Being known for always unsolicitedly nudging (read pushing) my friends to look for a therapist, after several candid conversations, I realized in 2018 that a member of the tribe had real challenges finding one that she liked (and she was not the only one to share this sentiment). It inspired me to try and help figure out if there were ways to make it easier (Tribal obligations!).
For some, cost and stigma played a huge factor, and for others, the health care system’s lack of cultural competency was also a huge impediment. Finding a counselor you felt comfortable opening to while of color, or as a member of the LGBTQ+ community was very difficult – and considerably more challenging for double or triple minorities.
I strongly believe that if finding a reflection of yourself in your counselor is what you demand to find a safe space, you are ENTITLED to it. The overriding belief was (and still is) that such providers are extremely rare or simply did not exist. They DO! They are just hard to locate, hence seemingly inaccessible. As a result, minorities are often misdiagnosed due to being mismatched, hence the importance of good representation.
Enter AYANA therapy - a user-friendly app we are launching that enables matching marginalized communities with compatible licensed therapists based on their unique experiences and identities across race, gender identity, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. It allows for flexible, convenient and anonymous online communication (text, call and video call) and addresses barriers to care such as transportation issues, busy schedules and mobility challenges that people may face.
I have suffered from very severe and debilitating issues of depression. Seldom in life are we ever presented with the fortune of working on something that is so intimately tied to a voice that wished it had the courage to be vulnerable sooner in hopes of normalizing mental health conversations. That rare type of alignment must be honored and that is what my team and I will strive do: de-stigmatizing, listening and providing safe space to every dismissed, neglected and ignored voice out there in the form of counseling and therapy.