Why Black People Avoid Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has a long history of effectively helping people address issues from suicide to career planning. Given how helpful psychotherapy has proven to be, there have often been questions about why Black people have been reluctant to turn to therapy to help resolve problems. The reasons for not pursuing therapy could include limited access to mental health services, cultural traditions discouraging the discussion of personal problems with non-family members, the perceived stigma of mental health issues and limited numbers of Black mental health providers.

There is a myth that “only White people go to therapy” and/or “you have to be really crazy to go to therapy.” Truth is, there have always been mental health issues in the Black community, just like there have always been mental health issues in every community. Historically, the Black community has addressed mental health issues through the church, extended family, family doctors or silently suffering. As these methods of addressing mental health issues have weakened and/or disappeared altogether, it has become necessary for Blacks to seek help for mental health issues from more formal systems.

While many of these systems have been slow to catch up with their growing diverse population of clients and patients, there are Black mental health providers in most communities as well as culturally competent providers from other racial/ethnic backgrounds. While many Black people have a preference for Black mental health providers, research shows that a culturally competent White provider is as effective in helping a client as a provider from their own cultural background.

The bottom line is there is a great need for mental health services in the Black community. In order to help bridge the gap between need and help, we must continue to provide education about mental health as well as improve access to services.