Dr. Julie Holland, a New York psychiatrist, recently penned an article for The New York Times entitled “Medicating Women’s Feelings“. In it she discusses her feelings about the abundance of psychiatric medicines that appear to be prescribed for women to medicate what are perfectly normal emotions and responses to situations. She describes a situation where one of her clients called her to ask for an increase in the dosage of her antidepressant medication. When the client was asked about her reasons for wanting an increase, she detailed a situation where her boss had openly humiliated her at work which led to her being in tears in the office. Dr. Holland suggested, and I agree, that more medication was not the answer in this case but having a conversation about this event with her boss was likely a much better solution. While reading the article, I found myself agreeing with many of the points made. Similar to Dr. Holland, I believe that there is a tendency in our society to overmedicate and undervalue the importance of paying attention to more organic ways of improving our mental health (i.e. developing healthier coping strategies, learning to be more assertive, setting healthy boundaries, etc). I also agree that women are often unduly penalized for having more emotional expressions and that instead of focusing on how we can squelch these emotions, we should be focused on teaching everyone how to pay attention to emotions and what they may signal about our life and our mental health. However, I also found myself thinking that for many of my clients, 95% of whom are Black women, the concerns presented in this article would never be an issue, because so many of them are reluctant to try psychiatric medications, even when they seem warranted. (more…)
One of the major reasons I started Therapy for Black Girls was to reduce the stigma associated with seeking therapy. It’s important to change the community narrative that therapy is only for “crazy” people. Therapy is not only helpful to relieve symptoms of mental illness. It’s also incredibly useful in increasing mental wellness. Sometimes these concepts seem a little abstract without concrete examples, so in an effort to bring these ideas to life I’m starting a new series on the blog called On the Couch. This series will focus on the work I might do with a fictional character if they were an actual client in my practice. Today, we have our first session with Mary Jane Paul from BET’s Being Mary Jane. The first session with any client is the intake session where I collect a lot of information from the client about the history of their concerns, their families, and their reasons for seeking therapy. This will also serve as a nice recap if you haven’t been keeping up with the show 🙂 .
Tis the season! No I’m not talking about Mardi Gras (though I won’t blame you if you want to run out and grab a slice of King cake now. 🙂 I’m talking about Grad school interview season! Between now and March, literally thousands of bright eyed and brilliant students just like you will be flying, driving, and ubering from city to city to interview for slots in Clinical and Counseling Psychology graduate programs. Here are some tips to help you prepare to be your most confident and convincing self, along with some questions you should be prepared to answer as well as questions you should ask the interviewers.
Vanessa and Brian had tried for months to conceive after a miscarriage 2 years ago. They were terribly excited about the upcoming birth of baby Erin and could not wait to hold her in their arms. Vanessa was a planner so for months the nursery had been done. Her bag was in the car. The car seat had been installed, and her mother, who only lived an hour away, was prepared to be with them for at least 6 weeks following the birth. They were all set. Little Erin came into the world on a rainy June morning but no one could pay attention to the weather when her little face brightened up the entire room. After 12 hours of labor, Vanessa was exhausted but in amazement of the miracle her body had performed. The past few years of disappointments and sadness were all a faint memory now. Erin was finally here!
The first week was pretty rough for Vanessa. She was healing from labor, getting very little sleep and having trouble getting Erin to latch. Throughout it all, her husband and mom were great. They would rock little Erin while she took a shower and her mother made sure she ate 3 meals a day. Because she was a planner, Vanessa had read all the books so she knew that in this first week her mood might be all over the place and that she might have trouble adjusting to her new role. What she was not prepared for however was for her mood changes to last for the next 3 weeks and become more severe. She continued to have trouble sleeping and had to start offering Erin formula because the pediatrician was concerned about the weight Erin had lost. Vanessa felt defeated by this as she had planned to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. Additionally, Vanessa felt weird around Erin. In her mind she knew what she should be feeling towards her beautiful baby but for some reason she just didn’t feel connected. Vanessa found herself crying everyday in the shower, was not interested in eating very much even though her mom was still there doing all the cooking, and she did not want to hold Erin and preferred that Brian or her mom be the one to try and rock her to sleep.
