Celebrating Black Professionals in the Mental Health Field

March 5, 2024


February is Black History Month! This annual observance honors the contributions and sacrifices of groups and individuals in the Black community that have shaped the nation [1]. 

In mental health, innovators like Dr. Samuel M Turner and Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser helped pave the way for mental health standards [2]. Today, there are many Black mental health professionals that continue to shape the field and make mental health more accessible. These professionals include Dr. Jennifer L Eberhardt, Dr. Joseph L. White, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, and Dr. Claude M. Steele.

Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt (1965 - Present)

Dr. Eberhardt is a social psychologist at Stanford University, a global leading expert on unconscious bias, and author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do [3]. She has dedicated her career to investigating the effects of unconscious racial bias and the association between race and crime [4]. Dr. Eberhardt’s research and experiments have allowed her to work alongside law enforcement agencies to address unconscious bias in the criminal justice system [4].

Dr. Joseph L. White (1932 - 2017)

Dr. White, known as the “godfather of black psychology,” held many roles throughout his career, including psychologist, researcher, professor, clinician, and consultant [5]. In 1962, Dr. White was one of five Black Americans to hold a doctorate in clinical psychology [6].

Among his many accomplishments, Dr. White helped establish the California Educational Opportunity Program to help over 300,000 minority students achieve college degrees, established one of the first black studies programs, co-founded the Association of Black Psychologists, and mentored over 100 Ph.D. psychology students [7]. In 1994, Dr. White retired and received the Citation of Achievement in Psychology and Community Service from President Clinton [6]. Dr. White passed away in 2017.

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford (1979 - Present)

Dr. Bradford is a licensed psychologist, speaker, and the owner of Therapy for Black Girls [8]. Her goal is to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community and make it more accessible to Black women [9]. She does this through her social media platforms and communities, through her popular Therapy for Black Girls Podcast, and a nationwide directory of Black therapists [10]. Last year, Dr. Bradford published her first book, Sisterhood Heals, which focuses on the importance of community and friendships in mental health [11].

Dr. Claude M. Steele

Dr. Steele is a social psychologist, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, and author of Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us [12]. His research focuses on the stereotype threat, which looks at the effects that negative stereotypes have on academic focus and performance [13]. Dr. Steele has served in other positions throughout his career, such as Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley and the 21st Provost of Columbia University, and is the recipient of many honors, including the American Psychological Association Senior Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest [14].

Breaking Down Barriers to Mental Health

Black American adults are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems [15] and, nationally, only 4% of psychologists and 11% of professional counselors are Black [16]. 

Barriers to receiving mental health treatment include negative stigma surrounding seeking help, financial restrictions, lack of diverse mental health professionals, and distance from providers [15]. While there is no one solution to breaking down the barriers that limit access to mental health care, they can be reduced through:

  • Diverse Mental Health Professionals: Diversity amongst mental health professionals can help reduce stigmas and barriers to mental healthcare access, provide more personalized and effective treatment plans to patients, and address systemic barriers to access [17].
  • Telehealth: Location may limit what services a person can receive. Telehealth services allow Black patients to access more services, no matter where they are located. Furthermore, tools like Adhere.ly can help therapists provide between-session support to their clients, send automatic reminders for appointments and therapy homework, and review patient progress.
  • Community Building: Creating and supporting programs that raise awareness, advocate for culturally responsive mental health treatment, and work to eliminate the systematic barriers that negatively impact mental health in the Black community [18].


Strides have been made to make mental health more accessible to the Black community, but there is still a long way to go to address the challenges and barriers faced by the Black community when seeking and accessing mental healthcare. This month, we celebrate black mental health professionals and encourage the community to spread awareness of the mental health barriers and issues that affect black youth and adults.


[1] Franklin J. Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1075623826/why-is-february-black-history-month#:~:text=Every%20February%2C%20the%20U.S.%20honors,part%20of%20our%20country's%20history. Published February 1, 2022.

[2] Derienzo, Julie. Celebrating Black innovators in the mental health field. https://www.adhere.ly/blog-posts/celebrating-black-innovators-in-the-mental-health-industry. Published June 30, 2023.

[3] Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt: Unconscious Racial Bias Speaker - Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. https://www.prhspeakers.com/speaker/jennifer-eberhardt. Published November 21, 2022.

[4] Jennifer L. Eberhardt - Stanford University. https://web.stanford.edu/~eberhard/about-jennifer-eberhardt.html.

[5] Joseph White, PhD. https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/psychologists/white.

[6] Joseph White: The Godfather of Black Psychology - DePauw University. DePauw University. https://www.depauw.edu/stories/details/joseph-white-the-godfather-of-black-psychology/.

[7] Joseph L. White. https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/in-memoriam/files/joseph-white.html.

[8] Therapy for Black Girls. About — therapy for Black girls. Therapy for Black Girls. https://therapyforblackgirls.com/about/. Published November 18, 2020.

[9] Hughes L. This Psychologist Is Changing The Face Of Therapy For Black Women. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/therapy-for-black-girls-joy-harden-bradford_n_5b34d82de4b0cb56051ffc80. Published June 28, 2018.

[10] Millstein T. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is destigmatizing therapy for Black girls. Glamour. https://www.glamour.com/story/dr-joy-harden-bradford-game-changers. Published June 9, 2020.

[11] Gutzmore C. Dr. Joy Discussing Debut Novel Sisterhood Heals and How to Manage Friendships. The Atlanta Voice. https://theatlantavoice.com/dr-joy-discussing-debut-novel-sisterhood-heals-and-how-to-manage-friendships/. Published July 23, 2023.

[12] Claude Steele’s profile | Stanford Profiles. https://profiles.stanford.edu/claude-steele.

[13] Stereotype threat. Center for Teaching & Learning. https://www.colorado.edu/center/teaching-learning/inclusivity/stereotype-threat. Published August 31, 2023.

[14] Claude Steele. https://steele.socialpsychology.org/.

[15] Committee ET and the BHD. How can we eliminate mental healthcare barriers in Black communities? https://www.carenewengland.org/blog/how-can-we-eliminate-mental-health-care-barriers-in-black-communities.

[16] The Association of Black Psychologists. Black MH Workforce. The Association of Black Psychologists - Making a Positive Impact on Black Mental Health. https://abpsi.org/blackmhworkforce/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%204%25%20of%20psychologists%20(,are%20reported%20to%20be%20Black. Published September 1, 2023.

[17] Cultural competence in mental health care: Why it matters – Radias Health. https://radiashealth.org/cultural-competence-in-mental-health-care-why-it-matters/#:~:text=A%20culturally%20competent%20mental%20healthcare,barriers%20to%20mental%20healthcare%20access.

[18] Addressing mental health in the Black community. Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/addressing-mental-health-black-community. Published February 8, 2019.