devoid of wealth financially, we can no longer afford to continue neglecting to secure it mentally. We not only need Black people to get treated for their mental health but, we also need Black people providing the treatment.

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