Grayson and Associates is one of the largest groups of mental health clinicians in the country. We are composed of experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and nurse practitioners who treat individuals of all ages. Our clinicians treat all sorts of cases ranging from situations that are brief and commonplace to situations significantly more severe.
Treatment is individualized based on the initial evaluation. Typically, individuals meet with a therapist or counselor for the first appointment where they identify the problem and determine a course of action. Other people are first seen in crisis and require evaluation and treatment by a psychiatrist as well as a therapist.
Grayson and Associates has nearly 100 clinicians with specialties that include but are not limited to Anxiety, Addiction, Depression, PTSD, ADD, ADHD, Women's Issues, Sexuality Issues and Eating Disorders. Our clinicians typically treat patients with individual therapy, but some do offer group therapy.
Our entire staff, both licensed professionals and front office are dedicated to providing a safe space to grow and heal no matter what stage of life the patient is experiencing. To get scheduled, take the link to our online form submission or call (205)868-6702.
About the Practice
I am passionate about facilitating opportunities for individuals and groups to connect with the natural world, to explore their inner-landscapes, and to discover within themselves a strength and beauty more powerful than they previously knew. Since 2015 I have been engaged more and more with learning from the body, the part of the natural world that is always with us, and use this as the primary experiential aspect of my individual counseling, but when possible also work with other forms of experiential therapy: ecotherapy and adventure therapy.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, 200 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher, wilderness guide, and founder of Aspen Roots Collective. I grew up in Alabama, and participate in ongoing personal work around my heritage, privilege, and a deeper understanding of our messy humanity. I operate from a place of curiosity, and incorporate humor into this serious practice of life. I have chosen some alternative paths in life and am familiar with the state of transition, that awkward liminal place of uncertainty and patience.
Values and Approach
Above all, I value and respect the fact that each individual is both completely unique to themselves and simultaneously a member of a larger collective. My approach to counseling is to join you on your path of discovery, healing, and growth, and to honor and help uncover your internal wisdom. When it comes to knowing yourself, you are the authority. I am here to encourage you to be, in order for the dust to settle, and allow for more clarity, more self-trust. I will invite you to listen to your body, to learn it's language, and to track your nervous system in order to gain more of a sense of what it is you need to feel safe.
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Therapists serving clients in Black, AL
Finding the right therapist can feel intimidating, but there are simple ways to narrow down your search for the Black area; especially when you're having a hard time trying to find therapists accepting new clients.
First, research what type of therapy you’d like to pursue BEFORE trying to find a therapist or psychologist. Maybe that’s psychodynamic, cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, family therapy, or couple’s counseling; just pick the Black therapist that is right for your needs. Next consider whether the gender of your therapist matters, the types of therapy they're most experienced with, and then finally choose a therapist located near you in the city of Black, or elsewhere in the Geneva county or state of Alabama.
What is the cost difference between conventional therapy and working with one of our listed therapists above?
The United States has many therapists who are comfortable charging $200 or more per session, and in some instances you might find that the average price of a therapy session in Black, AL ranges from $85-$150.
Some therapists in the state of Alabama will work on a sliding scale, meaning they’ll factor in your income and charge what you can afford per session. With our therapists serving both the city of Black and elsewhere throughout the state of Alabama, you can expect significantly more affordable options with sessions ranging from $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly).
Did you know our therapists are not limited to in-person visits?
Online therapists, including all those listed above (all of which are in the United States) able to work with people like you in or around Black offer creative forms of communication to help people like you receive the best type of treatment for your needs.
Whether that’s via sms texting with your therapist, video sessions where you see you one another and talk about your problems, live chat or phone sessions, you and your therapist will find the best way to address your mental health challenges.
So if you're dealing with things like relationship problems that could be addressed in couples therapy, you want to work with one of our experienced cognitive behavioral therapists (specializing in behavioral health), assistance with eating disorders, or support with other common mental health issues (like stress, anxiety, depression, grief, etc)... take a look at our available therapists above and find a therapist that is right for you.
How to know if therapy is right for you?
One of the rewarding aspects of working with a therapist is that they are listening to your feelings. Our friends and loved ones often hear us, but they may have a hard time providing objective guidance in the way a therapist can; which can be extremely valuable due to the fact that many therapists have experience helping others through similar difficult times.
A therapist wants to support you toward a healthier emotional state, no matter what you're dealing with (including behavioral health concerns, grief, anxiety, depression or stress). In addition to developing healthier emotions, another benefit of therapy is you have a safe space to discuss problems that you may be hesitant to talk about with people in your everyday life.
