by Dominique Fluker via forbes.com
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services, African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience psychological distress such as depression, suicide, PTSD and anxiety than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.
Meet Dr. Joy Bradford, a licensed psychologist based in Atlanta, Georgia and founder of Therapy for Black Girls. Passionate about changing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy which often prevents black women from taking the step of seeing a therapist, Bradford aims to alleviate the process of seeking relief for mental health-related issues within the black community, by fostering a safe space to present mental health topics to black millennial women in a digestible way.
Previously a college counselor, Bradford leveraged her people person and problem solver skills to create the Therapy for Black Girls platform in 2014. The Therapy for Black Girls platform now reaches over 32,000 members with its blog, podcast, social media communities, and very own national therapist directory, that lists black women mental health providers nationally.
I spoke with Bradford about what inspired her to create Therapy for Black Girls, why there’s a stigma surrounding mental health in the black community and the challenges that isolate black women millennials from seeking mental health care.
Dominique Fluker: As a licensed psychologist, speaker and host of the popular mental health podcast, Therapy for Black Girls, share why you decided to create the online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of black women and girls?
Dr. Joy Bradford: I created the space because I really wanted Black women to have a place to go to get information about mental health that felt relevant and accessible to them. I wanted to be able to share information about recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness but also to have conversations about the kinds of things we can do to encourage mental wellness.
Fluker: How is the Therapy for Black Girls platform combating the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy for African-American women?
Bradford: I think it’s combating stigma because it is making topics that were once taboo, okay to be publicly discussed. I think that topics covered on the podcast have given people language for some of the things they may have been struggling with, and I think the directory has allowed scores of women to connect with mental health professionals across the country who are excited about providing high-quality care to them.
Fluker: What are the challenges that black women millennial face daily that might make them feel isolated from mental health care?
Bradford: I think that sometimes black millennial women worry that their issues are not “big” enough to go to therapy and so they don’t utilize the service. I also think that sadly a lot of black millennial women also don’t feel like providers will really get them and it feels really hard to go into space where you’re supposed to be very transparent but not able to be comfortable. Additionally, I think that the cost may be prohibitive for some people who may want to go to therapy. Even with insurance, it may be difficult to afford therapy, but without it, there can be a lot of hoops to jump through to find lower cost therapy that is a good fit.
Fluker: Since starting creating your brand, Therapy for Black Girls in 2014, the brand now includes a blog, podcast, and social media communities with over 100,000 members. Talk about how you scaled your business.
Bradford: I spend a lot of time listening to my community about what they want and try to make sure that my business decisions are driven by that as the focus. It also became clear very early that I could not continue to do everything on my own so I now have a team that includes 5 other people to make it all work. I’ve also been very intentional about working with some amazing business coaches who have helped me to be strategic about growing the business.
Fluker: Therapy for Black Girls also offers a national therapist directory, which lists mental health providers around the country who specialize in working with black women and girls. Share your process in putting together a therapist directory and why you thought it would be beneficial for your audience.
Bradford: I started the directory in December 2016 as a simple Google doc. I kept seeing comments online about people looking for black women therapists and I thought, “Hey it would be cool to be able to create this.” So I put out a call across social media asking for black women to share their therapists’ info if they had good experiences with them and wanted others to know. I think that by the end of December there were 90 therapists. After the word got out about the directory, therapists wanted to list themselves so it felt like I needed to build it out to something that would like really nice and be easy for potential clients to use. The current version of the directory has been out for just over a year and there are almost 900 therapists listed.
Fluker: From anxiety, breakups, depression, self-care suicide and more, the Therapy for Black Girls platform addresses a wide set of topics. What are some of the most popular topics you cover on the Therapy for Black Girls podcast that is skewed towards millennials?
Bradford: Some of the most popular topics we’ve covered have been conversations related to boundaries and friendships. Based on conversations I have with my community these are the areas that millennial women are having the most difficulty navigating. Things like setting healthy boundaries with family members, making new friends, ending relationships that are no longer healthy, etc. There is also often quite a lot of feedback about the podcast episodes where we do mock therapy with fictional Black female characters.