My therapist called me a Strong Black Woman and didn't listen to my cries for help. Share your story or AMA about how I finally found the help I needed.

Contessa Louise Cooper
May 3, 2018

I wasn't strong because I wanted to be. I was strong because I had to be and Ithe burden was too much to bear. I needed help.

Have you ever been hurt by a professional due to cultural differences or their internal bias? What can be done to prevent this from happening to others? Share your story or AMA about how I finally found the help I needed. 

Here's an article I wrote for HuffPost.

 An Open Letter To My Therapist Who Called Me A ‘Strong Black Woman’

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Where are you currently based at and what type of autism-related work are you currently working on your area?
May 10, 5:55PM EDT0
How does your son's limited communication affect his interaction with other children his age?
May 4, 6:57PM EDT0
What has been the hardest thing for you to deal with when advocating for your son and your life?
May 3, 8:47PM EDT0

Adult services for individuals with special needs are difficult to navigate. There are waiting list that are 5-15 years long for services.  Dealing with "I'm sorry there are no money or no resources available" is heartbreaking. I'm working with a team of autism moms to assist in making that transition from child to adult less stressful for others.  

May 3, 9:26PM EDT0
Besides being diagnosed with Autism, how is your son similar to normal developing children? What are his likes, dislikes, fears and ambitions?
May 3, 8:46PM EDT0

There are no normal children.  Each child comes with their own set of challenges.  We call the child without autism typical.  

Autism is a spectrum disorder. My son falls somewhere in the middle.  He is extremely independent. 

Like a typical young man he like movies, video games and pretty girls.  He wants to be in a loving relationship and get married one day. He fears being misunderstood. 

May 3, 9:21PM EDT0
In your experience, what is the one biggest misunderstanding people or parents have when it comes to children with special needs?
May 3, 1:53PM EDT0

That they need you for everything.  We tend to overprotect them from the world that is a great disservice to the individual with special needs.  They have skills, talents, and desires and we should do our best to enable them to be as independent as possible.  

May 3, 9:16PM EDT0
How did your mother’s reaction to your call for help feel, and what do you wish her response was?
Apr 26, 6:08PM EDT0

My mother didn't have a great parenting role model. She didn't know how to communicate with me.  We didn't develop that until much later in life.  We have a great relationship now. 

I wish she would have allowed me o cry in her arm and release some of that pressure I had on the inside of me. I wish she had created a shame free and judgement free atmosphere for me.  

I did learn from our interactions and decided to be that type of mother for both of my children. 

May 3, 9:14PM EDT0
Do you think a therapist who had a similar background to yours would have treated you better? Is therapy to be avoided, or are there some warnings you would give in choosing a therapist?
Apr 26, 9:57AM EDT0

There are terrible therapist who are POC. There is a possibility that a black therapist may have treated me better. There is also a possibility that my trauma may have triggered her trauma.  

Ask questions and don't be afraid to see several therapists until you find one that you are comfortable with.  Do they show empathy? That's important. 

Run if they are crying, making the session about themselves or make you feel unheard in any way.  

May 3, 9:10PM EDT0
Do you think that the strong tough woman persona helped you in any way, or could this all have been avoided if you had been helped earlier?
Apr 26, 9:32AM EDT0

Being who I was and the experiences that I had in my life brought me to this moment right here.  I'm not sure if I would be a writer, advocate and healer if I hadn't walked that particular path.  

May 3, 9:05PM EDT0
What stereotypes are there about strong black woman, and how prevalent was this throughout your life?
Apr 26, 6:26AM EDT0

From the angry black woman, self-sacrificing martyr, the "I don't need a man or anyone, the Superwoman,  and so many others. I didn't realize the stereotypes until I was older and looked at my life and the lives of my friends.

May 3, 9:01PM EDT0
How did you get the help you needed? How long did it take you to get this?
Apr 26, 5:35AM EDT0

I helped myself.  One day I just started journaling.  I put all my pain down on paper day after day.  Eventually, those thoughts turned into a book, then speaking gigs, then an opportunity to help others.  This was years.  Healing is a lifelong journey.  

May 3, 8:58PM EDT0
How long did you suffer before you sought help from others? What sparked this change, and when do you think other people should help?
Apr 26, 5:18AM EDT0

I tried religion for many years but I still felt unheard and unseen. I suffered for many years until I found journaling and writing. That saved me.  That was my form of therapy. It was as if my words were speaking back to me.  

What sparked it? maybe divine intervention. I'm glad it happened.  Now now I'm on a spiritual journey to heal others. 

I'm not sure what you mean by "when should other people help". 

May 3, 8:56PM EDT0
How long did you see your therapist before you realized they were disrespectful? How has your life changed since you found help?
Apr 26, 2:25AM EDT0

I never went back to therapy after that experience.  Writing about my experiences as a young mother raising a child with autism started my healing journey.  Once I was able to let go of my pain and anger I was able to learn to collaborate and trust other people. 

May 3, 8:50PM EDT0
At what point does the cultural value of independence and perseverance become a hinderance to community settings and the general mental health of the individuals involved?
Apr 26, 12:14AM EDT0

Can you explain specifically what you mean? 

May 3, 8:48PM EDT0
What are some ways we can help each other to diminish stories like these? What are some challenges of helping someone in a racial or cultural context separated from your own?
Apr 25, 11:26PM EDT0

Knowlege and a willingness to learn is key to moving past our prejudices, racial biases, cultural insensitivities and ignorance. I've always lived around different cultures because my father was in the military. That was my "normal". I didn't know racism existed until I was older.  

The problem is acknowledging that some of your thoughts and actions are problematic and learning from that particular culture.  Diversity programs created by all non people of color are flawed. 

May 3, 8:47PM EDT0
In what ways did your experiences where you were required to be strong increase or decrease your ability to survive tough situations?
Apr 25, 8:13PM EDT0

I tell people that I'm a fighter.  I'm an advocate.  I speak for those who can't or don't know how to speak for themselves.  I will always be able to survive tough situations.  I now know that I don't have to battle them alone and in my own strength. 

May 3, 8:40PM EDT0
How can we convey to the next generation that all humans have suffering, and that just because someone is strong doesn’t mean they don’t need help?
Apr 25, 4:06PM EDT0

Having conversations like these are helpful. providing safe spaces where people can discuss their experiences.  Showing our children that's ok to ask for help and know where to receive it that will not cause additional trauma.  

May 3, 8:38PM EDT0
Have you tried to seek legal help for being discriminated against?
Apr 25, 4:02PM EDT0

I did not.  I just tried various healing modalities until I found some that worked for me.  

May 3, 8:36PM EDT0
What experiences have you gone through specifically because you were a black woman, and how might this change in a decade?
Apr 25, 1:08PM EDT0

I'm not sure I understand your question. I have over 40 years experience of living as a Black Woman.  If you are asking about therapy, I explained that in my article.  If not can you be more specific? 

May 3, 8:35PM EDT0
What other women’s stories have you received of a similar nature? Have you thought of starting a blog or a movement in support of others who may be suffering in the same way?
Apr 25, 11:54AM EDT0

I am currently working on a personal project and would love additional stories. I was recently invited to participate on another platform which will launch in June. I've spoken on various podcasts about my experiences.  

May 3, 8:31PM EDT0
In what ways do you think therapists fail to consider the traumas of an actual lived experience?
Apr 25, 11:53AM EDT0
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