Many people have sensitive topics to discuss; possibly an addiction or an issue with their relationship that they’re ashamed to speak about with their friends and/or partner. A Black therapist can help you confront these kinds of issues and find ways to face them and heal.
With more than 207 people in the city of Black, AL finding a therapist can be both costly and hard to do. Our goal with the list of therapists shown above is to get you the support you need today. If you’re looking for a nearby therapist close to 36314 or the surrounding zip codes (shown below), take a look at other available therapists in the popular nearby cities listed at the bottom of this page.
What is the difference between a therapist and a psychologist?
Both a therapist and a psychologist can help with some of the most challenging times in life. Often times, a psychologist will work along side a psychiatrist who is also a doctor in order to have medication prescribed if needed for a patient's care; but this is not always to case. At the end of the day, both mental health care professionals can provide the different types of therapy that someone needs.
So if you're looking for a professional, it's likely that one of our therapists can be of assistance and help you feel comfortable and confident with online counseling. Our counseling services will connect you with a licensed professional that is ready to work with clients like you to form a helpful therapeutic relationship.
Whether you are here looking for a a child psychologist in Black, couples counseling in Black, family conflict therapy in Black, or a marriage counselor open to working with individuals in you area... BetterHelp can assist you, possibly in new ways that you haven't tried using technology.
Are therapists covered by insurance?
Therapy with a clinical psychologist is often NOT covered by health insurance. While only some health plans in the USA cover counseling in Black, this does not have to make your search for therapists in you area a challenge. The reason is our new ways of using technology like text, video, phone, and live chat options have made it easier for therapists working with individuals like you easier and much more affordable; as described above.
With that in mind, you can feel comfortable to look at the list of available therapists on our platform ready to both help and work with clients like you; all while building a healthy therapeutic relationship designed to assist you. When it comes to working with a BetterHelp therapist on our platform, it's important to keep in mind that the services offered here normally are not covered by health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
Therapists... what exactly do they do?
Therapy, aka psychotherapy and/or counseling, on the BetterHelp platform is basically the process of working and meeting with a licensed clinical psychologist online. Whether you're looking for a couples counseling session, or cognitive behavioral therapy... we have counselors that are actively working with individuals like yourself and are able to work with you.
Common Searches People In Black Make Online To Get Help From A Therapist:
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Follow Us Here: (stay up to date with the leading online therapist platform)
To follow us online and stay up to date with our initiatives on our social channels, you can follow us on Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Click here to check out our YouTube channel.
Take some time to learn more about our therapists and counselors to clearly understand our services. If you have questions for us, please reach us on our contact page or send an email to [email protected]
If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger due to an issue that is an emergency - don't use this site's online services.
If you need Domestic Violence support, please contact The National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
If you need Substance Abuse support, please contact the Substance Abuse and MH Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you need Sexual Abuse support, please contact the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673
Call the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +1 (800) 273-8255 or 911 which can provide you with immediate help for an emergency call or visit the nearest emergency room.
Other zip codes that therapists in or around Black, Alabama can serve:
Today we’d like to introduce you to Adrienne McCollum.
Adrienne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have had a passion for helping others since I was a small child. I didn’t always have the language for it, but I knew as early as five years old that this was something I wanted to do with my life. Grown-ups would ask me what I aspired to be when I grew up; I’d say “I want people to come see me in an office and tell me about their problems.” One day someone said “oh, you want to be a psychologist.” For many years that’s exactly what I told people I wanted to do. I ended up getting my education and training in the field of social work. I have been in the field for seven years now and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
I have done substance abuse counseling and medical social work. I was working for a home health and hospice company when I realized I wanted to go back to doing therapy. I missed it so much; I literally thought about it everyday. I ended up taking a lead counseling position with a startup company in 2018 and it wasn’t a good fit. As soon as I took the job, I started to feel the tug of entrepreneurship. One day I went to my doctor for a bad cough and it just casually came up that I was a therapist. She asked where I practiced and when I told her she seemed slightly disappointed. She told me that she had several patients who needed counseling, but she didn’t know any black therapists in the area. I knew then that I needed to figure out how to make myself available to our community. I ended up getting fired from my job about two weeks later. I went home that September day and established Inspire Counseling, LLC.
