I have been a therapist in New York City for a long time. In all my years of providing services, the one thing I have noticed is a severe lack of culturally sensitive treatment in psychotherapy. Less than 10% of therapists in the United States are people of color (Black, Latino, Asian or Native American) yet in some communities the majority of clients are people of color, in particular, Black women and children. While I think most therapists try to care for and about their clients regardless of race, I do think there is a certain disconnect and bias that often comes when White therapists work with communities of color. It’s not necessarily overt but it’s often seen in the interaction as well as how some therapists describe and talk about their non-white clients.
I received my Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work in 1994 from The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City. Hunter is one of the most selective social work schools in the country and the program is very rigorous and inclusive. However even though the school is located in a diverse city, my graduating class had very few other students who were also Black. In my field placement at Jewish Board in the Bronx, there was only 1 Black social worker and I was the only Black intern. I was hired at the Jewish Board following graduation and remained for a number of years however throughout my time at the agency there were very few therapists of color despite the agency stating that they had an initiative to hire more Black and Latino therapists. Throughout my career at various agencies in New York City and Westchester County in NY, I was often the only Black therapist and was often looked to as being an “expert” on the Black community. Many White therapists would often consciously or unconsciously pathologize the behavior of marginalized communities because they were unable to empathize with or understand the cultural differences. This led me to begin providing cultural diversity workshops throughout New York City and Westchester to help therapists be better able to understand the differences in people’s cultures.
Many therapists would often say they didn’t see color and that we’re all the same, I would explain that we’re not all the same and communities of color are not asking for them to not see our color but to treat us with respect and not pathologize our background because it’s different from their own upbringing.
During all my work in agencies, I always had a dream of having my own private practice where I would provide psychotherapy to families of color in particularly Black women and children. I often had clients in agencies ask me if they could continue working with me outside of the agency setting because they felt that I was always understanding, respectful and kind to them. They also often told me that they felt that I could understand them because as a Black woman even if we grew up in different places I had a deeper understanding of their lives and culture. I wanted to start working for myself however circumstances did not allow me to begin my private practice until earlier this year.
Transforming Lives Counseling Service was born out of my desire to help others and to give back to my community. Many people desire and need mental health care but due to the stigma won’t get treatment or feel that therapists from the White culture won’t understand their lives or how racism affects them on an almost daily basis. It’s so important to feel that your therapist, the person who you will share intimate details of your life with will understand you and not have their view of you colored by racism either overtly or covertly. My practice focuses on the treatment of Women of Color and Families because there is such a need in these communities. Many of my clients come to me because they have had very negative experiences with White therapists and have purposely wanted to work with a Black woman. My areas of expertise are childhood trauma, anxiety, and addiction, these are all issues which are very common in marginalized communities but are rarely talked about in families. I also charge sliding scale fees for my services so that no one will be denied therapy because of their inability to pay. I offer therapy in office as well as on a video platform. The online video platform is an added level of privacy and confidentiality for my clients. I’m so pleased to offer my services to people who may not otherwise have therapy. I truly love being a therapist and helping people to achieve the happiness and peace they deserve in their lives.