Before giving birth to my child two-and-a-half years ago, I was one of those women who thought I’d have the basics of child-rearing down. After all, I was in the fourth grade when my brother was born and spent much of my adolescence helping my parents take care of him. My experience with children increased even more when I became an aunt eight times over. I regarded motherhood as something I didn’t have total knowledge of but suspected I wouldn’t be too far off the mark when the time came for me to have a child of my own. Little did I know that there was no amount of practice that could prepare me for what was ahead.
I can still recall the statements I heard throughout my pregnancy. Soak up all the snuggles while they’re tiny. The days are long but the years are fast. Or one I heard a lot but could never quite master: Nap when the baby naps. While those comments might have been applicable for a particular season, I had no idea they wouldn’t sustain me while I was in the trenches of postpartum life, nor would the other well-meaning suggestions comfort me when I doubted that I was making the right choices.
Instead, I wish I heard more of the following:
"Your experience is valid."
Motherhood is like a fingerprint. From a distance, it looks like the next person’s, but when you inspect it under a microscope you’ll find that it’s not identical after all. As a new mother, I would compare my journey to the mothers around me and wonder why I struggled so much when it seemed as though they had it all figured out. I looked at mothers who already had multiple children and assumed they were on cruise control while I still struggled with motherhood after a year in. I would shy away from expressing how exhausted or overwhelmed I was because I was afraid it would sound trivial– as if only having one child somehow made my experience less legitimate.
I finally realized that it didn’t matter if I had one kid, or ten, my parenting experience was just as valid.
Alina Rudya/Bell Collective/Getty Images
"Motherhood is a mirror."
You might not realize how much of your personality or actions influence your child(ren) until they begin to copy you. Maybe they replicate the exasperated facial expressions you make, the tone you take when you’re frustrated, or repeat the curse word you tried hard not to use around them. Parenting can expose your weak spots, but it also reflects the best parts of you as well. I didn’t consider myself to be a patient person until I had my child. Through caring for him, I started to notice the ways I slow down to give him time to process the world around him.
Even better, I get to catch glimpses of my personality reflected back at me when my son imitates something thoughtful that I do.
"You might not love parenting 100 percent of the time."
Parenting, even in its most beautiful and fulfilling moments, is still tough work. It is grueling, time-consuming, and soul-crushing at times. There will be seasons where you feel consumed by how tough it is and wonder how you’ll make it through. You might miss the freedom you once had or who you were prior to committing your life to care for your little one. There’s a steep learning curve as a parent, and it’s okay to acknowledge the challenges you face.
You’re not ungrateful or failing as a parent if you happen to have a rough time adjusting to your role as a mother. And you certainly aren’t a bad mother if you admit to yourself or those around you that you don’t enjoy parenting every minute of the day.
"Friendships may change."
As someone who takes pride in her friendships, I had to approach them with intention after I became a mother. I no longer had copious amounts of time and energy to regularly keep up with my friends, and wondered how my relationships with my girlfriends would be impacted. Thankfully, I found a lot of support from the women in my life who were also mothers. Some relationships that were once surface-level turned into a true sisterhood through our shared experiences as mothers. I was blessed to find just as much support from my girlfriends who didn’t have children, too. They helped me navigate into my new role. Through these friendships, I’ve found a lifeline and a safe space to show up as myself.
It took a lot of effort to find a balance with my social life, but unfortunately, not every relationship remained intact. Some friendships withered under the weight of my new responsibilities and not everyone could adjust to my shift in priorities. It’s never easy when a friendship fades, but I give myself grace and remind myself that not all change is bad.
"It's OK to parent in a different way."
A few months ago, my son flew into a toddler-sized rage while we were out eating. My husband took him outside to calm down before returning to our table. A woman at the table next to us gave her unwanted opinion on the matter and shared what she would’ve done instead. It’s not uncommon to get unsolicited advice from strangers or loved ones, but I’ve learned that I have every right to parent in the way I see fit. If that means giving my child time and space to cool down instead of yelling at or spanking him, so be it! My parenting style is influenced by my own upbringing, but I’m not afraid to use techniques I wasn’t exposed to but know my son will benefit from.
Parenting isn’t static, and you can change your approach as you see fit – even if it doesn’t make sense to those around you.
10'000 Hours/Getty Images
"Do what works best for your family."
