Suite303 Podcast: Episode 6: Mental Health & The Stigma of Therapy feat. Lee from SimpLee Therapy

I had the pleasure recently to collaborate with not just someone I look up to, but one of the people that inspire me daily, Mr. Albert Phang, also known as my big brother. His podcast, Live from Suite303, is THE place for entertainment, culture, and generally uplifting the community known as The Inland Empire. I was privileged enough to get to sit down on the show and discuss how mental health has become such a big conversation in every community, but also how the stigma around therapy is being shattered by new generations in the black community.

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Live from Suite 303 – Episode 6

Teenagers: 7 Things You Do and Don’t Remember about This Tumultuous Time of Life

Oh, the glorious teenage years. Seven years of raging hormones, testing boundaries, discovering who you are, and deciding who you don’t want to be. Working with teenagers has reminded me about all the ups and downs that the average teen goes through, and also reminded me that being an adult with coping skills and real life experience is something I shouldn’t take for granted. Parents of today’s teenage generation should be applauded, but they should also be reminded that the average high school graduate this year was born in 2000…just think about that. They were practically born with a smartphone in their hand.

I not only applaud the parents, but I applaud the teens that make it through this time with limited drama. Being a teenager is hard. Living with a teenager is even harder. That’s why I want to discuss the 7 things you do and don’t remember about being an adolescent.

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Hormones

This is a lot of parents’ first excuse for any bad behavior portrayed by their teenage child. This is one thing that a lot of us do actually remember. Being horny, irritated, angsty, defiant, hormonal teenagers. It is true. Teens are going through arguably the most hormonal-ly, disfunctional time in their adult lives. This isn’t necessarily a good excuse to let them slide on any and everything however. This is a good time however to talk with your teen about managing their emotions and developing useful coping skills for when they are feeling anxious, depressed, or just annoyed. Good coping skills can look like practicing “self care” with your teen. Go get your nails done together (mom or dad), share a journal and write about the highs and lows of your week, or just try teaching a healthy way to give space and check in when appropriate. Helping your teen gain these skills now will save them a lot of money from not having to go to therapy later in life.

Autonomy

Figuring out how to be an independent person and thinker is something a lot of us adults don’t remember. We’ve been thinking for ourselves for so long, we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not have your own individual thought process. Adolescents are just developing this however. Adolescents spend a large portion of those 7 years figuring out how to form their own opinion and how to view themselves as a unique individual instead of a small portion of a family unit. That’s why your teen never wants to do anything with you, because being seen with you makes them your child instead of solo, independent, autonomous, whomever. That is why giving your teenager space at this age and room to make decisions on their own is so important.

One of my favorite quotes from my anti-helicopter parent father is, “I give you enough rope to hang yourself.” This sounds dark and twisted, but really all he is trying to say is, “I’m giving you enough space to make your own decisions, whether those are good or bad decisions is up to you.” As a teen I totally didn’t get this, but looking back it worked like a charm. I had plenty of opportunities to get into a whole lot of trouble (and there were definitely times I did make poor choices), but I rarely went to “the end of my rope”. I was one of those teens with no curfew and no real clear restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do. My parents always reasoned with me though, so I knew that coming home by midnight on a Saturday may fly, but anything past 9:30pm during the week was pushing it. Instill good boundaries, but let them roam.

Bullying/Peer Pressure

Bullying and peer pressure is something that we all remember either participating in or being drug into. Unfortunately, although we may remember what this looked like for us in high school, bullying and peer pressure look very different for our teens now. What use to stop at the end of the school day, now continues 24/7 online. And what use to be pressures to drink or smoke cigarettes, now looks like pressures to vape, eat edibles, and all sorts of other stuff that I don’t want to scare you with listing. Talking to your kids on a regular basis not only allows you to know what’s going on, but it gives you a baseline for determining when something is a little off with them. Being able to pick up on those cues (such as shorter responses, more time in their room, less time hanging out with friends, amongst various other things) can help you know when you need to intervene or start asking the harder questions. Provide your support and be involved. They may resist at first, but they will eventually share if you are consistently providing the opportunity for them too.

Self-Esteem, or Lack There of

Teens are so consumed with themselves it seems crazy. Selfies, updating bios, obsessing over outfits and makeup and hair cuts, oh my! This self-obsession ties into that autonomy I spoke about earlier. Adolescents truly believe that everyone is paying attention to everything they do, when really they are all to obsessed with themselves to notice anyone else. This time of experimenting with their identity is so important to building their self-esteem. Make sure you are supporting their identity (whether good or bad) and practicing self love yourself as a good example.

