What Works for Me

By Catherine Okafor

I tend to be open about my mental health as it relates to my experience with grief and depression as a way to continue to raise awareness and create dialogue for both issues. Speaking up about it offers me a sense of peace of mind as I’ve been lucky to find support and community from those who are coping with grief and depression as well. In my previous blog post, I provided a short list of my go-to resources that have helped me cope and heal. Another way that I seek support is therapy.

“Black people don’t go to therapy. We just learn to handle it on our own.”

“Pray about whatever that’s bothering you. Give it to God. You will be fine.”

I heard that growing up, and now, even though I’m in my late-20s, the same tune is staying alive. There are so many misconceptions about therapy, especially within communities of color. Instead of supporting and encouraging our loved ones to seek help, we have been guilty of discouraging it as if it’s taboo.

I am guilty of saying those same statements out of my own personal ignorance. Within my career, I have held positions working with youth in various capacities, hearing their stories and helping them heal, grow and mature. While I was busy trying to be Superwoman, I failed to hear my own needs and cries for help.

I’ve always had an unspoken fear of going to a therapist: Would he or she judge me? What would my family and friends say if I told them I’m seeing a therapist? My pondering thoughts and feelings always led me not to do what I wanted (and needed) to do.

But, below, I offer insight into the reasons that have kept me in therapy in order to support my journey towards healing.

Let them in.

Once I allowed myself to break down the wall that I put up against the world that was shielding my depression and grief, I felt so much better. More so, when I allowed my therapist to support me, things became a bit easier over time. Before, I was trying to do it all myself without being honest with myself that I couldn’t carry the burden. I’ve never felt like my therapist was judging me. I always look at them as someone who is willing and able to support me.

This is my style.

Initially, I didn’t like going to my counseling sessions. I didn’t like talking for one hour while my therapist would simply listen and take notes. I wanted more of a conversation and advice. It took some time for me to build up the courage to tell my therapist that her counseling style/approach didn’t suit me. I wanted more. Therefore, I told her and things changed for the better. I felt like I was getting more out of our sessions. Speaking up on that helped me stay in therapy to continue to work on myself. I’m sure that if I never spoke up about it, I probably would’ve stopped going. Keep in mind that each therapist has a different approach and it’s a good thing to do your research and ask questions to see what works best for you.

It’s too expensive.

As Leah mentioned in her previous blog post, “yes, therapy can be expensive.” I agree with that! However, during my period of researching therapists, I asked them about their fees per counseling session. Some were considered “out of network providers” and their fees ran through the roof for me. Instead, I looked deeper into my medical insurance provider under their mental health services and was able to locate a number of “in-network providers” that could provide more manageable and budget friendly costs. I always try to keep in mind that my counseling sessions are investments in my overall well-being and that’s not a cost that I’m willing to be cheap with. Yes, it can be costly depending on your situation but find out what works best for you.

Even though it may come off as if I’m preaching all things therapy, I know that it doesn’t work for everyone. Please keep in mind that there are countless other resources out there to support yourself with your mental health. Do what works best for you. Try different things and whatever works for you, I hope that you will stick with it!