Parents are exposed to an influx of information on how to provide the very best for their children. As a result, many tend to feel pulled in different directions or feel guilty if they aren’t doing what society suggests they should. If no one has told you, let me be the first: You have permission to make decisions that work best for you and your family.
If you want to co-sleep with your child and can do it safely? Go ahead. You have a hard stance against corporal punishment or choose to gentle parent? Awesome! You don’t think you want to expand your family because of your finances, lack of support, or mental health, or you just don’t want to? Do you, sis! You have every right to provide the best environment for your child(ren) in ways that align with your beliefs, desires, and what you have the capacity for.
There’s no amount of advice or suggestion that can ever fully prepare you for what you’re going to encounter in your motherhood journey. Every experience with child-rearing is unique in that way. But my hope for you is that you’ll approach motherhood with an open heart. A heart that rolls with the punches motherhood will inevitably throw at you, a heart that leans into the many lessons you’ll face, and a heart that embraces the sweetness that is sure to follow.
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For many of us, the act of mothering occurs in many aspects of our lives and relationships regardless of whether we have children. We birth ideas, we create spaces for others to thrive, and we show up as the best versions of ourselves for the benefit of those around us. It’s no wonder we feel burned out and in dire need of TLC. Our needs for guidance and support don’t disappear the moment we enter adulthood, though. And in a society that encourages us to give everything we have to our responsibilities, it’s even more important to prioritize what we need in order to live our best lives.
Through self-mothering, we have the unique ability to fill our cups in a way that only we can. It is an intentional, selfless act that is rooted in nurturing and advocating for our needs. The route we take may differ from those around us and may look different depending on the season we’re in. But at its core, mothering ourselves is a radical act of self-love that we’re all deserving of.
The women in this feature explore their journey to self-mothering and share the lessons they’ve learned (or had to unlearn) along the way.
*Some responses have been edited for clarity.
Writer, Speaker, Editor
Courtesy of L’Oreal Thompson Payton
Self-mothering is about showing yourself the love you need, want, and deserve, even if–especially if–you may not have experienced how you would like to be loved by the mother figure(s) in your life. I observed my mom lean hard into that Strong Black Woman trope and I certainly adopted some of that behavior. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve decided that’s not for me and that’s not the legacy I want to pass down to my own daughter. I am all about embracing softness and courageous vulnerability. I allow myself to cry. I apologize when I hurt people. I’m no longer interested in appearing as if I have it all together. There are no gold medals for pretending to be perfect.
Physically I’m very much into working out, which fills my mental, emotional and spiritual needs–especially Chelsea Jackson Roberts’ gospel flows, slow flows, and restorative yoga classes on Peloton. It’s interesting because I’ll say I don’t believe in 'snapback culture,' etc., and yet I judge my body for not being the same as it was before birth. I’m having a hard time accepting my postpartum body. Of course, I love that it birthed a healthy, happy baby girl. But I don’t love not physically feeling and looking like the old me. So I’m working on that and I remind myself that my daughter literally does not care and that an extra 10-15 pounds don’t make me a different person. I’m still the same LT.
I’m also an avid journaler and I like to meditate when I get the chance. I used the Expectful app when I was pregnant and postpartum. I also love Insight Timer. I have to pour into myself and fill my cup first and foremost so I’m able to pour into others. Nurturing myself has gotten easier with time. I find self-care activities easier to do than the 'real work,' i.e. setting boundaries, saying “no” without explanation or apology, and putting my needs ahead of others as a recovering people-pleaser. I’m working on it in therapy and my husband and sister are constantly reminding me to do less and stop bending over backward for others.
To other women beginning your self-mothering journey, be gentle with yourself. Social media will have you believe you have to complete your journey overnight and that the path is linear. Healing is not linear. There will be relapses. There will be stumbles along the way. What’s important is that you pick yourself up each time. It’s about replacing the negative inner critic with a voice that’s going to encourage you along the way.
Founder + Editor-in-Chief of Resolute Magazine
Courtesy of Danielle Celaya
Self-mothering is taking the time to realize that I have needs, those needs deserve to be met, and that I don’t have to deal with anyone who undermines or minimizes those needs. Self-mothering looks like showing up for myself in all the ways my mother couldn’t. Not because she did not want to, but because she likely (as I’ve learned being an adult) did not know how. My mother had to, unfortunately, grow up fast. That leaves a massive learning curve when you have children of your own but did not have much of or a safe childhood yourself.
