We did a quick Google search after discussing how to find the right therapist on our most recent podcast. Just out of curiosity, we typed in the search bar “therapy statistics.” Got a few results on therapy, a whole lot more for “mental health,” and more than a few for “mental illness.”
This is maybe the biggest issue when gauging therapy in casual conversation, with friends and family, or even in a Google search. You only need therapy if you have a mental illness, right? Therapy can’t help you if you aren’t sick.
The average person in therapy reports better mental health than 79% of those not receiving any kind of help. 79%!
WITH wanted to let our readers and listeners in on the reality of therapy, and cut through all the stigma. We reached out to licensed psychologist, author, podcaster, and all-around mental health superhero, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford.
In Episode 8 of Priorities, our podcast on all things health and wellness, Dr. Joy joins Bryan and I to discuss how to find the right therapist when you prioritize your mental well-being. In this portion of our wellness series, we discuss:
- Breaking the lingering stigmas around therapy and mental health
- Finding the right therapist for your needs
- Making the difficult decisions when prioritizing your mental health
- Going the extra mile with professional and self-therapy
Say Hello to Dr. Joy
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford–aka, Dr. Joy–has a resume that could impress the most accomplished psychotherapist. Among her many achievements are:
- A Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The University of Georgia
- The award-winning podcast, Therapy for Black Girls
- Featured author and speaker
From Joy to Doctor Joy
Dr. Joy began her path to licensed psychologist and award-winning wellness podcaster at Xavier University. She earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology before pursuing her Master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling at Arkansas State. In 2009, Joy Harden Bradford officially became Dr. Joy, earning her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Xavier.
What set Dr. Joy on such a clear path to a Licensed Psychologist?
She shares, “A lot of my work is in college student mental health. And so, I would always be running groups for Black women on the campuses that I was a psychologist at and really loved outreach work.”
Her passion for her work on campuses fueled her education, but it was seeing others’ passion that motivated her to start her award-winning podcast.
Therapy for Black Girls
“I started Therapy for Black Girls after watching BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards Show in 2014. You could just feel the energy of the women in the room – it just felt incredible, even through the TV screen. And so I thought, wow, it would be kind of cool to try to do something like this for mental health. Like, how could I bottle up some of that energy for Black women related to mental health? So I bought the domain from GoDaddy that night, and I just started blogging on the site about [things] like how to find a therapist.”
Simple beginnings for a podcast that has been downloaded over 2 million times!
Today, Therapy for Black Girls reaches a large, diverse audience to share therapeutic tips and guidance for those prioritizing their mental health. Dr. Joy also uses the site and podcast to connect Black women and girls with the right therapist (we’ll go into this in more detail later)
Dr. Joy, Author and Speaker
As an accomplished psychologist and successful podcaster, more than a few people want Dr. Joy’s advice. So she started sharing it with everyone.
Dr. Joy has been featured in most major publications, including:
Oh, and–how does she find the time?–she’s also releasing a book in the new year!
Thankfully, she took a few minutes away from her busy schedule to help us and you prioritize finding the right therapist.
How to Break the Stigmas Around Therapy
Therapy has steadily been on the rise over the past 20 years. So why are so many of us still nervous to talk about it?
47% of Americans still view going to a therapist as a sign of mental illness or weakness. You don’t need help unless something is wrong, right? Dr. Joy wants us to think differently about mental health.
“A lot of times when we talk about mental illness or mental health, I think there’s a lot missing from the conversation,” she shared with HuffPost. “I don’t think we always do a great job focusing on mental wellness, and realizing that we all have mental health we have to take care of. It doesn’t always have to be about mental illness.”
After COVID-19 struck, an estimated 25% increase in mental health issues were reported. As Dr. Joy says, we all have mental health, and it’s as important as ever to talk about it and care for it.
So what are ways we can break the stigma of therapy equaling weakness? Dr. Joy shares her advice:
- Normalize conversations around therapy.
- Increase representation for those struggling with mental health.
- Create and provide more resources for finding the right therapist, especially for underserved communities and BIPOC.
Normalize Conversations Around How to Find the Right Therapist
The first step to destigmatizing therapy and mental health is to treat it as any other topic. Dr. Joy explains how:
“I love the idea of having these kinds of conversations at bridal showers and baby showers, right? Because, I think for Black women, it is very easy. We see a sister who has beautiful nails, and we're like, oh girl, who did your nails? Or, who did your braids? And it's very easy for us to recommend a braider or a nail artist. I want it to be as easy for us to recommend the therapist. I want the conversation to be as easy, so that we really break down the stigma so that talking about who we see as a therapist is as common as we talk about who we see to get our hair braided.”
As with any topic, the more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes. It’s up to us to start treating therapy more like an everyday checkup and less as an admission of weakness.
Increase Representation for Those Struggling With Mental Health
Another step in beating the stigmas surrounding therapy is seeing it represented in the media. Not to say it’s only going to help things if “important” people experience it, but if someone sees their favorite singer or actor discussing their mental health struggles, it could open up more people to speak on it.
Recent examples of this have included everyone from royalty to pop singers, including:
- Meghan Markle opens up about having suicidal thoughts. During her first pregnancy, the Duchess of Sussex confessed to severe depression stemming from her treatment by the press and members of the royal family. She attributed her openness about needing help as a big step in her recovery.
- The Obamas discuss seeing a marriage counselor during tough times. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sought counseling after facing marital struggles following their daughters’ births. “Sometimes you need an objective person to just hear you out,” Michelle shared.
- Megan Thee Stallion launches a resource website for fans struggling with mental health. Following her much-publicized–and, unfortunately, sensationalized–attack, rapper Megan Thee Stallion processed her trauma through music, releasing the single, “Anxiety.” She went on to launch a website offering resources for her fans and followers suffering from any type of mental health disorder.
