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African American Marriage Counseling

Should Black couples go to therapy? by Lorraine Jones

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

In a relationship when all else fails, go to therapy. For most couples, therapy is a last resort, usually the result of an ultimatum. Black couple’s therapy isn’t often sought out but can be a healthy solution in sustaining Black love. Black couples often endure different types of issues than other couples. The traumas and struggles of a Black person are often intensified by racially-based traumas and discrimination.


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The roles of a Black man and woman in a relationship can be amplified by external contributing factors. “The Black family suffers from the generational trauma of slavery that taught the Black woman that she could not depend on her husband. Since he could not ‘save’ her from the beatings, rape, and degradation that the slave owner inflicted upon her, she passed that belief to her children, who passed it theirs, and so on. The Black man, in turn, has been emasculated since slavery and has been operating in many systems that do not value him. This makes it difficult to value himself and affects his role in the marriage/relationship,” said Shawnnell Batiste, licensed therapist in Texas and Louisiana and Founder and CEO of Choosing Empowerment LLC. These historic racial dynamics can often intensify mundane marital problems such as finances, communication, and infidelity, and heighten mistrust between a couple.


Family and upbringing may also be the root of one’s issues bringing emotional baggage to a relationship. Having a traumatic childhood can often explain why someone reacts to situations the way they do. “In 2015 - 2019, the share of families headed by single parents was 75% among African American families, 59% among Hispanic families, 38% among white families, and 20% among Asian families. Interestingly enough, these numbers also closely resemble the disparity in the criminal justice system,” says Dr. La’Tesha, founder of Great Joy Counseling Services and licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Often in the Black community, it isn’t seen as a feasible option to seek help. There is an unspoken lack of trust in the medical field from the Black community. “Black people know that less than 15% of LCSW's are Black and about 2% of members of the American Psychology Association are Black. Not having representation or feeling they can relate to someone on the other side of the desk is integral to quality care,” Dr. La’Tesha continued.


Black couples can enjoy immense, long-lasting love if their issues are addressed, and one of the best ways to do that is through couples' therapy. Batiste encourages Black couples to seek therapy and explore their problems, sometimes even catching them in their path before they begin. She focuses on each individual to find the sources of the internal issues by examining his or her belief systems about self, family, society, finances, and upbringing. “The individual, generational, systematic, and historical racial trauma play a significant role in all relationships, which is damaging to the black couple and family. These traumas need awareness, acknowledgment, and healing if black couples intend to be healthy and thrive,” said Batiste.

The best way to ensure that as a couple you are working on the solutions, and what is right in the relationship is to make sure that the therapist you have understands the aforementioned dynamics and expectations of Black people in the U.S. Together, you and your partner should cling to what’s right in your relationship and be open to work on what isn’t. Trust in each other and trust in the process of therapy can resurrect the relationship for many couples.


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