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Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter

–African Proverb

Welcome to my blog, which was created to promote mental health awareness and healing among African Americans individually and collectively.  My aim is to help those who read this blog heal from the multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants that resulted from centuries of chattel slavery.  

This blog is focused on both individual and collective psychological and spiritual growth as well as social justice and systematic change as I believe there is an urgent need for not only individual change, but changes in our systems, institutions, and communities in order to help African Americans become emotionally and physically healthier, and thrive. I hope this blog will inspire, guide, and empower you to make personal and systemic changes wherever you are.

Please note that reading this blog is not a substitute for therapy. If you are in need of therapy, please click on the schedule an appointment link below to schedule an appointment with me if you reside in California. 



Why I specialize in treating African-Americans:

  • Because African-Americans are at greater risk for mental illness and sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers.  According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.

  • Because African-Americans are more likely to experience certain factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition.  African-Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  African-Americans are over-represented in our jails and prisons.  African-Americans account for 37 percent of drug arrests, but only 14 percent of regular drug users (illicit drug use is frequently associated with self-medication among people with mental illnesses).

  • Because historically, African-Americans in the United States have experienced unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services and are less likely to receive accurate mental health diagnoses.

  • Because of the lack of cultural understanding and culturally relevant mental health services available to African-Americans.  Only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African-American.

  • Because despite progress made over the years, racism and discrimination continue to have a negative impact on the mental health of African-Americans.


by Sharmaine D. Barnes

March 23, 2019

Psychologist Jeffrey Young developed the schema-focused therapy approach to address lifelong, self-defeating patterns called early maladaptive schemas.  Young and associates identified 18 early maladaptive schemas that develop when needs are not met in childhood.  However, in this blog article, I explore schema theory from an African-American perspective. 

What are Schemas? 

Schemas are core beliefs that define who we are and direct how we live our lives.  Schemas create the internal monologue that characterizes the thoughts, assumptions, and interpretations that inform each person's individual worldview.  When a schema is activated, it produces intense emotions. 

As a marriage and family therapist, I tend to focus on the schemas that have significant relevance to interpersonal relationships.  I have found the following schemas to be key in the lives of my African-American clients; however, I do not consider them to be maladaptive--Instead, it is the schema coping behaviors that I believe are maladaptive.

Key Schemas for African-Americans

  • Mistrust and abuse: the expectation that you will be harmed through abuse or neglect

  • Emotional deprivation: the expectation that your needs for emotional support won't be met (deprivation of empathy: the absence of understanding)

  • Defectiveness and shame: the belief that you are defective, inferior, or unlovable

  • Social isolation and alienation: the belief that you don't belong to a group, are isolates, or are radically different from others

  • Failure: the belief that you are inadequate or incompetent and will ultimately fail

  • Subjugation: voluntarily meeting the needs of others at the expense of your own needs, submitting to others to avoid real or perceived consequences, or surrendering control to others due to real or perceived coercion

  • Unrelenting standards and hypercriticalness: the belief that you must meet very high internalized standards to avoid criticism, leading to impairment in areas of life such as pleasure, health, and satisfying relationships

To be continued...   





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