“I am my politics,” says Barbara Herring. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the proprietor of Los Angeles’s JustBTherapy clinic, Herring specializes in working with people of color, LBGTQ+ people, and white allies as they grow. As part of the minority of therapists who are people of color — as of 2015, 66% of psychology professionals were white — Herring says lived experience is at the heart of her work.
“When people, particularly white people, look for me, they have the whole ocean to choose from,” Herring says. “They choose me for a reason.”
For clients of color, that reason is often to find a mental health practitioner sensitive to the joy and trauma of being Black in the United States. For white clients, says Herring, it’s often to ensure personal growth and accountability. “When they choose me, they’re choosing me to have critical conversations.”
Since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in late May, many of us have been having these critical conversations. For many Americans of color, who are coping with recent police violence, on top of disproportionate devastation from the coronavirus pandemic, this is simply the latest installment of 500 years of traumatic, exhausting post-colonization U.S. history. For white Americans, who may not have deeply considered the reality of racism previously, this conversation may feel new and challenging. “People are coming in and they’re hurting,” says Herring.