Vanessa was confused and upset at the feelings she was having. She and Brian had hoped and dreamed of this time with Erin and now that it was here, she didn’t feel like she was showing up.
More than most years, it feels like Blackness has been especially under attack this year. The collective feeling of trauma feels palpable in my office, on my campus, and throughout my social networks. It feels like every time there is another major verdict to be delivered, a new viral video dropped, and with each breaking news headline, there is a collective holding of our breaths. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a diagnosis used to describe a collection of symptoms in an individual, it sure does feel like as a community we are suffering from this right now. A shared sense of paranoia, anxiety, angst, and hopelessness are all completely valid and understandable right now. During a time when there is so much pain and suffering in our face, and when so many of us are dedicated to fighting injustices, it is especially important to pay attention to taking care of and sharpening our tool, which is our selves. We cannot continue to shut down the highways and transit stations or march against these evils if we do not remember to engage in restorative self care. Here are some things to consider: (more…)
Today I am rocking my Black Girls Are Magic tshirt (get yours here) with my favorite wide leg trousers and blasting Beyonce as loud as my speakers will allow because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! I can honestly say that this has been a wild ride of a year. I had my first child, bought my first home with my husband, got a new job, and have started on the incredible journey of this blog so I would say a celebration is in order! That’s right, I’m throwing my own party because sometimes you just have to forget about all the stuff that’s going wrong and focus on what’s going right. Sometimes you have to ignore how the world would like to identify you and pay attention to the fabulousness that is YOU! (more…)
All too often I see sisters saying things like, “They sleep while I grind,” and “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of ambition, drive, and perseverance, but what are we really saying when we use these phrases? When did it become cool to brag about not sleeping? Restful sleep is all too easily ignored and we don’t realize just how important it is for us to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If gone unchecked, a lack of sleep can really wreak havoc on us physically and mentally. It can lead to issues like a loss of memory, decreased motivation, more depressed mood, decreased concentration, and increased anxiety. But a good night’s sleep involves more than just turning out the lights and cozying up on your satin pillowcase. Here are a few tips to help you improve your sleep hygiene.
1. Stop reading, eating, and studying in bed. Your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Doing all of these other things in bed confuses your brain about what should be happening when you get in bed. Try to use other parts of your room or home for other activities so that your bed is really a place to retire.
2. Unplug! Of course it’s super tempting to check all of your social media accounts right before you dose off but doing so can lead you right down the rabbit hole to a sleepless night. When was the last time you really just spent 5 minutes on Facebook? It’s very easy to get caught up with the latest trending topic and lose track of time making it more likely that you won’t get the requisite number of hours of sleep. If possible, try not to keep your phone next to you at night so that it’s not even tempting to get into this bad habit. Also try unplugging from the television. Even if you think you’re not paying attention and only have it playing as background noise, your brain is still tuning in and being activated. (more…)
Comments Off on Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Therapist
by Dr. Joy
Perhaps the hardest part about deciding to participate in therapy is choosing who would be a good fit as your therapist. After all, you will likely be sharing some of your most intimate thoughts and concerns with this person. You want to be sure that they are a good fit! But do you know what factors would contribute to this? Here are 5 questions you may want to consider as you search for this person:
1. How important is it that your therapist match you in characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender presentation or sexual orientation? Research has been consistent in finding that the most important factor in whether or not therapy will be helpful is the quality of the relationship between client and therapist. There is a need to feel “known” by your therapist that helps one to be more vulnerable in the space. If there are particular characteristics about a therapist that you believe will allow you to feel more comfortable and ready to work, then by all means search for that! However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you cannot have a quality therapeutic relationship with someone who doesn’t come in the package you thought you wanted. Many times you may be able to work through things with a therapist who is less like you in ways that you could not have imagined.
2. What type of personality works best with you? Are you someone who needs to be gently nudged into making a change or would you prefer a straight up, no chaser approach? Are you someone who needs lots of structure and activities to help you work through issues or do you prefer processing an issue from multiple perspectives until you land on something that fits. Each of these things will be important to consider as you decide whether a therapist will be a good fit for you. You may be able to get a sense of this from therapists’ websites but it will also be important to ask about these things either during a consultation or during your first appointment. (more…)