I was so determined and I truly believe God led me the entire time because I had no education or experience in business. I was also fortunate enough to have a friend who had started her own practice several years prior; she was instrumental in helping with some of the first steps of building my practice. I saw my first private practice client in April of 2019, at the Montevallo office. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to establish my business in two locations. My second (now primary) location is conveniently located in the heart of Hoover, Alabama, which is less than 15 minutes from downtown Birmingham. I see 20-26 clients a week between the two offices. I value work/life balance, as I am also a two-year-old boy mom.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly, yes, there were some challenges along the way, especially with finances, but I was at peace through most of it. I was highly motivated to make it work and willing to sacrifice whatever was necessary. I kept saying “success is just on the other side of quitting”. I refused to give up on myself and on my dream.
Please tell us about Inspire Counseling.
Inspire Counseling is owned and solely operated by me. I am the only clinician in the practice at this time. I am a psychotherapist specializing in adolescent girls’ and women’s issues, with a focus on Black women. My practice is very inclusive; I am beyond grateful and satisfied with the diversity in my clientele. However, many of my clients are Black millennial women. Their issues range from depression and anxiety to relationship issues to trauma, and more.
What I am most proud of for my company is how quickly it has grown and the success of the practice in less than two years. There is still so much I want to do. I think what sets me apart from other practices is the authenticity and quality of my brand. I have been very intentional with targeting my niche market. It’s worked well for me.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I would say it’s between going swimming during the summer with my dad, or family reunions every July with my mom’s side. I enjoyed time with my grandfather and great aunt too. We lived in the country with a garden and a tire swing. Hearing my “Paw Paw” whistle and sing church hymns in the garden is a very fond memory of mine.
- Address: 200 Chase Park S. Ste. 107
Hoover, AL 35244
731 Middle St. Montevallo, AL 35115
- Phone: 2057283949
- Email: [email protected]
- Instagram: @inspire_counseling_llc
- Facebook: @inspiredbyinspire
BB Media; Dontez Heard (single headshot)
Suggest a story: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.
Birmingham in al therapists black
This article is part of the Black Magic Project, which is a series of stories focusing on those who do inspiring things in the black community. If you're a Facebook user, you can join our Black Magic Project group, where we talk about stories and issues concerning black Alabamians.
Tiffany Elliot has wrestled with death multiple times since she was a child.
When she was 11, a siege of depressive thoughts led to her first suicide attempt. The psychological pain was rooted in rejection. First her father, who was an inconsistent presence in her life while she was living with her grandmother in Raleigh, North Carolina.
She was picked on physically at her predominantly white school, where her colleagues would make jokes about her dark complexion and pulled on her straightened hair to see if it was real and not hair extensions. She was picked on spirituality in her predominantly black community, where family members and friends would call her an "oreo"-- code for "Black on the outside. White on the inside."
Elliot said her middle school counselor tried to inform her grandmother of Elliot's emotional distress, but her grandmother dismissed the diagnosis. Although her grandmother made sure she was fed, housed and had the best Sunday clothes for church, she wasn't the type of person who would give hugs and kisses freely, Elliot said.
The chronic rejection eroded her self-esteem and a heavy hopelessness took its place.
"I felt like I was the walking dead anyway," Elliot said. "I wanted to sleep and not wake up again and not have to deal with life. I just wanted to be away."
Elliot cannot remember much of the details of her first suicide attempt - only that she took pills and came out alive. But the pain haunted her. Now 47 and looking back, Elliot said she tried 10 more times to end her life.
While majoring in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she studied depression for a class. Putting a name to her pain gave Elliot a sense of relief. She wasn't "losing her mind" or "weak". Her mind just operated differently, she discovered. After her diagnosis, she traveled the world hunting for natural remedies to cope with depression, such as acupuncture and meditation.
She found her tribe in a Birmingham church in late 2016. She learned about No More Martyrs, an organization focusing on the mental health of black women and their "sister support meetups" on Facebook. She became excited. She had just moved to a new city to continue her education in counseling and didn't have any family or friends. During a cold evening, Elliot walked into St. John A.M.E Church hoping to belong. Stories about her depression and suicide attempts flowed out of her. Women of different faiths and walks of life opened up unapologetically about their mental health journeys. Their sense of togetherness became Elliot's source of resiliency.
Through their stories, Elliot discovered something she has wanted since childhood.
"That bond, that sisterhood, that strength -- that's hard to find in society," Elliot said. "I'm finally like, 'Man, I belong. This is a safe place. I am not being judge. She's not being judged. There was no prerequisite. You just come as you are.'"