I will never forget the day my mother called by best friend fat. 🤦🏾‍♀️ Okay, she didn’t actually say that, what she did do was comment on the fact that she wasn’t looking super tiny anymore after coming back from summer vacation. My mom thought it was a good thing that she gained a couple pounds…my friend on the other hand spent the next week obsessing over the fact that she “looked fat” because that is how she interpreted the comment. What started off as a harmless comment, turned into a teen’s obsession with her weight and a dig at her self-esteem. So be mindful about how you speak to your adolescent (and their friends), and reinforce the fact that every teen has their unique, positive qualities.

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Your First [Fill in the Blank]

Something we all may remember is the “firsts” we experienced as teenagers. Our first kiss, our first dance, our first date, our first…whatever. It’s probably been awhile since the last time we had a “first” of anything, but it is something that teens are dealing with pretty regularly at this age. Everything is new, and though we may want to talk about our experiences and convince them that hearing a story from 20+ years ago is a suitable replacement for them actually experiencing it themselves, that is not how teens usually “learn their lesson”. Now I am not saying to hold back any advice you wish someone had given you in your younger years, but I am saying that you have to expect teens to fail and make mistakes for themselves still. Some advice will stick and some won’t.

One way to make giving advice a little easier is to ask your teen what questions they have about certain topics before just dishing out whatever it is you know. Validate any concerns they may have and normalize their experiences…okay these are my therapy words. By “validate” and “normalize” I mean use phrases like, “That does sound really tough to deal with.” or “It may feel like you’re the only one experiencing that, but a lot of your peers probably are too.” or “I went through that when I was your age.” or “Your older sibling asked me the same thing.” or any variation of these phrases. The important part of this whole thing is making your teen feel heard and understood, and creating a safe place for them to ask about these “firsts”.

Social Media

Let’s be honest. If you have a teenager right now, you did not have social media growing up. For parents today, social media is something that is new and maybe a little scary. Your child probably has at least 4 or 5 different profiles on different platforms, and maybe 1 or 2 on platforms you didn’t even know existed. This is one area that the old, “I remember being a teenager.” line does not apply to. Although you may not have a social media account or know how to use one that doesn’t mean you can’t support your teen in making good decisions while on these platforms. Some things you can do is encourage them to set their accounts to “Private” so they aren’t easily accessible to “strangers”, and educating them about scams, predators, laws, and the permanency of online content.

Things NOT to do when it comes to your teen’s Social Media Usage:

  • Make a fake profile to stalk them. No. Don’t do it.
  • Ignore the fact that they have been locked in their room for 5+ hours online
  • Encourage them to be “InstaFamous”
  • Hover over their shoulder asking for passwords
  • Give them a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. with no rules or regulations attached. Examples of Good Boundary Setting Rules: Electronics off by bed time, No phones at the dinner table, Bad grades = electronics taken away, One household member must be following you on all platforms (an older sibling may be a good choice for this one)

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Not Quite Being an Adult

Being a teenager is one extra long, awkward dance between being a kid and being an adult. Bringing together the hormones, autonomy, peer pressures, self-esteem, “firsts”, and social media is a wicked concoction. This is a gray area where certain things are okay and certain others are (for lack of better terms) illegal. It is important to have these conversations with your teens and also expose them to what being an adult is really like. Teaching them useful skills that aren’t taught in school anymore like how bills work, how to cook, how to do their laundry, how to budget, and other tasks that you may remember thinking, “How the heck does this work?” when you were their age. This is the perfect time for them to start practicing how to be an adult. With your assistance, dedication, and openness this can be a really fruitful time of growth. As much as this is a time of finding balance for your teens, it is also a time of finding balance as a parent. And when all else fails…go to therapy. 😉

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The Strong Ones: 5 Myths about Black Women in Therapy

Hello beautiful, black Queen! Thank you for doing all that you do. You deserve the recognition that you so rarely get, and you deserve to have a space where you can pause to adjust your crown every now and again. Wearing that crown can be tiring to say the least. It puts you in charge of your family, your kingdom, your life, and your melanin. It brings along with it responsibilities that can be strenuous and rewarding in the same breath. It is what makes you a the pillar of a community and the backbone to a culture. That crown you wear is what makes you magical.

The truth is we all have some magic in us. Taking the time to recognize that magic within us however can be difficult. That’s where therapy comes in. Therapy helps us distinguish what our “magic power” is and how we can use it to better our life and ultimately change our story. Participating in therapy allows us to learn about our magic and understand ourselves from every aspect of our being.

