I am always asked a question from the spouses, girlfriends, or loved ones of black men who need therapy, “How do I get him to therapy when I know he needs it but he really does not want to go.”
This can seem like a daunting task, but it is also heartbreaking. You see a good man going through but he will not talk or say anything to you.
The signs are there: depression, poor anger control, mood swings, nightmares, disorientation, and persistent negative thoughts. There is no question that he needs to see a professional licensed therapist.
He is not actively suicidal, but the next situation can push him to the edge. You have heard and seen the crying spells and perceive that it is only a matter of time.
If it were something that would improve his business he would attend a seminar. If it were a big game or sporting event he would go. If were something that he felt would make him appear more masculine he would do it.
Some men will even go to the doctor or hospital because they have accepted their physical limitations. On the contrary, they are in denial about their psychological limitations and mental health condition.
6 Reasons Black Men Don’t Go To Therapy
Let me be clear. I cannot speak for every black man around the world. However, from my personal experience as a licensed clinician I have found six reasons why black men don’t go to therapy: Testimony, Traditions, Testosterone, Trapped, Trust, and Trinity.
So he is talking to his buddies and one of them makes a comment about his counseling experience. The comment will undoubtedly be negative and that negative testimony sticks with the others.
Usually, the testimony goes like this, “Man that stuff doesn’t work,” “They can’t relate to me,” or “I tried it and I am no better…I feel even worse.”
In working with men of African descent. I have found that in many cultures it is considered taboo or against cultural norms to discuss problems relating to family, marriage or personal issues with someone outside of the community.
However, I have seen an increase in men from Afro-Caribbean nation’s come to therapy. From my observation, once these men feel a genuine sense of compassion and concern they commit to the therapeutic process.
Men who are too prideful to admit that they have an issue are the most difficult to get into therapy. This is especially true for celebrities, prominent businessmen, and church leaders.
Like some men, they view therapy and/or counseling as a sign of weakness. Consequently, their spouses, children, and families are the ones suffering because of their behavior.
Men who are trapped into attending therapy can be difficult as well. These men are forced to attend therapy by their jobs usually because of alcohol or drug problems.
In working with some of these men they are stoic and reluctant to talk about their problems. They are usually in middle to upper management positions and use their companies EAP program for the intervention.
This is the most legitimate reason for men of color not attending therapy. Racism, bigotry, and intolerance discourage them from attending sessions. I believe one of the reasons is because they may feel as if they are sharing their secrets with their oppressor.
Couple that with the current racial political rhetoric, police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men, along with unforgettable scientific procedures like the Tuskegee Experiment make it understandable why black men don’t trust the medical and mental health community.
The Trinity I am referring to is the church which embraces the concept of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is not uncommon for churchgoers to say when it comes to issues of mental health, “Just pray about,” “Trust God and He will fix it,” or “Fast and pray to break the enemy’s power.”
While I believe in all of those concepts I also believe that many people need someone they can talk to face to face. Let me use a little church language by saying, “You cannot blame the devil when God has placed qualified people in your life to help you.”
African-American Christians can be the most difficult to persuade in terms of attending counseling. Not that they are unwilling to try therapy, on the contrary.
Some Black Christians have this notion that God Himself is going to come out of the sky and help them with their depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental health symptoms.
With all due respect, that is not how God works. One verse states that he wants to do “Exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in you (or us).” Ephesians 3:20
Lastly, God has equipped certain people to provide counseling because they have been gifted with the ability to build rapport while using their skills to get people to express and share their issues. Proverbs 20:5 says, “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.”
Getting Black Men into Counseling
Here is a five-step process that can be used to get black men into counseling. These are methods I have encouraged wives, parents, and girlfriends to use and they have worked for the most part. Each technique is based on the personality of the person you are trying to reach.
Step 1: “The drive-by”
Most of the time when we think of a drive-by we immediately think of shootings. On the contrary, this type of drive-by is how it sounds. Once you have found a therapist that you feel fits your needs. Find a way to drive-by that area. Don’t mention anything about him going to therapy or services just drive-by. This will help to set-up the next steps.
Step 2: “Ask him”
Simple right. Of all the techniques this is the one most people overlook. Go and ask, “Sweetheart I love you and I am concerned about your overall well-being…would you consider a session with a black male counselor…he also has high reviews?” Asking is your first line of defense, don’t assume that he is unwilling. He may just be waiting for you to ask.
Step 3: “If it were me game”
So you have asked and he still says no. Now it is time to play a little reverse psychology. Any good man has a natural inclination to protect his woman. As men the last thing we want to see is our women suffer, be in pain, or deal with agony. Therefore, when you approach him say something like, “ Baby let me ask you something…if I was hurting would you make an attempt to get me help…(he says sure, then you continue) well if you would do that for me would you allow me to do the same for you…” This approach refocuses the issue and could help take some of his anxieties away about attending a session.
Step 4: “Tag Team”
You did the drive-by, you asked him and he said “no,” you tried the reverse psychology and he is still reluctant. Now you must implore the tag team approach. Who does he admire, look up to, or hang out with? Is it a Pastor, friend, business partner, or colleague…whomever that person is reach out to them and set-up an intervention so that both of you can encourage him together. Usually, this will at least get him into the door of being assessed by a counselor.
Step 5: “The Baker Act”
This step should be implemented if he is actively hallucinating, suicidal, or homicidal. There is no negotiating if he has gotten to this point. Call 911 and allow the police to investigate the situation. You should get to a safe place and don’t try to get in his way. Your safety and the safety of your children and family are the priority at this point.
I hope these steps help you in getting your significant other, friend, or loved one into therapy. If you have more specific concerns or need more information please call me at 904-479-1366 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.