When I initially became a therapist, I worked for a behavioral health agency where clients were assigned. I remember the many times walking out into the lobby to meet my new client and seeing the look of shock or disappointment when they realized I was their therapist. Those initial sessions usually began with clients wanting to discuss my qualifications. One client could not move passed the fact that I was Black and asked for a White therapist. Her statement stayed with me, “did they not think I was good enough for a White therapist?” This was completely new to me. Growing up in NY, I was surrounded by many Black professionals but being in Tucson taught me firsthand about implicit bias and micro-aggressions.
I have had to prove to potential clients that my credentials are valid, my experience is valid, and I am valid. Often times I have the most education in the room due to working twice as hard to get into spaces that would otherwise be closed to me. I have obtained many certifications, advanced classes, constantly reading on new technology; I have several academic publications and completing my doctorate. I still have to prove to some clients that I am good enough or smart enough. I’ve heard statements like “you’re different than a lot of African Americans” which is often a question of my blackness. In professional settings with my non-black colleagues, when I’ve mentioned a small fraction of my Black experience the room tends to go completely silent and then they change the subject. There is generally no acknowledgement that my experience as a Black therapist is different than their own.
I had to come to accept that I will attract clients that I am meant to enter into their path. The client and I mutually choose each other. Until I feel it is time for me to move on, I will continue to be a healer in the desert.