Creating the voice for minority mental health
No More Martyrs is one of the few organizations focusing specifically on the mental health of black women. The group is currently working on a curriculum to advise therapists, counselors and psychologists on how to examine their own racial biases so they can understand and care for their black clients.
Since starting as a Facebook group and blog in 2014 in Birmingham, the organization has launched chapters in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Members have expressed how domestic violence, unreported sexual assault, poverty and discrimination affect the mental health of the black community during conferences in Atlanta, New York City and Capitol Hill. They've invited black, Latino, Native American, Asian and LGBTQ advocates from across the country to discuss the struggles they face during the organization's annual Minority Mental Health Summit every July.
These are different avenues of advocacy, but the end goal is the same to founder Nadia Richardson: to end the mental health stigma in the black community and create environments that foster their mental wellbeing. One quarter of African Americans seek mental health services compared to 40 percent of whites, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported. Leaving minority experiences out of mental health conferences, classes and courses has contributed to the problem of low utilization of services in the black community, Richardson said.
"There are almost no national campaigns that are solely focused or centered on the experiences of minority populations," Richardson said. "Unless you are intentional and focusing on it, then someone's going to be left out of the conversation."
Mental health in African American communities can go unidentified because people don't know what it looks like or deny it exists. Richardson found this in her own life before being diagnosed. Her depression and anxiety would shapeshift into different sensations - both emotional and physical - throughout her life. Sometimes it tingled across her lips and face. Other times, it was an inability to focus or handle crowds or isolating herself in a room. She didn't know how to identify the feelings that came and went when she was younger.
Instead, she mastered the performance. She officiated a circus of activities during college. She worked at least three jobs at a time and filled her schedule with extracurricular activities and academic responsibilities. She became engaged and was moving into a new place. When intense emotions would settle in, she would silence herself with guilt. What was there to be anxious about? She's a first-generation American who was making successful strides in her life academically. A consistently busy life was proof of that.
She realized she needed a change when she was 25 and was about to start her doctorate degree at the University of Alabama. There were times she didn't want to leave the house and grappled with doubts of finishing her education. Exhausted, she sought help at a counseling center on UA's campus.
"I think a lot of times when people think about mental health, they don't think about a person who looks like me," Richardson said. "I am successful in a lot of areas of my life. I am fortunate and very blessed. I think when people look at me, they think, 'What do you mean you have depression and anxiety?' They don't understand it's something you live with and manage."
Richardson's own mental health journey fostered a lot of questions, she said. She wondered why it was so hard for her to accept her diagnosis. Answering those inquires became the core of her dissertation, which examined the mental health of black women attending predominantly white campuses. Maybe asking for help didn't come easy for a group of people who witnessed the many forms of discrimination from slavery to segregation and beyond.
"I was doing all of this reading and research about disability as an identity and I wanted to know what happens when somebody is discriminated against based on a disability," Richardson said. "Maybe that's why we're afraid to acknowledge that something is wrong. Maybe we're afraid it'll be just one more thing for people to use and look at us in a particular way."
Some people tried to persuade Richardson to change her dissertation topic. The stigma of mental health was so strong in the black community, they were afraid she wouldn't get much response from her calls for interviews. But Richardson said it didn't take long to find people. Although the callouts asked for black women who were enrolled at the university at the time, she received responses from alumni, faculty, staff and black men.
The women Richardson interviewed were dealing with different types of trauma, such as child abuse or unreported sexual assault. Some of them were also performing caretaker roles for their own children or became guardians of younger nieces, nephews or cousins. They were managing these responsibilities while trying to be successful academically. Richardson said some of them created an identity based on their performance.
"They think, 'I must be a strong, black woman. So I'm just going to perform and pretend I don't feel anything,'" Richardson said. "'I must represent my people, especially if I'm one of the few black people here. If I'm the only black person in my class, I feel like I am speaking on behalf of all black people when I open my mouth.' That's a lot of pressure they put on themselves."
It's that illusion of strength that can send some black women to their graves, Richardson discovered. Two years after she finished her dissertation in 2012, Karyn Washington, a 22-year-old entrepreneur who spoke against people who criticized dark-skinned women, committed suicide. How people reacted to Washington's death, reminded Richardson of the importance of her dissertation:
Oh, they were so intelligent
So beautiful. So successful.
What could they possibly have to be sad about? What would they really do if they had any true struggles in their life?