Growing up, she provided space for my aunts and other women in her life that she trusted to be there in ways that she couldn’t. I’ve learned it isn’t uncommon in the Black community for Black women to be there for everyone and people rarely if ever, show up for us. I’ve seen that with my mom, my aunts, and my grandmother figures. And they still give and show up with love, but it’s not for the people who continuously hurt and harm them. So self-mothering can be walking away, but also having uncomfortable conversations because not every situation is cause for just walking away.
Self-mothering is also making space for the things you enjoy. When I was 16, my brothers gave me my first journal. I started taking journaling seriously when I was a 20-year-old intern in Washington, D.C. From there, I’ve stayed fairly consistent. Journaling has always provided a way for me to fully get my feelings out of my head, and sometimes, my heart. Through therapy, and learning from Nedra Tawwab, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, Tricia of The Nap Ministry, and Dr. Mariel Buque, I’ve learned to just feel my feelings. For a time I would “save them for later” or repress them. I’ve done a lot of work to not do that.
Another thing I do to meet my needs is read. I read books I want to enjoy and if I don’t enjoy the book I’m reading, I don’t finish it. I spend time with people who I can be myself around and speak candidly with. I visit places and do activities I want to do even if a friend can’t go with me. When I need to sit down or just sleep, I let myself, and I don’t judge myself for it. I always have candles around because it’s a simple way to care for myself during busier weeks.
Nurturing myself has become easier with time. I had to realize regardless of anyone else, I had to show up for myself. When I catch myself going through a rough patch and not caring for myself, I pause to make sure I do. I’ve canceled plans with people just because I noticed I hadn’t shown up for myself in a while. The ones that care, understand. The ones that don’t, I no longer speak to.
I would encourage another woman who is beginning her self-mothering journey to give herself grace. Deprogramming from all the ways that we, especially Black women, are expected to show up in this world takes so much time. Give yourself grace, and be compassionate toward yourself.
PA-C, Mom & Lifestyle Blogger
Courtesy of Onyi Azih
I see self-mothering as nurturing yourself with compassion and kindness through whatever healing looks like to you. To bring calm to what may have once been a chaotic spirit. Self-mothering reminds us that we are worthy of love, care, and respect. Initially, I struggled with not seeing culturally-acceptable examples of self-nurturing. Then came mom guilt which felt like a cloud I couldn’t get away from.
Something as simple as spending alone time away from my kids would bring on the guilt. But now, I recognize I can nurture myself in whatever way feels right to me. I know that mom guilt is a liar. Trying my best makes me a good mother. It took therapy, reaching out to my village for help with the kids, remembering how much I wanted my mom to be happy, and knowing my kids want the same for me. Self-mothering isn’t selfish. In order to fully give your kids permission to love themselves, you have to show them how.
"Self-mothering isn’t selfish. In order to fully give your kids permission to love themselves, you have to show them how."
I had a strained relationship with my mother in my younger years. I remember my most persistent struggles were with anxiety and anger. These were feelings I could have processed sooner if I had examples of how to nurture myself, or how to set and uphold boundaries. More often than not, I grew up witnessing my mom caring for others more than herself. I watched her struggle to set boundaries for herself that would have allowed her to self-advocate. Though, of course, that’s what we were taught motherhood is all about, right?
It doesn’t come as a surprise considering that she was the eldest daughter and an immigrant raising five children in a foreign country. She did the best with what she knew, but what she may have missed out on was teaching me how to nurture myself. Since it’s easy to experience burnout with everything that adulthood piles on my plate, I started getting very serious about my first love, yoga, for my self-care needs. I practice it weekly, along with talking to a therapist when I reach those valleys that life inevitably brings us through. I’m also quick to speak positively about myself because there is so much life in the tongue.
Owner of Vinti Trunk
Courtesy of Anita Akinyemi
To me, self-mothering is how you choose to perform motherly actions for yourself. It’s making sure that I’m taking care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. The relationship I have with my mother has greatly impacted my life and shaped the way I care for myself. She’s always been there for me pushing me to do my best. In my younger years, I didn’t always like to hear her opinion if it wasn’t parallel to mine. However, I’ve grown up to learn that those opinions came out of concern and experience. My mother lost her mother as a teenager so seeing her as a motherless mother makes me grateful that I have her in my life to share her wisdom with me. In turn, I can share that wisdom with my own daughter.
