Black Men on the Couch
Admitting to needing help sometimes makes people feel vulnerable in front of others, however talking about issues in therapy is the first step towards managing them. But despite attempts within the profession to change the way it’s viewed, therapy is still rarely sought by young black men, let alone considered as a career.
With this in mind, in 2011 the Diversity Equality and Social Responsibility Committee of UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) launched Black Men on the Couch. The aim was is to change the status quo surrounding counselling and psychotherapy, and open it up to those who would have never considered either undergoing it themselves or that it might be a career option.
UKCP is the leading professional body for the education, training, accreditation and regulation of psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors. Our register of over 7,800 individual therapists is accredited by the government’s Professional Standards Authority. As part of our commitment to protecting the public, we work to improve access to psychotherapy, to support and disseminate research, to improve standards and to respond effectively to complaints against therapists on our register
In the On the Couch events, we invite special guests to take part in a live therapy session with a professional psychotherapist on stage, to discuss their challenges, successes and views on the value of talking therapy. Guests for Black Men on the Couch have so far included Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, novelist and playwright; David Lammy MP for Tottenham; Ashley Walters, actor and rapper; and Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence.
By inviting high profile figures, we hoped to show that even those we look up to sometimes need to turn to others to help them to achieve their goals in life. Rotimi Akinsete, who came up with the idea of Black Men on the Couch says, ‘You don’t have to be a therapist to know that there is a perceived lack of positive role models in the community. We hear every day of many black men and boys who grew up in dysfunctional families and/or have a lack of positive reinforcement from older black males.’
Having run a number of sell-out Black Men on the Couch events, we are now in an exciting phase of the series. Our aim is to expand the On the Couch initiative to enable us to engage with a wider range of audiences. We plan to focus on other minority groups such as those facing discrimination because of their heritage, gender, sexuality or physical abilities. We also aim to cover specific issues such as addiction, bullying and domestic violence. And we want to collaborate with a number of organisations whose service users and members would benefit from On the Couch events.
David Pink, UKCP Chief Executive, says, ‘I am delighted that another of these events is taking place. It seems to me that those most in need of psychotherapy are often the least likely to get it. On the Couch enables us to reach out to groups of people who may not know anything about therapy and who may be in the most need. It also enables us to raise awareness and tackle the stigma attached to mental health issues. It is so important that we do everything we can to make psychotherapy accessible and relevant to as many people as possible.’
For UKESAD our On the Couch event will be a workshop with one of our highly esteemed psychotherapists and a celebrity guest. Addiction can affect people in ways that can manifest as depression and this may be the first way that they find help. Recognising the ways that addiction can manifest in mental health and also understanding that addiction affects all of our relationships and their mental health too is very important in the journey from addiction to recovery.