"I was like, wait a minute. You can be a CEO and manage depression. You can be the first lady of your church and be managing an eating disorder," Richardson said. "You can have any mental health concerns, still be successful in your life and still have struggles."
Three more suicides of notable black women followed Washington's death in April 2014. Singer Simone Battle, who appeared on the X-Factor, hung herself in September of the same year. Three months later, Titi Branch, co-founder of the Miss Jessie's hair products, committed suicide.
With each death, responders recycled the same reactions and questions. Richardson was beginning to see the importance of having a safe place to talk and educate the community. At the same time, she was studying black feminism when she discovered the term of martyrdom: the idea that black women have been historically conditioned to put their own well-being to the side as they consistently served others. Richardson said during times of segregation, black women were bused to white neighborhoods to serve as maids. When they returned home, they would serve their husbands and children. They didn't have any time to take care of themselves.
Everything clicked when Richardson read an article following Washington's death. There was a line that said, Karyn will always be remembered as a martyr. But the thing is that we don't need them anymore.
Richardson agreed and from the aftermath of a series of deaths, she found the name No More Martyrs.
"You hear it a lot especially when someone passes, 'Oh, she was so strong. She carried the community on her back. She was the glue that held the family together," Richardson said. "Those are all really beautiful things, but did she take care of herself? Did she have all of the things she needed for herself. You said she was the glue that held the family together. Did the family reciprocate that?"
Richardson and a small group of volunteers started a campaign to tackle mental health stigma. Their slogans were #RedefiningStrength and #ForgetSuperwoman. They posted webinars combating the belief that women should give and give until they collapse and cannot be vulnerable enough to discuss when something is wrong.
"You are strong when you acknowledge there is something going on. You are strong when you take steps to take care of yourself," Richardson said. "You are still all of those phenomenal things people always said, but you know what? Forget Superwoman. We are not trying to be Superwoman. We are trying to be healthy."
More than prayer
Therapists and psychologists who discovered No More Martyrs saw the organization as an educational opportunity to get to know their clients more. Richardson said people across the nation saw them as a resource to find therapists and psychologists in their own town or city.
But the organization discovered another need when they started connecting people with support groups in their cities. The clients would go, but later decide not to return when they realized they are the only person of color in the group. They didn't feel comfortable about sharing certain events affecting their mental health, such as the fatal shootings of unarmed black individuals by law enforcement. As more and more people were starting to ask for face-to-face interactions, Richardson said the next step became clear. In 2016, a $25,000 community health innovation grant from UAB funded the group's dream to become a non-profit organization.
Not only did they create spaces where like-minded people can talk about their issues through the sisterhood meetups, but they also wanted to ensure the other spaces and resources women were tapping into for mental health services were free of censorship or criticism. One of the first places she wanted to implement training was the church.
According to the Journal of Black Studies, a bimonthly, peer-reviewed academic publication, blacks were drawn to the church for their mental health needs because it was more than a place for prayers, praise and preaching. Many civil rights leaders informed and encouraged the African American community from the pulpit. At-risk youth and ex-offenders were housed in the church. "The Black church has also been the place where African Americans seek emotional refuge from their daily problems," the study reported. "Furthermore, many view the Black church as the sole resource for dealing with psychological issues and have never sought services from mental health professionals."
But the church was one of places that needed to know how to respond to mental health concerns. Many of the women Richardson interviewed for her dissertation who went to the church for support faced criticism instead. To fix this issue, she decided to train pastors through Mental Health First Aid in February 2016. The course helps people properly identify and respond to mental health needs and substance abuse.
"I saw a lot of misinformation shared through the pulpit," Richardson said. "They would say, 'Oh, if you were a better Christian' or 'If you came to church more, if you gave more, if you prayed more.' For someone who is already in distress, to hear how it's their fault they have a difficulty managing their distress can actually heighten their distress."
Seeking professional therapeutic help came at a risk for members of the black community, the Journal of Black Studies reported. There was a fear of being "crazy" or "emotionally weak". Rev. Vernessa Barnes, of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, remembers seeing how those with special needs or mental illnesses were treated while attending elementary school during the 1960s.
"A lot of times, the special education students were considered 'retarded'. They all were lumped together and not get the help they should have gotten," Barnes said. "It's an area where people can often be overlooked and treated unfairly because the people who could help don't know they have that need. We hear, 'Oh, he's crazy' or 'She's crazy' when people are dealing with some real-life issues."
