My first therapy session was beyond intimidating. Between the stigmas surrounding therapy in the Black community (aka therapy is for crazy people) and my only visual reference being television sitcoms, I was left unprepared AF. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and as comical as the relax, relate, release session in that episode of A Different World was, I needed to know the real. I've been in therapy for four years and overall, the narrative is shifting but many people are still left with questions of how to get started.
Here are some some tips that can help your first therapy session, and your relationship with your therapist overall, go smoothly.
1.Have a one-liner explaining what you're looking to accomplish.
It might sound like a lot to immediately pour out your trauma, but specificity is critical. You should go into your first session, clearly stating what you want to address. For example, "Hi, my name is ____, and I'm currently looking for help with _____" is a great place to start. If you find yourself struggling, take the time to self-evaluate where you are right now. Are you going through a break up? Transition? Lost a family member, generally in need of someone to help you sort through day to day life? The more transparent you are, the better they can help you (and you can determine if they're a good match for you as well).
2.If you have had a preference, do some research on websites that cater to what you're looking for.
Representation is imperative. According to an article on Self.com, Black clients are more likely to continue therapy beyond the first few sessions when seeing a black therapist. Still, for many of us, the search for finding a Black therapist, let alone one in network, is damn near impossible. If you're set on finding a therapist that looks like you, know that it might be difficult, but there are resources. Logging on to sites such as Therapy For Black Girls, Black Therapists Rock, and African American Therapist or apps like AYANA Therapy gives you an advantage. Don't sleep on Psychology Today either; there's a filter option where you can specify race, gender, and the area in which you live.
3.Keep your options open.
For more reasons than one, you need to remember that therapy is like dating - you won't always find the perfect fit on the first try. I would strongly suggest having a list of five potential therapists, and setting up initial appointments with all of them. Why? Because anything can happen. Years ago, I had a therapist I thought I was making great progress with call me another name after the third session - in a text message thread where my name was spelled out. Needless to say I blocked him like an ex on Instagram, but on my next try, I found someone that I worked well with for years.
One of my favorite episodes of Cherish the Day was when Evan and Gently spent the day seeing different therapists, and each one brought something different out of them - that's therapy. Visuals like that are why it always frustrates me to hear stories from friends who aren't comfortable with their therapist, but they continue sessions anyway. You have the right to advocate for yourself, especially inside the four walls of a therapist's office. If your experiences are being invalidated, leave. If you're experiencing microaggressions, leave. If you feel like your therapist isn't challenging you, leave - the door is there for a reason.
4.Ignore the people who will tell you all you need is church.
Church people don't know everything, but God does, and that's why He made therapists. I remember being at a party and a woman asked me why I looked so happy recently, and I said, I'm in therapy. Telling people I had a therapist wasn't easy for me at first, especially as a Black woman, so to share that, took a lot. She told me she could never feel safe talking to anyone but God in her secret place, and she didn't believe that she could be healed in therapy. Her response made me feel small, but thankfully my faith is strong and I know better.
Prayer, church, and therapy for me go hand in hand.
My journey has taught me that wellness like Black people is multifaceted - it should be free to take on as many forms as it sees fit. Therapy, candles, sage, crystals, and holy oil all have a place in my home. Don't let anyone invalidate what talking with a professional does for you, or tell you that church is all you need when they go to the doctor for everything else but what's going on in their mind.
5.Don't lie to your therapist.
Like forreal, just DON'T. Lying to your therapist is a telltale sign that you aren't serious about healing. I know that might sound harsh, but essentially you lying about your progress, relationship status, overall mental health, etc. is not only a waste of your time, and theirs but it's dangerous. You'll never be able to see the breakthroughs that psychologists speak of if you walk in every week telling half-truths. I had a friend who went to therapy on a weekly basis who neglected to tell her therapist weekly, that she was seeing a married man. She never experienced any real growth because there was a considerable portion of her life that she choose to leave out. Pain aside, owning your experiences even if they're challenging to recount is what therapy is for.
6.Get excited about becoming a better you.
I was so nervous walking into the first session that I never stopped to think about what my life would be like after therapy. My focus was on how embarrassed I felt of my choices, what led me there, and overall what my therapist would think of me (which are all valid feelings but feelings aren't always facts). So if you're feeling anxious when you walk into your first session, take a moment to see yourself in a better space, healing from trauma can be a beautiful thing, I promise you.
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Dubbed one of the "21 Black Women Wellness Influencers You Should Follow" by Black + Well, Yasmine Jameelah continues to leave her digital footprint across platforms ranging from Forever 21 Plus, Vaseline, and R29 Unbothered discussing all things healing and body positivity. As a journalist, her writing can be found on sites such as Blavity, Blacklove.com, and xoNecole. Jameelah is also known for her work shattering unconventional stigmas surrounding wellness through her various mediums, including her company Transparent Black Girl. Find Yasmine @YasmineJameelah across all platforms.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash