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Qiana Paynter is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed in Indiana, California, New Jersey, and Virginia with over 10 years of experience working in multiple different capacities in the social work field including therapy and behavior management.
Paynter has worked with clients on a wide range of concerns including depression, anxiety, anger management, self esteem/self love, and family conflict, along with physical trauma or emotional abuse.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Paynter about her decade of counseling the culture.
Ezekiel Walker: Though we are far from a monolith, I’m curious if you have found similar experiences in Black families and individuals who have come to see you?
Qiana Paynter: Yes, I’ve found we often don’t prepare our young people to come out into the world to properly express their emotions. We often have to give “the talk” about policing in America but the thing is we never really talk about emotions. We didn’t talk about it in my house, and we never really talked about how to express ourselves and what it looks like to do it in a healthy way. Financial pressures are a huge factor too. If mama and daddy are trying to figure out how to feed you and keep a roof over your head, you don’t really get to the top of that pyramid of priorities.
Ezekiel Walker: Are systemic barriers at play for why many of us have never engaged in therapy or would you say it’s more culturally nuanced?
Qiana Paynter: Unfortunately, because of the way society has been set up for Black people, a lot of us don’t come from money, like me. We don’t come from a situation where we can just chill. Because of that, a lot of us come from poverty and we have to decide how we make it day to day. A lot of people don’t talk about the access to mental health and I think for Black families, that is oftentimes the barrier. Either we don’t have the resources or sometimes insurance doesn’t cover it. I want to make sure that I dispel the myth that Black people don’t want help or we don’t care about our mental health – that’s not the case — sometimes access and resources are the only barrier to seeking help.
Ezekiel Walker: What’s some good advice for Black folks who have never been in therapy? What are the things they should look for when considering whom to talk to?
Qiana Paynter: Finding a licensed therapist in your state that is well-educated is number one. Somebody who you feel comfortable with is also paramount also because therapy is all about being transparent and if you go there and you’re uncomfortable with the vibe or you know their attitude isn’t right, that’s going to hinder your progress. It’s not going hurt the therapist, but it will certainly hurt you.
Ezekiel Walker: What have you seen in relationship to today’s Black parent in therapy? Many Black people and families are in therapy now more than ever before. Are issues different now than before?
Qiana Paynter: This is true, we are now in a position that we can do better, and we should do better, but a lot of people — because they didn’t learn that or they didn’t see that modeled, they want to do better but they just don’t know how. In particular Black men, many of my clients have come to me saying, ‘I want to be emotionally present for my kids, but I don’t know how, nobody showed me how to do that.’ So they’re coming to me asking for help on how to do it because they recognize that it’s something that they need.
Ezekiel Walker: When considering which therapist to choose, should a Black person go with someone they can relate to culturally or have an open mind to all?
Qiana Paynter: The connection you have with your therapist is so important. It’s kind of like a dating, you’re not going to keep going out on dates with somebody that you don’t feel comfortable with, so it’s the same thing with therapy. And for those already in therapy but feel like it’s going nowhere, don’t be afraid to fire your therapist. If you go see somebody and you thought it was a good match, and it’s not, don’t keep paying them the money when you know you’re not comfortable, even after a couple of sessions. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and find somebody else. One tip I tell people is to ask for a fifteen minute consultation first, that way you can get the vibe of who you’re gonna be meeting with. Ask questions about their style, how do they build rapport, things like that. Because that’s what’s gonna be important at the end of the day.
Ezekiel Walker: So it sounds like cultural competency should be a priority?
Qiana Paynter: Therapy is hard enough, so if you have to go to therapy and also explain ‘the Black experience’ too, you’re going to be exhausted. To be clear, there are White therapists who take diversity, equity, inclusion training seriously and understand and respect cultural experiences without trying to talk people out of their experiences. But I do think it’s important to also have someone who understands your your race and your culture so that you don’t have to constantly be reminded of the trauma that people that look like me and you experience. I’ve had so many clients tell me, ‘I appreciate that I don’t have to explain the Black part of who I am to you. You just get it.’
Ezekiel Walker: How can today’s Black parent raise their kid(s) when many of our youth reap the benefits of a struggle they’ll never know anything about?
Qiana Paynter: I struggled with this because as a parent our goal is to make sure our children don’t have to struggle how we did. I didn’t get on a plane until I was an adult, but my daughter’s first flight was when she was four. There are a lot of Black parents like that now. The most important thing is to make sure we keep our children well-rounded because yes, we don’t want them to know what struggle is but one thing that they’re going to lack is resiliency, to no fault of their own. So, parents must develop healthy communication with their kids and keep the line of communication open. You have to be able to talk to your child — not yell — not scream — not belittle — but talk with healthy communication. They have to feel like they can trust you. If your children don’t feel like they can trust you, then they’re not coming to you with their issues.
Ezekiel Walker: What can Black folks —who are not therapists — do to take care of our loved ones who might be going through something?
Qiana Paynter: If you’ve been around somebody and you know that they are not in their norm, don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m getting in their business and I’ll just leave it alone, or I’ma staying in my lane.’ Sometimes we need somebody to do that. We also need to take the ‘crazy’ stigma away from mental health. We grew up hearing, ‘Going to therapy is for crazy people.’ And in turn, many of us never sought a therapist because we didn’t want people thinking we’re crazy. A lot of us like to say, ‘God got it’… well, yeah, but you can have God and a therapist too. God can do all things. I truly believe that. But just like he invented the car so that we can get to places more easily he also had people go get educated and become licensed therapists to also help us with whatever we’re going through.”
Qiana Paynter is available for new clients. Find out more about her practice, professional experience and read verified client reviews here.
Paynter also suggested Open Path which offers quality therapy services at reduced rates for those in need.
This interview has been edited for brevity.