The want to help those who felt misunderstood persuaded Barnes to attend the organization's Mental Health First Aid training. Barnes said she is more alert to the signs of distress, not just the excessive sweating or hyperventilation, but also extreme mood swings and changes in behavior. She developed an understating of what she can and cannot do during those situations.
"Our goal is not to diagnose, but to recognize there is something that is not being addressed," Barnes said. "We just need to be alerted to the fact that additional help may be needed and to realize we can't do this alone."
Before the first aid class, Barnes admits there were some moments when she promoted a prayer-only type of therapy. Now, as a minister who focuses on grief, health and wellness, she regularly refers church members to a counselor, social worker or other organization that's more equipped to suit their needs. Prayer was one piece to a person's mental health puzzle, she said.
"While prayer is very powerful, sometimes people are in a place where they need more than prayer," Barnes said. "Diet may be very helpful in a situation. At some point, you may need to start an exercise program. Some things are not just one single solution. Some things may need to be put together."
Better mental health care for all
There were reasons why many African Americans sought help from ministers and reverends instead of licensed professionals, The Journal of Black Studies reported. The lack of diversity at mental health facilities fed the fear of being misdiagnosed. Dr. Joseph R. Betancourt, director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, reported that five to seven percent of mental health care providers in the United States are racial or ethnic minorities. NAMI reported that discrimination and prejudice led to misdiagnosis, especially schizophrenia in black males. All of these factors can lead to cultural mistrust between non-black therapists and black clients.
The first time Elliot reached out to a mental health professional, she was in the U.S. Navy in 1991. She was willing to open up about the death of family members and unreported sexual assault. She said the therapist's response lead to a severe distrust concerning mental health services.
"She made it very clear that, as a black person, I wasn't cut out to be in the military and I had emotional issues that I probably need to have fixed and I needed to be on medication," Elliot said. "It left me not trusting therapists at all. It took a long time to reestablish trust and to understand that therapists are people."
The Journal of Black Studies said discriminatory acts from mental health professionals can make someone more hesitant to seek services again. Elliot didn't see another therapist until her last suicide attempt landed her in the hospital about a decade later when she was 31 years old.
No More Martyrs is developing a curriculum focused on black mental health for professionals. Depending on the theme of the workshop, the classes will be led by other licensed professionals or African American studies, sociology and psychology professors. The group is hoping to launch the courses sometimes next year.
Richardson said training can help professionals examine any racial bias they may have towards a black individual who comes into their office.
"A lot of that has to do with the fact that every single person has bias. As objective as you think you might be and as objective as you feel like you're trained to be, you bring those bias into your workplace," Richardson said. "They may say something unintentionally discriminatory. They may be a well-intentioned therapist. They just didn't have time to think through their own biases."
Ed Cook III, director of UAB's medical and clinical psychology doctoral program, said students enrolled in an accredited clinical psychology training program have to satisfy multicultural and diversity requirements in order to graduate and become licensed. Colleges and universities may offer that training in different ways, such as seminars focused specifically on how to help clients from different backgrounds. Diversity may be included as a topic during assessment and therapy courses. Training may also be included in clinical training experiences.
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology, which approves and renews licenses, requires psychologists to do 20 hours of continuing education a year in order to renew their licenses. Cook said the board only looks at the number of hours and not the content of the courses. A diversity or multicultural class is not required, he said.
"Diversity hasn't always been part of the education of clinical psychologists, so it's certainly possible for a person to have negative attitudes about people in certain groups that were never challenged during their training. They may not, therefore, be well-equipped to work with individuals with diverse characteristics at this point in their career," Cook said. "That's why I would say to anyone who identified as LGBT, or anyone really, that it's important to shop around and find someone you are comfortable with. No one should assume that every clinician will have the training and experience needed to work with every patient."
After the first couple training sessions, Richardson said No More Martyrs will start to include information about other minorities groups as well. Since the group has connected with other Native American, Latino, LGBT advocates who focus on mental health in their communities, they can bring in those conversations to create better therapy for all.
"I don't believe that just because you are black you have to go see a black counselor. We want to make sure every single counselor - whether black, white, Asian or whatever - has that training to where they can provide culturally responsive services," she said. "If I am a black, queer, woman and you're a super conservative Christian, are you going to be able to help me? Or is your way of helping me telling me that I need to pray more or saying, 'You know, queer is not healthy.' Can you help in a way that doesn't cause more trauma?"