As a narrative therapist I recognize that every black woman (and person in general) has a unique story to share with the world. One thread that ties all of those stories together though is the picture that society has painted of our melanin. Society tells us certain things about how we look, how we dress, how we act, and so much more. My job is to dispel these rumors and shine light on the truth in your particular story, which is why I present to you the top 5 myths black women tell themselves to avoid therapy…

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Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Myth: Therapy is a white people thing.

Fact: Therapy is an everybody thing.

Whether you are black, white, purple, or green, you can benefit from going to therapy. Therapy became known as “a white people thing” because it use to be considered a luxury. Unfortunately, for a long time only the wealthy could afford to pay someone to listen to them, while everyone else went to their family, friends, or pastor for advice. But now that mental health is starting to be recognized as an essential part to everyone’s overall health, it is becoming more accessible to everyone willing to make a change in the way they think about their mind, body, and soul connecting. Between insurance, employee assistance programs, and not-for-profit counseling organizations, therapy is in reach for just about every person from any walk of life.


Quick Tips on Finding Cheap Therapy

  • Check what your insurance or EAP will cover! If someone else is willing to foot the bill, use that to your advantage! And if not, ask therapists if they offer a “sliding fee scale”, which adjusts the price of therapy based on your income.
  • Find an “Associate” or pre-licensed therapist. These therapists have completed Masters degrees, but are working towards licensure, so they often offer cheaper rates per session (as much as 50% less than licensed professionals). Studies also show that these therapists provide some of the most beneficial therapy due to their up to date knowledge of the field and best practice.
  • Check local universities as they often have student run clinics that provide very cheap therapy services! These clinics often have graduate students providing the service, while being supervised by licensed therapists. For San Diego residents, check out The Center for Community Counseling & Engagement for therapy as low as $12 per session!

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Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

Myth: Black women don’t need therapy because they are strong.

Fact: Black women need therapy because they are strong.

Being physically strong doesn’t stop body builders from going to the gym. Why let being mentally strong keep you from checking in with yourself and managing your mental health? The strong are most often carrying so many other’s problems that they don’t have the strength left to deal with their own. In therapy sessions, I often see clients unpacking other people’s baggage as if it is their own. These individuals are often the strongest in their social networks, which is why they are able to take on so much from others. What they often seek in therapy though is having a space where they can discover and discuss their own concerns. Finding a therapist that makes you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and let down any guards allows you to take care of yourself in a more intentional way, so that you can continue being a strong individual in other areas of your life.

Myth: Going to therapy makes you look crazy.

Fact: Going to therapy is what keeps you sane in a crazy world.

First off, who gives a *bleep* what anyone else thinks!? Excuse my French. As the strong, black woman you are you have to deal with so much more than the average person. Black women deal with what we call “intersectionality”, which is basically the crossroads where various forms of social categorizations and discrimination meet. Black women have to face being black, being a woman, and being the center of the black community, while also managing possible financial hardships and the disadvantages that come along with that in this country. Now this is not to say we are victims in any way, but instead to show just how resilient we are. Overcoming these challenges on a daily basis means we often find ourselves drained and feeling unmotivated to keep going. Deciding to create a space with a professional where you can discuss the microaggressions, stress, and any other people/places/things that drive you crazy is a healthy way to keep yourself sane and happy in this crazy world.

red haired woman in white and black floral sleeveless maxi dress
Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

Myth: Church and praying will solve all your problems.

Fact: Church, praying, and talking to a trained professional will help solve a lot of your problems.

You can’t pray away a broken leg, and you can’t pray away a severe mental illness. Faith is something that becomes a very useful tool in many people’s lives to cope with hard times. Some hard times require more assistance however. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes, the key to dealing with it however is recognizing it. Stress, sadness, anger, and any other emotion is normal and needed. However when your mental state is beginning to be the source of distress in your job/marriage/life then it is time to get extra help. Managing bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia on your own can be scary, but when met with the proper support from a therapist, psychiatrist, and/or your primary care physician you can live life to the fullest despite this disorder.

Myth: I can’t change how society views me.

Fact: I can change how I view myself and how I let people treat me.

“I don’t want to be seen as __________.” This is one of the top phrases I hear from clients. One of my top responses…you can only control yourself and how you absorb these ideas from others. People will always have opinions, but only you get to dictate who you are. Society has no control over who you decide to be. Recognizing the power that comes with this realization changes everything. You go from questioning everyone to being un-bothered. The take away is if you change your view of yourself and channel that person who you want to be, society will follow. Using therapy as a place to build your confidence, your ability to cope, and your positive self image will change how you interact with everyone around you.

We all have concerns, questions, and relationships that have made us think at one point or another, “should I go to therapy?” If this question has ever crossed your mind, make an appointment! Taking care of yourself is the first step to taking care of those around you. By checking in with yourself and talking to a professional about life, you gain better knowledge on how to use your “magic”.

A great resource for finding a therapist in your area is “Therapy for Black Girls“. Check out the directory and the podcast for a fun dose of mental health information!

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5 myths pinterest

What to Look for in a Good Therapist

Finding a therapist can be one of the most daunting tasks after deciding you want to start your therapeutic journey. Between referrals from friends, Psychology Today profiles, and insurance network requirements, you can get lost in the lists of names, specialties, and areas of so called “expertise”. Speaking from personal experience, I didn’t know where to start to find a therapist that seemed like a good fit for me (yes, therapists have therapists). Even after checking off little boxes of preferences to “filter results”, I was still left with a laundry list of therapists in my area that supposedly had all the qualities I was looking for.

So here are my suggestions for finding a therapist that fits your specific needs…

desk laptop1. Look into the Therapist’s Preferences

This may sound like the opposite of what you should be doing to find a therapist, but it is often the best indicator of if they’ll be the best fit. Exploring a therapist’s website, Instagram, and business profiles will often show you what population the therapist prefers working with.

For example, I love working with minority couples and interracial couples in the early stages of their relationships. Although I work with all types of couples at various stages of their relationships as well as individuals and families, this specific population I just find the most fun and really find it rewarding to work with. Being in a therapist’s preferred population usually leads to building rapport faster, meeting goals quicker, and an overall stronger therapeutic relationship. It also pretty much guarantees that your therapist has more experience with that specific population.

2. Base Your Search on Your Values

It is often beneficial to share similar values with your therapist (unless you are questioning your values, in which case it may be beneficial to choose a therapist with opposite beliefs, so as they will hopefully challenge those beliefs). Having similar values means a mutual understanding of what is important to you, and what aspects of your beliefs may be a strength or barrier in a therapeutic setting.

For example, for a LGBTQ couple it would be very important to find a therapist that is open to discussing and well versed in LGBTQ issues. This may mean finding a therapist that identifies as being a part of the LGBTQ community, or just finding someone who is a LGBTQ ally. I’ll let you in on a secret though, checking off “Gay”, “Lesbian”, or “Bisexual” under the sexuality preference on Psychology Today, is not going to necessarily find you a therapist that identifies as “Gay”, “Lesbian”, or “Bisexual”. Therapists often use this indicator to show that they are open to working with the LGBTQ+ community or that they specialize in LGBTQ+ issues. Finding a therapist that specializes in trauma, eating disorders, relational issues, or whatever issue you are facing doesn’t necessarily also require them to be experts in sexual orientations, as that may not be relevant to the issue at hand. Which brings me to…

3. Do Your Research on Evidenced-Based Theories

Most, if not all, therapists have a theory that they follow that structures how they proceed through the therapeutic process with you. Depending on the issue you are hoping to work through in therapy, there are various theoretical approaches that may work best or at least better than others. Some of the most common Evidence Based Theory include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (all of these are often used with trauma issues), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Narrative Therapy, or Emotion-Focused Therapy among others.

In my work with clients, I use a combination of Narrative Therapy and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy to create a space where the client is the expert in the room and ultimately knows how to use goal setting and exploring solutions to help them “re-write” their personal story. Therapists often use a combination of theoretical approaches to best fit the needs of their clients. So asking a therapist which theoretical approach they are most familiar with or use the most often can give you some insight into the type of therapeutic setting you’ll be stepping into.

4. Be Okay with Shopping Around

One of the single best ways to decide if a therapist is a good fit for your specific needs is to sit in session with them. If a therapist offers a FREE initial consultation either by phone or in person, I would definitely take it! This person will be the one that you share some of your deepest emotional concerns and biggest secrets with, so make sure it is someone you feel that you can trust. Although not all therapists offer free consultations, even if you pay for a first session, don’t hesitate to let the therapist know that the relationship isn’t clicking and you will be continuing your search for the therapist that is best for you. Any decent therapist will respect this decision, and it is more common than you think. Don’t settle in just because you’ve started the process with them. Therapy is something that you have to make a long term commitment to, so make sure it is a relationship you are willing to invest your time and money into.


Overall, therapy is a unique journey for each individual person. Do your research and take your time finding someone to start that journey with.

If you are interested in working with a culturally-competent, solution focused therapist in the San Diego area…contact me at 619-363-3127 or request an appointment here. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your story!

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