Houston Therapist Creates Safe Space For Black Men To Seek Out Therapy

Houston Therapist Creates Safe Space For Black Men To Seek Out Therapy

Conversations around mental health and therapy have become more commonplace; however, the question of access remains for many.

One Houston-based therapist has decided to use his knowledge and experience in the field to help more Black men get the help they need. Femi Olukoya is a licensed psychotherapist who also served in the Navy during the war in Iraq. “The day of boot camp was when 9/11 hit,” said Olukoya, according to Fox26 News. “I was on an aircraft carrier, and a lot of my shipmates couldn’t handle being out to sea that long. There were a lot of suicidal attempts. People would jump off the flight deck, and we would have to do battle stations to recover them. After I got out [of the Navy], I was intrigued by how the mind works.”

His piqued interest led him to pursue his current profession. His dedication to eradicating the stigma that still accompanies Black men reaching out for help led him to partner with local nonprofit organizations like 82 Purple and the Black Man Project. In collaboration with these organizations, Olukoya provides free group therapy sessions to Black men in the Houston area. Their latest session, “No Retreat,” also included free food, massage therapy, and a yoga class, according to Fox26 News. “We’re trying to break the stigma to a community that looks just like me,” says Olukoya. “So people can go out their way to say, “Maybe I do need a therapist…maybe I do need to work on my mental health.”

Though therapy is less taboo than it once was, the disparities in Black men prioritizing their mental health compared to other groups are still staggering. According to the American Counseling Association, out of the Black male population dealing with anxiety and depression, only 26% seek therapy. For those who decide to find help for their needs, finding a therapist they can relate to may also create challenges, as only 4% of current therapy professionals are Black. These hurdles sometimes create a false need to toughen up and/or hide for Black men. “In our society, vulnerability is a weakness,” Olukoya says. “You have to be hard instead of communicating your emotions. I tell my clients that it’s OK to be vulnerable. Even in the military, showing vulnerability is a liability. We don’t always have to be the strong Black man.”

It’s OK not to be OK.