The therapy of justice and change
As No More Martyrs expanded over the years, so has the reach of their stories and missions. Angela Clack, a psychologist who started a No More Martyrs chapter in New Jersey, stumbled upon the group's Facebook page in 2016. There are similarities between Richardson and Clack's missions in life. The blog posts, podcasts and videos on No More Martyrs' Facebook page and blog are mostly written and produced by black individuals and emphasize the importance of self-care, representation in the media and social justice advocacy. Pictures of smiling black families dominate the home page of Clack's website for her private practice and she's written a book focusing on black mental health. Clack and Richardson stayed in contact with each other to see how they can assist each other in the mission of fighting stigma in communities of color.
But what caught Clack's eye the most was No More Martyrs focus on social justice. Clack, along with other scholars and licensed professionals, sees a correlation between repeated racial discrimination and mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. The American Psychiatric Association cited a study conducted by a Missouri psychologist which showed how stress increased following the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Thirty four percent of the community met the criteria for PTSD and while the APA says the national occurrence for depression if 6.7 percent, the study reported that 43 percent of the community sample in Ferguson met the criteria for depression. Since African Americans are less likely to have insurance and have less access to quality health care services, therapy becomes an expensive and, in many cases, inaccessible option. A study by Mental Health America ranked Alabama 50th in access to care.
During her more than 20 years as a psychologist, Clack has noticed how social media has broadened her clients' worlds. While they may learn about local cases of discrimination from their social circles or the news, social media highlights cases that caught the nation's attention. There's the series of stories concerning black individuals, such as Sandra Bland, who died while in law enforcement's custody. One of the nation's oldest black churches was targeted in June 2015 when self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylan Roof, fueled by racial hatred, shot and killed nine African Americans. Several hundred torch-wielding white nationalists marched on University of Virginia's campus in Charlottesville to show their opposition towards the city's decision to take down a Confederate monument.
These examples of discrimination can spawn many uneasy feelings for black clients. They didn't feel secure in their communities nor did they feel secure about telling other black individuals about their mental health struggles because of stigma. But No More Martyrs brings mental health advocacy into discussions centered around social justice.
"Advocacy is about having clients' own experiences validated," Clack said. "Sometimes we hear, 'Oh, you're crazy. That really didn't happen.' But it really did happen for them. We want to make that real for them so they can get the treatment and support they need."
Richardson believes justice and change can be a part of a client's mental health plan. There have been moments when the organization has helped women hire a legal team so they pressed charges against their sexual assault perpetrators. On Feb. 14, Richardson talked about how unresolved trauma can affect future relationships during an event about sexual abuse and domestic violence at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Fighting against injustices can reinvent a person's environment, Richardson said. A client can see a professional, talk about their issues and discuss coping mechanisms. But if their child attends an underperforming school they will still face stress. So No More Martyrs will help the parent look at options to promote the change they want to see in their schools and support their goals. If a client lives in an area where there is limited transportation and doesn't have a vehicle, it will be difficult to get their prescription filled. So Richardson may call an Uber so the client can get their needs met.
"If you're going back to those type of environments, your ability to get well is still going to be a challenge because all those things are going to impact your well-being," Richardson said. "So when we talk about inequality and addressing those things, it's just another way of fostering her well-being."
During Black History Month in February, No More Martyrs honored Essence Magazine, an African-American centered lifestyle publication that's been in production for almost half a century. This project was put together after Richelieu Dennis, founder of black-owned natural person care brand SheaMoisture, bought Essence Communication Inc. in January.
Richardson gathered five women for a photoshoot to recreate some of the magazine's most iconic covers. No More Martyrs showcased the photos during an event at J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College in Huntsville on Feb. 23 to show how important it is for black women to see themselves in a positive and powerful light.
Carmen Fortson, a patient access manager for HIV and AIDS advocacy organization Thrive Alabama, posed as Rae Lewis-Thornton, an AIDS advocate who graced the cover of Essence 1994 holiday cover. Fortson said seeing someone who looks like her doing the same work gives her the encouragement she needs to be successful.
"Representation helps people who might otherwise feel isolated or weak. Together, we can show the power of our collected voices," Fortson said. "We must also lead by example because someone is always watching and we should represent that light and strength. Representation is showing up and standing up; it's what makes us visible and powerful."
Speaking to a crowd of about 50 people - some of them wearing T-shirts decorated with positive affirmations for black women and others wearing colorful African clothing - Richardson told them the stories about how her daughter inspired her to do the project. She took her mother's Essence magazine and filled-in the white dresses with color. On one page she scribbled "Black Lives Matter" and on the other she wrote "Black magic".
