Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a Licensed Psychologist, Speaker, and the host of the wildly popular mental health podcast, Therapy for Black Girls. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana, her Master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from Arkansas State, and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from The University of Georgia.
Her work focuses on making mental health topics more relevant and accessible for Black women and she specializes in creating spaces for Black women to have fuller and healthier relationships with themselves and others.
She has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Bustle, Huffington Post, Black Enterprise, Women’s Health, BuzzFeed, Teen Vogue, and Essence. Dr. Joy lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two sons.
Who is Dr. Joy and what was your motivation for starting this brand?
I’m a southern girl at heart. I grew up in Louisiana and I am currently in Georgia. I have been a few other places, but the south is always home. I come from a pretty big family. My mother has 6 sisters and 4 brothers. I have tons of first cousins and so community and spending a lot of time with black women has been something I have always done. Through Junior High School, High School, College, and Grad school, I have always been the person in the friend group that people would go to, to problem solve and be a listening ear when something was going on. So, I always thought I’d do something in the helping profession. At first, I originally thought I would be teaching. But then I did one practicum course and knew it was not for me. So, I decided to pursue psychology up until my PhD program.
In terms of motivation, I have continued to hear lots of conversations around finding a black therapist, the need to find someone that they can connect better with, or not having a good experience with a therapist. So, I felt that there needed to be a place where people could go to do this. I first started in September 2014 and it really started as blog posts. I would write about mental health topics that I felt were relevant to black women and post it on the site. It wasn’t until December 2016 that I actually added the therapist directory. So there was some time before I transitioned to the directory piece. I created a Google doc of people nominating their therapists if they had a good experience with them and I would compile it. Since then, it has grown incredibly, there are almost 900 therapists listed now.
How did you discover your purpose?
By always following what I have been naturally curious about. I feel like what I am currently doing is a combination of what I like the most: black women, pop culture, and mental health. I feel like the work that I do is a great blend of those things. Sometimes we are running around and doing too much, and we do not actually pay attention to how things are lining up in a way that will help our purpose to unfold. I think it comes down to being quiet and still with our thoughts sometimes.
What were the main challenges you faced?
I would have to say the tech piece has been the most difficult because it is not my specialty. When the listing was a Google doc, I could easily update that myself, but now it is something that people go in and list on their own. It is self-sustaining, but there is a lot of tech expertise behind that. I had to find someone that I can work with on a continual basis and explain my needs to because there are always updates to be made. We are in the process of implementing some changes right now. Because the listing has grown so much, it is not as easy to search through anymore. People want to be able to search and filter by insurance type and zip code, so that is a part of our upcoming update.
Name a few of your accomplishments, and tell us which one you are most proud of.
I had some information that I shared in O, The Oprah magazine, and now I feel that I am one step closer to Oprah, which has been incredibly exciting. I always feel like that was a major highlight because it was in the print edition. Also, I contributed to a couple of different articles for Essence magazine. I remember being younger and feeling like I always wanted my own column in Essence. Being featured in the magazine now so many times feels like it is a full circle moment. I am also proud of my Forbes magazine piece regarding the work I am doing with “Therapy for Black Girls”.
My plan is to add some live events. My community has been begging and begging for me to do some things in person. Group therapy is one of my favorite things that I like to do, but I have not had much time to do them recently. So, I want to host daylong retreats. It will be like an extended group therapy type of session for people who are new to therapy or want to dig deep for a long period of time. I am hoping to do those at the end of this year or next year. I will start in Georgia because that is where I am and at some point, I plan to travel as well.
What are your recommended books, podcasts, and resources?
- “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- “Self-Compassion” by Dr. Kristen Neff
- “The Gift of Imperfection” by Dr. Brenè Brown
- “Black girl in Om” podcast
- “Side Hustle Pro” podcast
- “Dreams in Drive” podcast
- “The Read” podcast
What kind of advice would you give to people who don’t think they need therapy?
I am a big believer in therapy for everybody. As a field, we have to do better with messaging what therapy is. The general population thinks that therapy is only for when you are in a crisis or something really bad is happening. The truth is, you can see a therapist when nothing is going on and learn some skills that will possibly prevent something from escalating. It actually could be better to go to therapy when nothing is going on. Maybe you noticed some difficult patterns or you are feeling a little stressed, but it has not escalated to anxiety or depression yet, therapy allows you to learn some skills to stop it from escalating to something else. We do ourselves a disservice when we think we can only see a therapist when we are in crisis.
What advice would you give to individuals following in your footsteps?
Keep moving. I have often felt like “Am I doing this right?” One year ago, I wasn’t necessarily building the business that I am now. So, it feels like I stay open and in tune with my community. I have a Facebook group of over 16,000 people called the “Thrive Drive” and people on Instagram too but it is harder to form a community on Instagram because it is so transient. In the “Thrive Drive” group, we are constantly engaging in conversation. I am always listening to what people are talking about and what they are asking. I feel like that helps me to continue to make decisions in my business that will cater to my audience because I am always listening. Make sure you get connected to your community and what they are asking for.
How can the community benefit from your platform?
It depends on what they need. If they feel they are really struggling and need a therapist, then the directory can be a good place to start. But, if they are feeling like they are not sure they want to talk to a therapist because it is not as severe yet, they can check out a podcast that can help them realize this may be something they need to talk to a therapist about or learn some strategies to help them cope a little better. Depression and anxiety are the most diagnosed mental illnesses across the country. Given everything going on in the world currently such as politics, situations with police, and just continued racial microaggression, I think anxiety is very high right now. “Therapy for Black Girls” has something for everybody depending on what they are looking for.
Follow Dr. Joy at @therapyforblackgirls across all platforms (Twitter handle is @therapy4bgirls)