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Why Therapy Could Be the Type of Relationship Black Women Need

Updated: Feb 28

Two women hug each other outside.

As black women in America, we continue to fight the cultural and societal expectations of us to put others’ well-being before ours. While self-care and healing sound sweet, our lives and communities have other obligations for us. A normal day for a Black woman in America might look like: She wakes up and gets her household ready before she has a minute to attend to herself. Then at work, probably a caretaking job, she is expected by her peers and herself to achieve (without an attitude or a livable wage). Even on her lunch break, there are responsibilities—Her family is calling, telling her they need her to talk to her cousin before going back to school. She needs to pick up her nephew from practice. By the time she gets home and she’s made everyone a plate, it’s easier just to eat straight out of the pot. For many people, this might look like a lack of boundaries but this is the reality of life for Black women. The pillars of the community, the leaders in matriarchal homes, the laborious workers—no matter our social class it seems that when we take off one hat we put on another one. 

So what do you do when it’s all becoming too much or you want support? The first thing I do is turn to a friend who can validate how I am feeling. After all, sharing the trauma of our lives is one of the many ways we connect in the Black community. The friends and family we have can be a support system when life is getting too heavy. And although the support we get from our closest relationships is irreplaceable, sharing and being emotionally reciprocal can sometimes feel like too much. You’re talking about the emotional weight you’re carrying and the next moment your best friend is telling you the hard day of work THEY had. It can feel like a dismissal of your feelings. When you’re trying to explain what you’re struggling with, hearing someone else’s struggles can feel like another burden. It can almost feel like your friends and family’s problems are now your responsibility too. 

Additionally, trying to get non-judgmental support, even from your closest friends, seems to come at a cost. I know I’ve never had a conversation without someone having to put their 2 cents in. Yes, it’s part of the culture! But, it’s another way in which we can feel silenced. It can be hard to have any sense of agency when the opinions of others are in the back of our heads. And while there is nothing wrong with your best friend checking you when you say you want to get back with your ex, there could be so much strength in coming to your own conclusions about what you want for your life. 

So how can therapy support black women? 

- Therapy can be used as a sounding board to get clarity on the thoughts and experiences you’ve had. It’s natural to search for clarity and meaning in life, and sometimes listening to our inner guidance can be difficult. Black women also experience the complexities of societal racism and misogyny, which can cause even more confusion.  A culturally competent therapist who understands the intersectionality of being a black woman in America AND your individual experience can leave you feeling heard and understood. 

-The space can be used to unload past and current trauma. Racial trauma, sexual abuse, poverty, and physical abuse are more pervasive for black women. Trauma finds a way to touch every part of life, from our relationships to our communication style. Therapy can help individuals process their trauma in a deeper, safer way than one can with friendships with family. Processing trauma can help a client feel more in control of their life, by giving them the tools to regulate and the empowerment to live more than a trauma-responsive life.  

-Lastly, therapy can give black women the opportunity to get to know themselves apart from the expectations of their family, work, or the world. When other people take the wheel of our lives, we end up further away, lost from the core of who we are and what we desire. This can leave black women in all of the feels—angry, misunderstood, regretful, and hopeless. Discovering your values can be key to living a purpose-filled life. Therapy can lovingly guide you on this journey without judgment on perceived setbacks, failures, or detours. 

Therapy is unlike other relationships in our lives. Therapy is a space centered around the individual. A fit therapist will make space for their clients to uncover what is most important to them. For black women who may not have the right place or enough time to center themselves, therapy could be very different from what they know, but in a positive, worthwhile kind of way. 


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