Fulfilling my needs can be incredibly difficult because sometimes I feel there isn’t enough time in the day. My time set aside for rest dwindled significantly after becoming a mother so sometimes resting is the most simple action I take to care for myself. As for my emotional needs, I took the time to see a therapist and that was incredibly beneficial. I go to church weekly but I feel that my alone time with God, when I’m praying and listening to gospel music, really fulfills a lot of my spiritual needs.
Nurturing myself is not an easy task because I tend to put my needs last. Thankfully, I have a very supportive spouse that reminds me to take time for myself. I recently started working out again to give myself “me time” outside of doing things related to my business and household duties. When I schedule time for myself in my day it’s a lot easier for me to mother myself!
To another woman beginning this journey, I would simply say: don’t forget about yourself. Remember what makes you happy and try to set a schedule to make time for those things. That way you can continue to blossom.
Podcaster, Writer, Speaker
Courtesy of Earlina Green Hamilton
Self-mothering, to me, means to care for yourself like the woman who birthed you would. It is to put yourself first, nurture yourself, look after yourself, fight for yourself and make sure you want the best for yourself.
My mother was a single parent to triplets and two others. She did what she could to provide and establish routines. As a former police detective, she preached safety. “Always look around,” “be aware of your surroundings,” and “lock your doors immediately after getting in the car,” were just a few of her constant sayings. In her later years, she developed diabetes. I saw the toll it took on her body and spirit. Her diagnosis forced me to be aware of my body as I age and not take the gift of health for granted.
For self-care, I work out for my physical needs, journal for my emotional needs, and pray for my spiritual needs. I also don’t allow people to drain or take advantage of me. That’s a big one. Self-nurturing is a necessity so I don’t make excuses when scheduling time for myself. Whether I need a massage, Ayurvedic bodywork, lip wax, or some time at the gym, my husband and I get on the same page and schedule it. I believe that how I care for myself directly reflects how the world cares for me.
I would tell another woman who is beginning her self-mothering journey that she is responsible for herself. It’s no one else’s job to ensure you are adequately adjusted to our ever-changing and chaotic world. Be kind to yourself and look after yourself. Invest in books, people, and resources that constantly inspire you to think outside of your current circumstance. Always have goals for your body, mind, and spirit, and work daily to achieve them.
Owner of Grazing Boards By Chipo
Courtesy of Chipo Size
Self-mothering is the extra care I give myself to replenish my spirit and my soul as I journey through life. I mother myself in ways similar to how my mom raised me, but in different ways too. When I was growing up I used to think my mom was imperfect, I used to fight with her about countless things because she would force me to do things that I didn’t want to do. Now that I’m older, I’m in awe of her because not only do I realize she’s not perfect, she’s human.
She was always present as a mom. She was at every sports event I could remember. Always listened to what her children wanted and was a mediator while raising six girls under one roof. I only ever saw my mom relax on vacation. But at over 30 years old, I give myself so much grace. I carve out time for myself weekly or daily to decompress from the day. It could be in the form of drinking a glass of wine or going for a walk while listening to an audiobook or podcast. This is what I wish I saw my mom do more, but I’m glad I do it for myself.
I’m also truthful with myself and others about my struggles because I was always taught to be strong. I’ve struggled to find the softness. But as I mother myself, I’m learning that letting my guard down in the right presence is healthy. That is true strength. Nurturing others is easy for me because that’s what I’ve been taught to do and that’s what I grew up seeing. Nurturing myself is something I started during the pandemic when I was losing control of my emotions and feeling depressed.
"I’m also truthful with myself and others about my struggles because I was always taught to be strong. I’ve struggled to find the softness. But as I mother myself, I’m learning that letting my guard down in the right presence is healthy. That is true strength."
It was the first time in my life I was most vulnerable to the greatest changes in my life. I was used to being on the go. I didn’t take time to show up for myself and to rest. I started pouring into myself by doing things I wanted to do. I started playing tennis again and started saying no when I felt like I spread myself too thin. I started speaking kindly to myself and extending the same grace I so easily give others.
Our days can never be perfect–I think that’s the dream we’ve been sold from inception. But we can learn to be content in the hard times, while we learn to love ourselves a little more. Self-mothering might feel foreign at first but it’s one of the greatest and most beautiful journeys we will ever take.
