Sitting in the waiting room at fifteen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So many questions were running through my head like, “Will he understand me? Will he make me feel worse than I already feel?” When my name was called, I was shocked to see a woman sitting on the couch across from me. She looked like me and was a woman psychologist. I was impressed with her. I explained that I thought I was bipolar after completing an online quiz. She tilted her head and suppressed a smile when she told me that I was not showing those symptoms. She let me talk about my problems the whole time. It felt nice to have the space to talk about anything I wanted, without judgment. She seemed to care a lot. I enjoyed my time with her. I recognize that I was one of the lucky few to share the space with a culturally responsive and representative mental health professional. I have heard many stories of the unfortunate opposite occurrence, causing some to find therapy harmful and even unsafe.

Despite feeling like an outsider for the majority of my life, I found comfort in spaces like this, where I saw representation and kindness. Many years later, I decided to become a psychotherapist to create spaces that I experienced, offering my clients a space to feel respected, understood, and represented. I dream of a world where therapy is not stigmatized but encouraged so that our society can heal together on a large scale.

For Black adolescent girls, the statistics are alarming. The unique challenges of Black girls are “rarely centered in research and theory-building models for evidence-based practice specifically focused on adolescent development” (Williams-Butler et al., 2024, p. 54). Furthermore, there is an apparent gap in the current literature regarding research on “interventions that focus on both the culturally responsive and gender-responsive needs of Black adolescent girls with the goal of identifying factors that protect the mental health and well-being of Black girls in clinical interventions” (p. 54). This means that we must individually use critical thinking to assess whether our treatment is working for this clientele. That begins with recognizing the intersectionality and impact of race, gender, and socioeconomic status and then asking for feedback from the client.

While these types of realities can feel hopeless, I believe in glimmers—small aspects of hope, even when they are small. The glimmer that gives me hope is that there appears to be an increase in diverse options in mental health services concerning race, culture, and the overall decolonization of therapy. Furthermore, while cultural responsiveness and representation in healthcare may not appear in research, they are recognized, discussed, and implemented among professionals. By helping those behind us, we can help heal our inner children by being the supportive adults that they sit across from.

Bibliography

Williams-Butler, A., Dorsey, M., Lateef, H., Howard, T., Amoako, E. O., & Nortey, P. (2024). Black girl well-being: A scoping review of culturally and gender-responsive interventions. Research on Social Work Practice, 34(1), 54-69.