M. Joy Young, LCSW, ACSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Academy Certified Social Worker
African Americans and Counseling
Article by M. Joy Young, LCSW, ACSW Portland Oregon
Are you African American living in Portland Oregon and struggling any of the following:
- Isolation within the larger society
- Feelings of frustration and anger
- Difficulty finding support and friendships with other people of Color in Portland
- Challenged by the lack of diversity and social justice all around you
Like you I have dealt with these challenges. Being a Portland native I understand how Portland can appear to people of color. Many people have shared with me their experience of culture shock upon moving to Portland. There is an adjustment to living in the City of Roses plus there can be other issues to face as well.
- Do you experience feeling sad, "blue", or other "depression" like feelings?
- Ever get overly anxious, worried, or suspicious but not sure exactly why?
- Are you spending your free time over indulging in food, media games, television, alcohol or some other substances?
- Do you sometimes feel lonely, out of place, or isolated?
Unfortunately most African Americans do not ever seek counseling when it could be a benefit. Many of us view counseling or psychotherapy with suspicion and caution. I want to help change this.
As African Americans and other people of color we seem to have the idea that we do not have many of the same issues as white people. There is an old belief that somehow childhood dysfunction, psychological development and the developmental crisis that come with it don't affect us or are not relevant to us. Being the decedents of people who endured the ultimate human horror - slavery - and the extreme hardships of racism and discrimination, we feel that many of the modern problems seem small and trivial. We can even sometimes feel almost ashamed thinking, "Why am I complaining. So many of us have lived through and seen far worse".
As a result of all this many of our own issues go without help. To be fair, counseling still has a stigma associated with it no matter your race or ethnicity. However non-people of color are not dissuaded from therapy or counseling and end up using this valuable service and benefiting from it. Many get better, move past issues in their lives, and go on to live more productive and satisfying lives. As African Americans we are not, often enough, taking advantage of a service available to us.
There are other reasons besides social/cultural stigma that keep us from counseling. In many African American communities problems are to be shared within one's church group or family network rather than in counseling. Now this is fine and I believe friends, family and religious affiliation can be very helpful. For many of us it is an affordable and comfortable way of addressing issues but you don't have to stop there. Sometimes church ministers and pastors are not trained in psychology, personal growth, or development like a trusted counselor or therapist. Friends and family can mean well but may be too close to your problems or have invested interest in your decisions unlike a counselor who is objective and has no agenda except to support you. And lastly sometimes our issues are just too much for family and others to handle effectively.
Other Issues For Counseling
Besides the challenge of being an African American living in Portland Oregon and personal psychological issues there may be other issues that counseling can help with.
- Are you a first generation graduate in your family and are facing new social and cultural situations that are challenging?
- Do you come from a family history of economic challenge or poverty and find it hard to deal with affluence?
- Have you gone through so much racism that sometimes you are not sure if it is coming from the outside (discrimination) or inside (internalized racism)?
These are unique issues that African Americans and other people of color face. In our culture many of these problems will be little understood. Some professionals may not even consider these "real" problems. You do not have to face these issues alone.
As a professional counselor with not only the training and expertise to help you with your unique emotional and psychological issues I also offer you personal understanding and life experience helping you
- Adjust to life in Portland Oregon with dignity, clarity, and confidence
- Develop and celebrate your identity as a unique African American
- Use important coping skills to navigate a society and culture that is not always supportive of people of color.
- Love yourself more, deepen self understanding, and pay homage to our ancestors.
Other distinctive services include:
- Holistic health and Wellness approach.
- Connection to your Inner Knowing to help facilitate change that is right for you.
- Consideration of the larger social and environmental context of your life.
If you are ready to give therapy a try contact Joy Young at 503-309-1163 or email at and let's talk about beginning a respectful, equitable, and non-pathologizing counseling relationship.