Richardson was proud of her 8-year-old daughter because she will always know who she is. Sometimes a sisterhood is needed to remind women of who they are, Richardson said.
"There is power in sisterhood. There is support in sisterhood," Richardson said. "I am beautiful. I am valuable. I am intelligent. I am being reminded of who I am during the times when depression and anxiety makes me forget."
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Crystal Mullen Johnson: African American men and mental health
By Crystal Mullen-Johnson
Special to the Birmingham Times
Compared to women, men are less likely to receive mental health counseling. Instead of seeking any kind of treatment, men are more likely to deal with stress by overindulging in work, abusing alcohol, or binge watching sports.
Young men between the ages of 15 and 24, especially African American men, are at an increased risk for suicide. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 10 percent more likely to report having extreme psychological discomfort than Non-Hispanic whites. The mortality rate from suicide for African American men was more than four times greater than for African American women, in 2014.
My favorite actor on the TV show The Young and the Restless is Kristoff St. John. He committed suicide on February 2, 2019. Neil Winters, played by Kristoff, appeared to be so happy and full of life. Neil was a romantic, the kind of guy you see and think, “I would like to marry someone like him because he looks attractive, possesses some great qualities, and appears to be physically and mentally healthy.”
Prior to Kristoff’s suicide, he was known for struggling off the set with mental illness. Kristoff’s son committed suicide in 2014, which led to Kristoff’s grieving and silent suffering. Delayed grief of a loved one can manifest into a mental illness if untreated.
Mental health therapy helps people improve their self-awareness. It can also help them reprogram their brain patterns to better process situations and develop solutions to problems. When people use both objective resources and therapy, it helps them conquer their mental health issues, improve their problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills, and manage their emotions.
Down through the years, African American men and women have learned to suppress their pain and emotions and to “get over it” instead of discussing their troubles. The myth that one should “fake it till you make it,” distorts the reality of our problems. We become debilitated and internalize our problems by suffering silently. That behavior allows our internal suffering to be kept “under wraps.”
Laura Anderson, a former archivist for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and author of the book Civil Rights in Birmingham believes there is a heavy local legacy of collective failure to deal with trauma. She recalls what one hears in interviews with Birmingham residents who shared their memories of the many bombings in Birmingham over the years.
Of course, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley stands out. “From scores of interviews, one comes to understand that adults went to work the next day, students and teachers went to school the following day, all without opportunity to process a highly traumatic experience.”
Suffering In Silence
This is a great example of how African Americans developed a tolerance for trauma. Many believe we must be strong and courageous, and that life must go on without processing trauma. However, without processing trauma, people continue to suffer in silence.
Michael B. Jordan is another example of someone struggling with mental illness, but he was able to struggle less with the help of treatment. Jordan played a character in the movie Black Panther and stated that he began to sync with his character both on and off the set. The character was portrayed as violent and resentful, with vindictive motives. Michael disclosed that therapy was helpful in processing uncomfortable emotions so that he felt comfortable and in sync with his character on the set, and was able to be himself off the set.
Unfortunately, not all African Americans have access to mental health resources, and they also have to overcome barriers to access. Some reasons why African Americans have problems accessing mental health treatment are poverty, poor education, lack of insurance, and fear of being discovered. The myths ingrained in our culture also impair our judgment, which creates more stigma around mental health within our community.
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) collaborated with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to launch an educational outreach program called “Brother, You’re on My Mind.” According to NIMHD, “The focus [of the program] is to raise awareness about the mental health challenges associated with stress and depression that affect African American men and their families.”
Removing The Mask
One of the program’s goals is to communicate the importance of seeking help for mental health problems and to encourage affected individuals to get information, possibly by talking with their health care providers, in order to obtain appropriate treatment.
It is evident we have progressed as a culture economically and educationally. However, we still have great strides to make to improve mental health in our community. In the past, and still to this day, we are very comfortable wearing a mask with many layers of faces that we wear to appease others. By removing the mask, we can help ourselves achieve and reflect genuine peace of mind, happiness, and security.
Who will you be when you remove the mask that hides your layers of trauma, depression, anxiety, marital discord, and stress? Find out by making an appointment at Strive Counseling Services with a therapist today.
Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham, AL with more than 14 years of experience in providing counseling. Strive Counseling Services is a private practice located in downtown Birmingham that offers therapeutic mental health services to children (play therapy), adolescents, and adults. Strive offers evidence-based therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Visit these websites for mental health resources:
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