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Doing The Work Helped This Podcaster Surpass 2.5 Million Downloads

The evolution of Therapy for Black Girls' Dr. Joy Harden Bradford.

BOSS UP

Plant the seeds and watch them grow. Licensed psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford – host of the wildly popular and ever-necessary Therapy For Black Girls podcast, probably would have never imagined just how much her "seeds" would flourish.

However, after chatting with her about her career growth since launching the platform in April 2017, and getting to know her on a personal level, I will say this: Her desire to continue to find a way to get mental health information to Black women in a way they can relate – is always guiding her next steps.

The Louisiana native always knew she wanted to work in the psychology field – but was unsure of what her specialty would be. It wasn't until her doctorate studies in Counseling Psychology at The University of Georgia did Dr. Joy realize she had found her sweet spot. "My PhD program groomed me for what I'm doing now. All of my work was centered on Black women and Black graduate students."

She then went on to work at the Counseling center at Georgia Southern University and later transitioned into full-time private practice work. Her specialty became helping women recover from breakups with her passion for holding space for Black women to become the best possible version of themselves at the core of her work.

Podcasting was a growing interest, but wasn't a skill she had perfected. "I always listened to a ton of podcasts. It always felt like something I would likely do, but I didn't know how. I had already been blogging on the Therapy For Black Girls website but it felt like I could do something different with the podcast."

So, she put in the work: Conducted research, took courses on launching a podcast, and got her community excited. Note: Having a husband with a production background was an added bonus.

Now over 85 episodes, a 19,000+ member Facebook group, and 2.5 million downloads later with features on major outlets such as Forbes, Women's Health, The Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, and Essence – Therapy For Black Girls reaches women globally covering topics such as entrepreneurship, breakups, pregnancy and fertility, self-sabotage, social media, colorism, body image and more. "I never imagined that it would pick up steam so quickly. I figured I'd have to do a lot more marketing and figure out how to grow it."

The need for Therapy For Black Girls is real. Dr. Joy contributes most of her growth to word of mouth recommendations, having a solid college student listenership, and consistent community social media sharing. Viral retweets about the Therapy For Black Girls therapist directory by celebrity fans such as Solange also helped. (That one retweet crashed the Therapy For Black Girls website for a week!)

Behind the couch, Dr. Joy notes that her personal ability to "trust her intuition" served as a foundation for her practice's success and is something she brings to her show. She's in-tune with her audience and even incorporates popular culture into her show themes.

"When we talk about mental health, there's a tendency to only talk about depression and anxiety. There are a lot of other things that go into our mental health. I wanted to expand the conversation and help Black women get connected to resources that can help them if they felt like they needed help...the emails that I get from people who listen talk about how they learn something new and how an episode touched them… and how they are going to reach out to a therapist because of me [touch me]. I thought eventually it would get to that place, but to be what it has been now has been amazing."

The speed of growth was something to which Dr. Joy had to adjust. She added a virtual assistant and social media manager to her team. More opportunities came, such as guesting at popular podcast live shows (The Friend Zone and Gettin' Grown).

"Building the Therapy For Black Girls brand was my intention from the beginning. I've always been the face of the brand, but now there feels like a need to create a separate brand outside of Therapy For Black Girls because not all of my press opportunities have been solely about Black women in therapy. They have been about my expertise as a psychologist and how I can have conversations about pop culture and other things. The Dr. Joy brand is now an emerging brand."

The thing about nursing any seed though is that when you put in the work, you will have interested spectators. Then what?

"Put the work out there, and be consistent. It will take you a long way."

In December 2018, Dr. Joy was invited to be co-host alongside Angela Simmons on MTV's Teen Mom: Young + Pregnant reunion special – her first TV hosting gig. This came about after responding to a pitch from a MTV talent producer. Though she sent in her media clips and didn't hear back for six months, she gladly accepted the job and got to work (a common theme of her story) on prepping. She credits her legal team for helping to navigate the specifics during such a tight time crunch.

"Even though it can be exciting and the temptation may be to not pay attention to contracts, there were things that they thought about in the contract negotiation, such as my compensation and my rights, that I would have never thought about. It's always good to have conversations with people that do this on a more frequent basis than you do."

When you're building the dream and looking for more opportunities to broaden your impact, the most important thing you can do is continue to do the work. "You can have a publicist and look bright and shiny but if you're not credible and you can't talk to the kinds of things that they want you to talk about, it won't really matter," Dr. Joy reminds us. "Now I know that there are talent departments [whose sole job is] to look for people like me to do this kind of thing. Put the work out there, and be consistent. It will take you a long way."

However, growing both the Dr. Joy and Therapy For Black Girls brands isn't exempt from challenges. Managing schedules – all while being a wife and mother to two young boys, all while balancing her personal commitments and self-care routines can be tough.

"During the Teen Mom prep, there were also a lot of schedule changes. That was the weekend of my college homecoming and sorority reunion, so I completely rearranged my schedule. It's a lot, given that I also have two small children. Being able to be flexible with your schedule helps because I don't know that you always have a lot of time to prepare and get ready for these kinds of opportunities."

Setting clear boundaries (a topic often discussed on the show) with listeners has also been important as the platform's popularity rises. Hence, the ever-present disclaimer that opens each show: "And while I hope you love listening to and learning form the podcast, it is not meant to be a substitute for a licensed mental health professional."

Moral of the story? When there's a need, there's always room to find a way to fill it. Find the void. Identify your platform of choice and execute. The best part about creating your own path is the ability to define success for yourself. "Therapy For Black Girls is helping women take their mental health more seriously. That's all I ever set out to do."

Dr. Joy BTS with Angela Simmons for MTV's Teen Mom Reunion Special

"Therapy For Black Girls is helping women take their mental health more seriously. That's all I ever set out to do."

It's also inspiring the future generation of mental health professionals and culture changers.

"Someone in my Instagram comments commented how cool it was to see me [hosting Teen Mom] because she had grown up watching Dr. Drew do this and often thought, 'Could I be doing something that he's doing?' To see me doing it, opens up options for people who don't know or think that this is something you can do with the degree. [Me stepping into opportunities like this] also helps more therapists expand their ideas about what we can do with our degrees. Sometimes we only think we can see clients in our office or within an agency. Seeing Black female therapists on TV is very sparse. You typically don't see diversity in terms of who is represented on these shows. It's important that these companies are being more active in trying to find people from diverse backgrounds."

If you're trying to find the courage to take risks and pursue your own dreams, Dr. Joy suggests staying away from overconsumption of social media, scheduling, investing in coaching, and cultivating a strong support system.

The Therapy For Black Girls empire continues to grow. In late 2018, Dr. Joy launched the Yellow Couch Collective - a space for Black women "to gather, support, encourage, and learn from one another."

This is only the beginning – and Dr. Joy – calmly, but with a joyous excitement – knows it.

"It's always been my goal to have an advice column in a [major Black woman's publication]. A part of these expanding opportunities, I've always thought about, but not necessarily TV. I would absolutely do TV hosting again! It's still too new to me to go too far in imagining what this could be become. I'm open to what's next for sure."

We'll be here rooting for you.

Photos via Dr. Joy Harden Bradford.

To learn more about Dr. Joy & Therapy For Black Girls, visit www.therapyforblackgirls.com or follow @hellodrjoy & @therapyforblackgirls on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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