Writer, Author, Mother, Creator
Courtesy of Ashley Chea
For me, self-mothering is healing, therapy, and self-reflection. Once that happens I feel like it becomes easier to create boundaries in all areas of life. You can honor your time, space, and emotional well-being without feeling guilty. Creating boundaries has always been my biggest barrier to nurturing myself. I feel so much better as an adult now that I’m not afraid to tell my mom and friends “no.” And because I never wanted anyone to leave me, I wouldn’t leave people or situations.
Therapy taught me that leaving is a form of self-care. It’s also a form of protection. So nurturing myself looks like me not engaging or partaking in anything that’s going to make me vibrate at a low frequency. Nurturing myself also includes working out for my mental and physical health. I have to work out and clear my mind–even if that’s a 20-minute walk outside. I also get my nails done. The world could be burning down and I’m going to get a mani-pedi before we meet the Lord. There is something about looking down at my feet and if they are crusty, it will make my life feel worse!
My mom has always taken care of herself and she taught me to care for myself. We didn’t have tons of money, so we never went to salons growing up. However, my mom always did our hair. She would sit us all on the porch and soak our feet and give us pedicures. She taught me that money didn’t have to get in the way of creating your own care. She taught me that health is the real wealth.
Becoming a mother has taught me to give myself grace. I realize how innocent my girls are by watching them love and live. Teaching them to be gentle with themselves has taught me to be gentle with myself, as well. We all deserve a soft life, and it’s never too late to make it happen for yourself. What I know for myself and what I want my girls to know is this: We can create the lives we want, and we don’t have to wait for someone else.
To another woman who is beginning her self-mothering journey: Go to therapy and learn your triggers. Learn what you’re holding on to from your past. Knowing why you do something helps you to learn what to let go of and what to hold on to. Also, don’t be afraid to spoil yourself. You deserved a childhood of love and protection. If you didn’t get it, now you can give it to yourself endlessly.
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Featured image courtesy of Chipo Size
Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.
For some, finding a therapist is as simple as pulling up a website, reading a few bios, and choosing a clinician. But for many Black women, finding a therapist that sees us as the multi-faceted beings that we are, and understands our unique experiences, can be a precarious affair. Therapists and clients are bound together by respect, trust, and vulnerability. And just like any relationship, it’s a delicate dance to find the right clinician that gives you the space to show up as your authentic self while maintaining a healthy, productive connection.
xoNecole recently chatted with seven women about the process they took to find the therapist that was ‘The One’ and how therapy has impacted them. Here’s what they had to say.
Courtesy of Destiny Oribhabor
My first time going to therapy was around 10-12 years ago and it has literally changed my life. It led to internal healing from emotional baggage and childhood wounds. It helped me become self-aware about myself and my triggers. It helped me have hard conversations with family members, which has led to those relationships being restored. Therapy has also reminded me that healing is a continuous cycle and there is no shame when you have to go back to therapy.
I’ve had various counseling stints over the past 12 years, and I’ve gone the recommendation and directory route. I had a 15-minute consultation to understand the counselor’s process before committing my time and coins! The consultations are so important because you get a peek into that particular counselor’s process. On my journey, my preference has been that my counselor must be a Christian counselor. As I have evolved, my preference changed to a Christian counselor who was also Black. I knew that I wanted a counselor that would give me homework, and also give me tools that I could use after the sessions. My counselor not only helped me with identifying the root (hello, childhood) but also provided tools and affirmations that helped me process when I was in a moment.
Due to the pandemic, I saw a counselor for several months last year who created space for me. Upon getting to the root of my battle with unworthiness and savior complex, she saw through when I would apologize for my tears and emotions. She could see through the times I would try to act unbothered. She stated, “These 50 minutes are for you and you can cuss, be angry and not be okay.”
When she spoke to the part of me that tends to want to be strong for everyone and allowed me to be a mess, it broke me open in the best way! She gently challenged me, and that’s how I knew this was whom I needed to work with. I would tell another woman who doesn’t gel with her counselor that it is absolutely normal. Not every counselor is a good fit. When I learned about doing a pre-interview or consult before committing, that changed the game for me.