- Kid Cudi found balance by confronting his mental health struggles. A role model for speaking on mental health struggles, Kid Cudi sought rehab to combat his depression and suicidal thoughts. The rapper, singer, actor, and fashion designer attributes his current balance and happiness to seeking professional help.
Celebrities have all the resources in the world, though, right? How can we destigmatize mental health when we don't have anything else in common?
Dr. Joy sees it a different way:
“It makes it easier for people to realize, oh, we all have struggles. Money doesn't take away the struggles you might have with mental health. Celebrity is an equal playing field in some ways. And so I think those people and lots of others who have come forward have really helped to chip away at the stigma. But I also think that common people and non-celebrities will get on Twitter and talk about what they learned from their therapist or their latest appointment with their psychiatrist, and so I think that there is just more of a spirit of sharing and more normalizing that this is something that we have to pay attention to.”
Just like normalizing it through conversation, seeing mental health as a shared issue–something we all have–is a big step into pushing back against the stigmas.
Provide More Resources for Finding the Right Therapist
Dr. Joy stresses an important truth about treating mental health: therapy is for everyone. Still, there are clear discrepancies in treatment for BIPOC than for other demographics.
With only 2% of the APA members identifying as Black or African American, many Black communities have a distrust of therapists and doctors. It can be difficult to share personal details with someone who seems completely different from you.
In other words, representation matters.
Dr. Joy has taken note, and has some solutions:
“I kept seeing conversations from people around wanting to find a black woman therapist. There was just a lot of energy, and I thought we should have a place where people can find these therapists. So many people have the same question: why doesn't this thing exist? And so I started it as a Google doc for people to nominate their therapists, who they had worked with and had good experiences with. And then it has grown to over 5,000 therapists now.”
Amazing! Dr. Joy’s therapist directory has already reached countless girls and women, and is the perfect resource for finding the right therapist.
How to Find the Right Therapist for You
With demand for therapy on the rise, more people–including us—are asking Dr. Joy the big question: how do we find the right therapist for us?
Dr. Joy provides 5 key points to help you locate the right therapist. They are:
- Set your criteria
- Know your network
- Research specialties
- Request a consultation
- Make the right decision for you
Setting Your Criteria for Finding the Right Therapist
The first step for matching with the right therapist is to set your criteria. More comfortable speaking to someone in your own gender or racial demographics? Dr. Joy wants you to know that’s perfectly acceptable. Therapy is about feeling comfortable enough to gauge the uncomfortable truths.
Dr. Joy shares her thoughts on setting your criteria:
“So therapy is a very weird kind of interaction, especially if you've not had it before, right? Like you're talking to a complete stranger about some very personal things. And so what kinds of things will help you to feel comfortable in [that] space? So for a lot of people, that means they want somebody who matches them in some way–cultural identity, sexual identity, gender presentation–whatever will make you feel comfortable is what you should search for. So a lot of people ask, Do I really need a Black woman therapist if I'm a Black woman? Well, you don't need to, but if it feels important to you, then it's okay to have that as a criteria that you set for your search.”
Knowing Your Insurance Network
The last thing you want to do is meet the perfect therapist for you, only to discover that they aren’t in your provider network. Get the necessary research out of the way before moving forward with the right therapist.
To ensure a therapist is in your insurance network, you can:
- Check your insurance company’s website
- Check your provider’s website
- Call your provider
- Call your insurance company
- Call your licensed health insurance agent
Researching Therapist Specialties
Another important step Dr. Joy advises is researching your potential therapist’s specialty. If you’re interested in breaking through writer’s block or overcoming creative burnout, you might not have as much success seeing an addiction therapy specialist.
“If they don't have specialty and expertise in the thing that you're coming to therapy for, it may not actually work, because they may not be trained in the way that you need them trained.”
Dr. Joy suggests speaking with your potential therapist, as well as performing a quick search on YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, and other social media to get an understanding of your therapist’s specialty.
Requesting a Consultation
Dr. Joy informs us that requesting a free consultation with any potential therapist is both acceptable and an important step in determining if they are right for you.
Going forward with a therapist can’t always be decided in a ten-minute phone call or session, but taking every option before making a decision is the right move.
Make the Best Decision For You
Finding the right therapist for you comes down to making the decision that best suits your needs. Sometimes this means making difficult choices, something we can help you with.
Dr. Joy assures us that saying no to a therapist–or even “breaking up” with our old therapist–is just as important as finding the right therapist. The best places to talk these difficult decisions out? You’ll never guess:
“For you to actually have this difficult conversation with your therapist and to tell them, I've really appreciated the work that we've done, but I feel like I need something different at this point because of a couple of things. So again, it is good practice for you to have a difficult conversation because we often avoid those, and the therapist is the best person to have these difficult conversations with.”
Resources for Finding the Right Therapist
You’ve made the decision to seek therapy, you’ve written down all the steps Dr. Joy has provided, and you’re ready to put everything into practice. Now what?
Here are the resources you’ll need for finding the right therapist:
Online therapy resources for BIPOC:
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Bad Bitches Have Bad Days Too
- Black Mental Health
- Therapy for Latinx
Online therapy resources:
- The Association of LBTQ+ Psychiatrists
- American Psychological Association
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Offline therapy resources:
- Contact your provider
- Explore local resources, such as schools or shelters
- Consult a trusted friend or family member
Prioritize Your Mental Health by Finding the Right Therapist for You
WITH is committed to wellness–from financial well-being to mental health–and Dr. Joy provided us with all the advice you need to normalize the conversation around therapy, locate the right therapist, and start improving your mental health today.
Plus, you can catch up on previous episodes of our podcast by visiting our health and wellness magazine, or checking out our articles: