It’s December, so that means we’ve officially survived Thanksgiving, but Christmas and the new year are on the way. For many people, the “most wonderful time of the year” means family, food, and making memories with loved ones; but for some of us, stress, depression, and the holidays seem to go hand in hand.
Therefore, it’s all right if you need extra support. The holidays are synonymous with family, so any issues you may have with relatives including, loneliness, grief, financial woes, or navigating complicated familial ties, can come to the forefront during this time.
“Why don’t I create something that gives people that feeling?”
BlackLove.com caught up with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, licensed psychologist and founder of the mental health platform Therapy for Black Girls. She dropped a few valuable gems on how to have a happy holiday even through difficult times. She also shared a great resource to help women of color find therapists in their area!
Dr. Joy, originally from Louisiana and a former college counselor, resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area with her husband and two sons. She launched Therapy for Black Girls in 2014 after being inspired by BET’s Black Girls Rock awards show. “I just remember watching it on TV and feeling the energy even when not in the room,” she shares. “It felt amazing! I thought, ‘Why don’t I create something that gives people that feeling?’ So, I first started blogging on the site.”
What started as a part-time blog, is now a full-time mission for Dr. Joy, complete with a podcast, nationwide directory, and active social media community with more than 180k followers on Instagram.
“I started the directory in December of 2015, so initially it was not a part of the website, but I kept seeing conversations online of people saying they were looking for a therapist. I thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if I put together a list where people who have had good experiences with their therapists can recommend their therapist to other Black women who are looking?'”
As a result, Dr. Joy put together a Google document and arranged all of the therapists’ recommendations by state. But before adding them to the list, she first verified they were licensed or either supervised by a licensed therapist.
“It originally started with people who were seeing therapists and recommended their therapist. Then other therapists heard about it and wanted to add their names. It grew from there into what it is now. At the end of December that year, we had about 90 therapists, and now we have [well] over 1600.”
According to a 2014 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, African-American clients tended to self-disclose less to White American therapists compared with their African-American counterparts. Why? The study suggested this may reflect a lack of trust. The racially-matched clients rated their therapists as more credible, based on the perception that the therapist had similar life experiences.
“Black women typically prefer to have other Black women as therapists because there tends to be a level of feeling seen and known.”
In Dr. Joy’s observation, she says Black women typically prefer to have other Black women as therapists because there tends to be a level of “feeling seen and known” that exists between us. Also, specializing in helping women through breakups, the mother of two, says finding a culturally-competent therapist can make a difference if you are new to therapy or question the effectiveness of it.
Based on reservations, she’s heard, “I think there is an issue with people being wary of [things] like, ‘How is this going to help?’ Is my information going to be private?’ I think something that will really help is to do as much research as you can on a potential therapist. Visit their website, do a free consultation with them if that’s allowed, where you can ask questions and get to know more about them.”
The most gratifying part of Dr. Joy’s work is watching the community grow. “Every now and then, a celebrity will find it. Taraji [P. Henson] tweeted about it, Gabourey Sidibe has shared it, Amanda Seales, and I think Gabrielle Union shared it as well,” she says. “The most fulfilling part, for me, has really been being in a community with so many amazing Black women across the world. Seeking this kind of conversation. I feel fortunate to be in a community with them and to make a contribution to their lives.”
“I am always encouraged when there is a new Twitter trend talking about something that people learned from their therapist,” she adds. “I love to see people sharing how therapy has impacted them because I do think that anybody can benefit from therapy – you don’t necessarily have to be in a crisis.” However, for many women, with the holidays and the start of a new year rapidly approaching, this season is considered crisis mode.
Dealing with feelings of loneliness, depression, or extreme sadness can be tough, especially during the Christmas season. A useful resource to help in the coping process may be the Therapy for Black Girls podcast “Session 33: Steadying Yourself for the Holidays,” which is all about the “Holiday Blues” and contributing factors.
“If you feel sad, then it’s okay to allow that feeling to be there.”
Dr. Joy tells her podcast listeners who’ve recently lost a loved one to create a game plan to handle that person’s absence during the holidays. And if you have toxic family members that you’ll have to be around, set boundaries, and stick to them.
“You are entitled to set boundaries with family despite what society thinks the holidays should look like,” she shared on the podcast. “If you aren’t feelin’ it this year, that’s okay. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.” Dr. Joy insists it’s essential to think about what’s best for your well-being and suggests re-evaluating your holiday traditions — but also being open to creating new traditions for yourself if the old ones aren’t healthy.
“Look at ways you can take care of yourself and bring in additional support. If it feels too difficult to be with family, it’s okay to do something different.” Her advice, “Maybe you don’t want to go to your grandparent’s house this year. Maybe you want to travel, or maybe you want to do the holidays with a friend. Figure out different ways that you can support yourself if you are having a hard time during the holiday season.”
“If you feel sad, then it’s okay to allow that feeling to be there. Anytime we try to fight against what we are feeling; it usually starts to become more intense. I typically tell people to allow whatever feeling you are feeling to come in and just sit with it, and eventually, it will pass.”