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Black Mental Health Matters!

Without mental health we cannot be healthy. Without proper treatment, mental health conditions can worsen and make day-to-day life harder than it needs to be. 

In the African American community, many people misunderstand what a mental health condition is and don’t talk about this topic. This lack of knowledge leads many to believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness or some sort of punishment from God. Many African Americans also have trouble recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, leading to underestimating the effects and impact of mental health conditions. Moreover, some of us may think of depression as “the blues” or something to snap out of.

In the African American community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. However, research has found that many African Americans rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary. Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process but should not be the only option you pursue. If spirituality is an important part of your life, your spiritual practices can be a strong part of your treatment plan. Your spiritual leaders and faith community can provide support and reduce isolation. However, please be aware that sometimes faith communities can be a source of distress and stigma if they are misinformed about mental health or do not know how to support families dealing with these conditions.

African Americans are sometimes reluctant to discuss mental health issues and seek treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with such conditions, and because of the lack of information about mental health issues, it’s not always clear where to find help when you may need it. Fortunately, you came to the right place to learn about mental health conditions and to get help from someone who looks like and understands you. So don’t let fear of what others may think prevent you or a loved one from getting better.


Culturally Sensitive and Competent Care

Greetings! My name is Sharmaine D Barnes and I am a 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP), and Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) who specializes in providing culturally competent psychotherapy services for African-Americans.

Cultural competence refers to a mental health provider's ability to recognize and understand the role culture (i.e., a person’s beliefs, norms, values and language) plays in treatment and to adapt to this reality to meet your needs. lack of cultural competence in mental health care has resulted in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment for African Americans. However, this doesn't have to be the case for you.  Treating with me means receiving culturally sensitive and competent care--not just because I am African American, but because I possess a Master of Arts Degree in Marital and Family Therapy with a specialization in African American Family Studies.

Please be advised that I only see adults in my practice and specialize in treating the following: African-American and other Cultural Issues, Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma/PTSD, Grief & Loss, Life Adjustments, Relationship Issues, Spiritual Issues, Stress, and Women's Issues

My therapeutic approach is very integrated and tailored to each individual client's needs. Some of the therapeutic approaches and techniques I use are: ACT, CBT, DBT, EFT, EMDR, Solution-Focused, Schema-Focused, Meditation/Mindfulness, Yoga, Tai Chi, and others. 

I also offer HIPAA-compliant video telehealth psychotherapy services to individuals located throughout the State of California using Vsee. Please check with your insurer to see if telehealth services are are a covered benefit under your plan. 


I specialize in treating first responders (i.e., law enforcement officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, etc.). Having been employed as both a correctional officer and deputy sheriff with the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, I have first-hand experience of the first responder culture, which is characteristically resistant to discussing mental health or seeking treatment for it. Moreover, one of my motivations for becoming a mental health professional after I medically retired from the Department in 1998 was to help to break down the barriers between first responders and mental health treatment.

Although I specialize in treating African-Americans and first responders, my services are available to everyone as I value inclusion and diversity.  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and here are some African-American celebs that I applaud for helping to erase mental health stigmas by publicly sharing their struggles pertaining to their own mental health. During the launch of her new nonprofit (Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation) aimed at combating the stigma around mental health in the African-American community, actress Taraji P. Henson revealed that she too has sought mental health treatment for depression. Lenard Larry McKelvey, known professionally as Charlamagne tha God, has long spoken candidly about his struggles with his mental health and is making it his mission to encourage Black folks to seek therapy.  He is also currently promoting his second book, “Shook One: Anxiety Playing tricks on me,” which is inspired by his own therapy sessions and personal struggles with anxiety. During a discussion on her popular Red Table Talk show, Jada Pinkett-Smith opened up about her mental health struggles, including a brief period in her 20s when she considered herself "extremely suicidal." 

Pinkett-Smith has since been able to overcome depression, but reveals that a lot of the healing came from "uprooting some false beliefs" and accepting "just what life is." Famous rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z is a staunch advocate of mental health resources being placed in public schools and said that he found his therapist recommended by a friend and that "I grew so much from the experience." Lisa Nicole Carson opened up to Essence Magazine about her years-long battle with bipolar disorder. Janet Jackson disclosed to Essence Magazine that she struggled with depression and feelings of inadequacy since childhood. During the 2019 Black Women in Hollywood event, Jenifer Lewis disclosed that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Big Sean disclosed that he has been meditating since age 17 to manage his anxiety and depression. NFL star Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)-a mental illness characterized by unstable emotions, relationships and behaviors.