Author, Self-Healing Educator
Courtesy of Yasmine Cheyenne
Therapy has been the safe place that I know I can come to and share how I feel, receive advice or feedback, and truly be seen and heard. It's a non-reciprocal relationship, unlike friendships or relationships we might have with our family, so therapy is also one of the few places where I'm coming to get space held for me and not having to do any holding in return. As a healer, teacher, and coach it was imperative that I create spaces like that for myself, to ensure I'm filling myself up too. I think it's important to research the kinds of therapy that you're interested in (i.e. EMDR therapy, Trauma-Informed Therapists, Art Therapist, etc.) because it's helpful to see a therapist who is going to be able to support you in the way that feels most comfortable for you.
I've also used directories like Therapy for Black Girls or The Daring Way directory by Dr. Brené Brown to find therapists certified in particular ways of supporting clients. I wanted a therapist who had experience in supporting people who were already in wellness or primarily see therapists. Although I'm not a therapist, I support my clients through coaching and teaching self-healing, and I knew I needed a therapist who could support my unique needs.
"Therapy has been the safe place that I know I can come to and share how I feel, receive advice or feedback, and truly be seen and heard. It's a non-reciprocal relationship, unlike friendships or relationships we might have with our family, so therapy is also one of the few places where I'm coming to get space held for me and not having to do any holding in return."
I knew I found a therapist I could trust and wanted to work with when I recognized her ability to help me dig deeper with kindness, when I could feel understood without judgement, when I was able to apply what I was learning in my life with more ease, and when I felt held and safe throughout our sessions. I also love therapists who uphold strong boundaries and ensure that the session is a safe space for me to unpack, not me listening to their personal stories unless it is useful to the session.
[If you don’t gel with your current therapist] talk to your therapist about your feelings because they may be able to help you feel more at ease when they understand what you're experiencing. But if they aren't able to understand what you need, or if you don't start to feel a better connection, start looking for a new therapist. It's tough to get what you need out of therapy when you don't feel comfortable with your therapist, so advocate for yourself and look for something different that feels good!
Entrepreneur, On-Air Host
Courtesy of Nicola Ajayi
I’ve used therapy services in two different instances. The first was in conjunction with my husband in couples therapy. I also used therapy services as an individual when I was experiencing so many life stressors and needed resources and ways to help me manage them. In couples therapy, my husband and I learned ways to be patient with each other while giving grace for each other’s faults, how to actively listen to each other, and how to be empathetic to each other’s feelings and needs. Individual therapy allowed me to identify my “triggers” before I reached the boiling point and most importantly gave me a safe space to air my deep thoughts and feelings.
I think it’s so important to go to a therapist who shares the same values as you. First and foremost I knew I wanted a therapist who was a Christian, and I found both of my therapists by Googling Christian counseling in my area. I needed someone who tied the Word of God into our sessions as well as give us practical, everyday tools to utilize on a day-to-day basis. For marriage counseling, I specifically wanted a male therapist who was married with a family because I felt like my husband would relate to him more. For my individual sessions, I chose a female therapist who was married and had a family because I knew she and I would understand each other the most.
I thoroughly scoured my therapists’ websites and bios before deciding to hire them. I wanted to make sure they had the qualities listed above before even attending the first session. During the first trial session, I knew I would continue with both of them because in both instances I felt “understood” and heard. I never felt rushed or felt like they were not actively listening to me, which in turn allowed me to feel free to open up and let my guard down.
My advice for a woman who doesn’t gel with her current therapist would be to speak to them about her feelings to see why there is a disconnect. If you still don’t feel as if you gel during the next session, find someone else! After all, you are paying for a service so you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get every benefit from your time together!
Dr. Eleanor Khonje
Courtesy of Dr. Eleanor Khonje
I went to therapy at a point in my life when I knew that therapy was really the only thing that was going to help me. After leaving an abusive marriage, I was completely broken. I was in the midst of finishing my Ph.D. when I decided to leave this relationship. I was working full-time for an international organization, and as wounded as I was, I knew that I could not afford to let anything in my life slip by or get out of control.
If I was going to move ahead powerfully, I needed to understand why I made so many excuses for such bad behavior from my ex. I needed to understand why I could be as smart as I am, have so much knowledge about feminist politics and gender-based violence, and yet could not discern that what I was experiencing at home was violence. And thank God I went to therapy because I got the answers I needed.
"I went to therapy at a point in my life when I knew that therapy was really the only thing that was going to help me... If I was going to move ahead powerfully, I needed to understand why I made so many excuses for such bad behavior from my ex."
