I know. You came here to schedule an appointment, but you saw I had a waiting list. You got yourself pumped up for starting therapy and were disappointed. I sincerely apologize. I created a waiting list so I know who to reach out to when an appointment opens up. I do not encourage rushing people through their therapeutic process, so as I help my current clients, I will try to leave you with some ideas on how to utilize your time and start the therapy process before your first appointment!
One way to document your emotions, events in your life, or just ideas and to-do lists is by keeping a daily or weekly journal. The first question I ask all my clients is, “what brings you into therapy?” If you keep a record of how you have been feeling, you will have collected all the data necessary to answer this question. The therapeutic process would have started before you even walk in the door, and you’ll feel prepared for the work that happens in the therapy room.
Do some Self Care
If you are willing to dedicate an hour a week to therapy that means you have an hour in your schedule already to do some self care. Take that time now to schedule something just for you. Self care can look like taking a walk around the park, lake, or by the beach. It could be spending some time doing something creative like painting, coloring, or knitting. It could mean practicing mindfulness or meditation in a peaceful setting you create just for yourself (candles, mood lights, and white noise machines welcome!). Self care could also look like setting up a coffee date with some of your favorite people every week. Whatever you choose to do with your time make it all about self love!
Talk to your Support Network
Maybe you can’t grab coffee every week, but maybe you can incorporate some other form of communication. Write a letter to an old friend or to someone you never got to say how you really feel too. Call up a sibling and laugh about old shenanigans or vent about your crazy parents. Join a book club or support group that helps you learn how to open up about your thoughts. Or just carve out time for you and your partner to connect every week. Who ever you give that time to, make sure it is spent with those that will add to your life instead of take away from it.
Try Something New
You thought therapy would be a new adventure for you to take. Why not try something else new and different from your normal routine? Being uncomfortable is a skill you will definitely utilize in therapy, so might as well practice now. Whether that is a new restaurant in town or a new hobby, get outside of your comfort zone and try something that the new you could really dive into!
Reach out to one of the Referrals Provided
If waiting isn’t something you are open to, please utilize one of the referrals emailed to you after adding your name to the waiting list. You could also call the following numbers to get resources more quickly!
Mental Health Resources: 2-1-1
Access & Crisis Line (San Diego): 1-888-724-7240
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
I hope to see you soon along your path to wellness!
Diverting from my usual audience, I want to speak to my fellow blooming therapists out there.
Deciding to become a therapist means deciding to be selfless more hours out of the day than not. This is a daunting task and takes a special kind of person to take it on. So kudos to you for choosing to walk down that career path!
However passionate you are about this path, I would like to send the reminder that being a therapist is a lot more than just being an empathetic person to those that choose to sit in front of you…it’s a full blown job. A job that is both physically and mentally draining. Preparing yourself for what you are about to take on and preparing yourself for where this career path will take you in the future is important!
Making an informed decision about how being a therapist will affect your overall life will help you grow into your career with ease. That is why I want to pose to you 5 questions to ask yourself before accepting that first job…
What are you doing for self-care?
As much as we preach “self-care is important!”, are you taking care of yourself? Can you think of one thing you do on a regular basis that is purely for yourself? If you can’t think of something, you better assign yourself some self-care ASAP. We tell our clients all the time that self-care is important, but we often forget that as “helpers” we are often the ones that need some self-care the most. Knowing your hobbies, happy place, or support systems can be life saving when working in this field. Also, think about how you will incorporate this self care when you begin your career. Establishing these self care activities into your routine NOW, will make it much easier when things start to get even more hectic.
What are your priorities?
Are you single, and hoping to still have time for finding love? Or do you have a family where being present for all the big moments is important? Or do you really love taking trips and participating in events and get togethers with friends? No matter what your priorities are, make sure to take these into account BEFORE signing on to a new job or side project. Knowing what comes first on your priority list enables you to choose what will be a good fit for you. Also, take into account that these priorities may shift. Working two jobs and 60 hour weeks may seem fine when you are pre-licensed, but once you become licensed you may want to reduce some of these hours to fit in other more important activities.
What do you want your schedule to look like?
There is no typical therapist schedule, so don’t try to match what you see someone else doing. In grad school you may have been handed a class schedule that you had to work around, but it may have seemed easy to just fill in the space before or after classes each week. After graduation however, you have to figure out your entire 24 hours each day to really maximize your time. If you are considering agency work vs. private practice, choose wisely. You may expect a typical 9-5pm, but crisis happens at all times of the day, so therapy jobs often mean working nights and weekends. Something they don’t tell you in grad school.
Look at your schedule and decide what line of work fits into your lifestyle. Outpatient programs offer the most typical schedule, as they are mostly office-based (M-F, 9am-5pm). School-based jobs often give more flexibility due to school year schedules (expect working anywhere between 7am and 3pm, M-F, with all the typical school breaks). A community-based job will often involve more evening hours (think hours between 9am and 7pm, M-Sat., with minimal holidays). Though some add the flexibility of working a 4×10 (4 days a week, 10 hours a day). Private practice work can seem to be the most flexible, but at times it can be the most restricting, as you are catering to when your clients will most likely be available (think M-Th.+Sat., 4pm-9pm or 9am-12pm). With most clients working a typical 9-5, you’re often offering the off hours. Each job you apply for will come with a different set of requirements, so do not be afraid to ask what a normal work day/week looks like for their therapists.
How do you set boundaries?
You may have been taught about legal & ethical boundaries, but personal boundaries can be just as important to establish in your career. Being a pre-licensed therapist, you often forget just how much you have to offer, which can be detrimental to your sanity. Pre-licensed therapists are often taken advantage of in the work place due to our natural desire to help. Be firm with your boundaries when it comes to working extra hours, taking home work, carrying your client’s baggage, and all the other ways in which you may be asked to go above & beyond your job description. Decide what will be hurtful to your well-being and what will be helpful to your goals. If it feels like too much, it most likely is WAY too much!
What are your career goals?
This is a major question, and arguably the most important. Some people go into the mental health field because they love the one-on-one contact with people, and doing anything other than direct therapy doesn’t interest them. Some people want to be the director of an entire non-profit because they want to see agencies run differently. Some people really want the ability to work for themselves, part-time, and have more time for their family. While others really love the educating aspect of therapy, and see themselves eventually teaching. And still others may have completely different goals tied into their mental health related degree. Figuring this goal out now however, allows you to line up and prioritize what is most important to you.
Think about where you see yourself in 10 years…what are you doing? Where do you live? How hard are you working? These questions will allow you to seek out a position that will help you reach your end goal. Finding a position that gives you room for growth and professional trainings can be game changing when you finally become licensed. Additional items on a resume or just additional knowledge in your head, can make all the difference in that professional transition. Start by making a vision board or writing a letter to your future self, then hold yourself accountable to accomplish the dreams you have.
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.
The first step in any therapeutic journey is recognizing you need a professional ear to listen to your story and then seeking out the therapist that seems to be a good fit for your unique journey. The second step (and arguably the hardest) is showing up to the first session willing to start the work […]
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…
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!
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.
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!