Oct 28, 2012

Not only does Iyanla Fix My Life have the potential to breathe life into the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but perhaps it will encourage more black folks into therapy.  I think society as a whole no longer thinks that counseling and therapy are taboo.  Also, I think black people are warming up to the idea.  But there may still be some hesitancy.  I can't blame anyone for being skeptical and hesitant.  Historically, mental health professionals have not done right by their patients.  I was astounded by the historical lack of ethics in the mental health profession.  White patients were not treated well and black people were treated even worse.  Believe me when I say the skepticism and hesitancy is justified.

However ethical progress has been made and more and more getting help is encouraged.  Mental health services are often covered now in health insurance plans.  Mental health is being redefined.  The term no longer exclusively pertains to psychiatric and psychological disorders.  The threat of being institutionalized has diminished greatly.  Employers are investing in and offering EAP (Employee Assistance Programs).  We have learned the importance of being mentally and emotionally healthy.  While I have not looked into hard data, I suspect that, like other metrics, there is a disparity among blacks and other races when it comes to seeking mental health services.  But now Iyanla provides a friendly and familiar association with counseling and therapy.  Personally I am not an Iyanla enthusiast.  I am just not a big fan of her approach.  Of all the therapists, psychologists, life coaches on the Oprah Show, my favorite was Dr. Robin Smith.  She was just more relatable to me.  But if Iyanla works for others, I am all for it.  And if her image and technique gives us more courage to talk to someone, then I am on the bandwagon.

So many of us have deep pain that could be relieved significantly just by talking to an independent objective third party.  Ain't nothing like it.  My first experience as a client/patient was during my grad program.  I had to have the experience of being the client in order to build my skill set as a counselor.  It was a rather eye opening experience.  Even after having that experience, I never fully envisioned that I would ever seek out and pay a professional counselor or therapist.  Then one day I was just so full that I had to relieve the pressure and I remembered that I could go talk to someone.  The idea of paying someone to listen to me was unsettling and pathetic but my ego was just going to have to suffer for the moment.  And sure enough I felt better. It was money well spent. I've been back to a counselor a few times.  I know sometimes we think that Jesus, friends, our mothers, and our journals are enough, but sometimes they mean well but fall short.  Sometimes they cannot be objective and many times we may stir up things in them that they are not ready for.  Then we are stuck or matters have been made worse.  Recently I discovered that a couple of my really good friends has been through counseling.  That is precisely why they are good friends. They have worked and continue to work on their own issues and that enables them to have meaningful relationships.  I would like to see that more widespread in our community.  And if the Iyanla-Oprah partnership is the catalyst for this change in the black community, then I am hopeful that we will be healed and will realize our potential particularly in the area of having great relationships. 

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