A close friend of mine suggested the particular therapist I worked with. She worked with her in the past and assured me that, if anything, I should at least try her out. I initially thought it did not matter whether my therapist was female or male. [Because] I live in Switzerland, I definitely did not even think about a Black female therapist because I did not know where I would go to find one. I really needed a safe space where I could cry and cry without judgment and a space that would help me understand where my brokenness was coming from and how I could resolve it. But after carefully thinking about it, I knew I needed a female therapist.
My therapist was not someone I could potentially be friends with, she was not someone I particularly went home and talked about because I thought she was amazing. My therapist was a professional, whose role was to help me find solutions to my problems and find ways I could effectively move ahead. In that light, if I felt like she was not qualified to help me dismantle my emotions and heaviness, I would have left to find someone who would. I don’t need to be your friend, and I honestly don’t even need you to look like me, per se. But are you knowledgeable enough to help me resolve my stuff? Depending on that answer, I would advise another woman to find another therapist or change her mindset [on what she wants].
Emelda De Coteau
Writer, Podcast Host
Courtesy of Emelda De Coteau
Being in therapy is helping me address some core issues, which have shown up in my life, again and again—people-pleasing (which has some of its roots in childhood sexual trauma), setting healthy boundaries, and releasing mom guilt. My therapist also supports me in navigating the experiences of caring for our daughter who has some health challenges, while being there for my Dad, who is in at-home hospice care, all while juggling being a wife and entrepreneur. In the past, I asked friends [for recommendations]. More recently, I decided to head to Therapy for Black Girls, and do a deeper dive. I am so glad I took that additional step!
I wanted someone I could both connect with and relate to on a fundamental level. I felt an internal pull to prioritize working with a Black woman therapist who valued mindfulness as a practice, alongside faith and building a relationship with God. I wanted to find someone who could relate to my experience as a Black woman living in America and understood the importance of a holistic trauma-informed approach. And most importantly, I sought out a therapist who would hold me accountable, and walk alongside me on this journey of healing.
Throughout our first meeting, I felt an immediate sense of connection, like this woman understands me! She took time to read through the paperwork I submitted, asked follow-up questions, and set treatment goals with me. During our sessions, she also steers me towards action steps so that I am always growing and putting into practice new, healthy habits.
Don’t wait to find someone who speaks to your spirit, and will listen to you. Pray for guidance, but don’t use this as an excuse not to move forward. Our mental health is the foundation of all that we do, and it’s important we prioritize caring for it. Connect with communities like the one I’m part of, Spoken Black Girl, which centers on healing and well-being for Black women. They now have a directory where you can find women of color therapists and wellness providers.
Therapist, Wellness Coach
Courtesy of Minaa B.
Therapy has helped me build my emotional self-care and has helped me to manage the emotional challenges and roadblocks that I face in life. Overall, therapy has been a useful tool in helping me live in alignment with the growth and evolution that I desire. I used the directory PsychologyToday.com to connect with my therapist, but I believe word of mouth can be a great and useful strategy as well.
Personally, because I am a therapist myself, I specifically looked for a therapist who has worked with other therapists and has experience treating the issues that I am presenting with, and can provide guidance and educational insight. Working with a client who is also a therapist can be a unique experience so it's something I prefer to know upfront when talking to a therapist.
Our consultation call was warm and inviting, and she immediately knew how to address some of the needs and issues that I had. A first session is a big impression to make, and because I found her to be useful early on, it made it easier to trust the process as I continued on.
To be straightforward, find a new one [if you don’t gel with your current therapist]. There are too many good therapists out there and it makes no sense to force a relationship with someone who you have to pay and share intimate details of your life with if there is no trust or a genuine connection. Shopping around might be tiresome, but it's worth it.
Dr. Akua Boateng
Psychotherapist, Mental Health Media Expert
Courtesy of Dr. Akua Boateng
Therapy has provided me with a safe sounding board for all aspects of my life. I have a place where I am heard, seen, and valued. As a therapist, it can be a challenge to find a good fit. Fortunately, a colleague referred me to my therapist. I was looking for a Black therapist that was well trained, immensely compassionate, and with a similar cultural background to better understand my lived experience.
I knew I found the right therapist when I felt comfortable and experienced growth toward my goals. I would advise you to talk with your therapist [if there is a disconnect]. There might be reasons for the misalignment. Next, if challenges cannot be fixed pursue a therapist that serves you. Believe it or not, your current therapist wants you to find the right fit as well.
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Featured image courtesy of Yasmine Cheyenne