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Session 295: A Conversation On Healthy Friendships with Devi Brown

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Y’all! My debut book, Sisterhood Heals, will be out on June 27, 2023 and you can officially pre-order your copy right now at! This is such a huge accomplishment and I can’t wait for all of the incredible conversations I know we’re going to have once you get your copy and can check it out.

In honor of this huge milestone, I wanted to share a very special conversation with you this week. At the end of last year, Wellness educator, Author, and Podcast Host, Devi Brown, who’s been a guest here on the podcast a few times, invited me to be a guest on her podcast, Dropping Gems. Devi didn’t know it at the time but I was struggling with edits to the book and this one conversation with her reinvigorated my spirit and gave me a whole new excitement about the material. It felt like she had seen the pages even though it wasn’t yet done. I feel like that’s how sisterhood works sometimes, you don’t always know what you need and then a sister shows up with an answer you weren’t expecting. In this conversation we chatted about setting boundaries with compassion in friendship, reciprocity in friendship, and how having difficult conversations can often bring us closer.


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Check out Session 190 of the podcast where Devi discusses creating calm through meditation and affirmations.

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Session 295: A Conversation on Healthy Friendships with Devi Brown

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 295 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Y'all, my debut book, Sisterhood Heals, will be out on June 27, 2023 and you can officially preorder your copy right now at This is such a huge accomplishment and I can't wait for all the incredible conversations I know we're going to have, once you get your copy and you can check it out. In honor of this huge milestone, I wanted to share a very special conversation with you today.

At the end of last year, wellness educator Devi Brown, who many of you know and who has been a guest here on the podcast a few times, invited me to be a guest on her podcast, Dropping Gems. Devi didn't know it at the time, but I was really struggling with edits to the book at that time and this one conversation with her reinvigorated my spirit and gave me a whole new excitement about the material. It felt like she had seen the pages, even though it wasn't done. I feel like that's how sisterhood works sometimes. You don't always know what you need, and then a sister shows up with an answer you weren't expecting. In this conversation, we chatted about setting boundaries with compassion and friendship, reciprocity in friendship, and having difficult conversations to hopefully bring us closer. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in-depth about the episode. You can join us at Here's our conversation.

[Dropping Gems intro]

Devi: Welcome back to another episode of the Dropping Gems podcast. I'm Devi Brown. This is the show where we like to settle into a soft place to land. To unpack ourselves, to grab new tools for the journey, and to really expand our consciousness for our highest good. Today's episode is going to be so dope, oh my gosh. Okay. So in the pandemic, I had a chance to be connected with an absolutely brilliant, amazing pioneering woman in the mental health space. And we had a chance to be on a panel together which then led to a podcast and led to me just really loving and enjoying so much that she offers the world. And today we are ready to dive deep, deep in a way that helps empower us to make better choices and to have lives that feel really nourishing, really full, and deeply connected to the community that we're aligned with.

Today's guest is Dr. Joy Harden Bradford. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a licensed psychologist, speaker, founder and CEO of Therapy for Black Girls, and host of its wildly popular mental health podcast. Her work focuses on making mental health topics more relevant and accessible for black women, and she specializes in creating spaces for them to have fuller and healthier relationships with themselves and others. She is currently writing her first book, Sisterhood Heals, set to release Summer 2023. Dr. Joy exists at the intersection of psychology and pop culture. It is always an honor and a joy to be in conversation with you, please welcome to the show, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for having me, Devi. Such an honor.

Devi: Dr. Joy, I feel like I have yet to have the honor of breathing the same air as you, but I feel like we've been so connected since the top of the pandemic. I just remember that moment where, I think for many of us, it clicked on, of, “I have more tools to offer in this very scary moment for so many.” How are you?

Dr. Joy: I am hanging in there, hanging in there. I feel like it is really best to kind of think about it just putting one foot in front of the other. Because, I mean, we're not out of the pandemic, despite what many would maybe have us believe. There's still a lot going on. And just on top of the pandemic, there's just so many other things happening in the world. Personally, I'm also completing my first book right now so I just feel like there's just been so much chaos in everything going on. So putting one foot in front of the other and kind of holding on, is how I'm doing right now.

Devi: Thank you for that transparency. Because speaking to that, I think something that a lot of people might easily assume, especially with someone like yourself, that, oh, you don't feel any of this. I think for a lot of people who start on the path, there's this assumption that you'll get to a point where everything will feel good all the time. And that's one of the biggest questions people kind of aim towards me just in my regular life. It's like, oh, so what do you consider a challenge? And I'm like, oh no. No, every day is challenging. Life is profoundly challenging. I think for me, it's just the reaction or how long it feels like a personal experience shifts and is different. I'm able to come out of things quicker, or I'm able to hold more neutrality or just have tools so that I'm able to come back to myself sooner. What does that mean for you when you say you're hanging in there, as someone that is a leading mental health professional?

Dr. Joy: I appreciate that, Devi, because I do think that there is sometimes that misconception that because we are healing professionals or helping professionals, that we are not impacted, but that could not be further from the truth. So a lot of what I'm talking about in terms of hanging in there is like keeping up with my own mental health, which involves weekly sessions with my therapist, because I definitely feel like there has just been so much anxiety for me in the pandemic. Just around keeping myself and my family safe, and what does this mean, and is it okay to travel? It just feels like there has been a lot. And so therapy has been incredibly grounding for me during this period of the pandemic, but also in writing the book. Because I feel like this has been a stretch for me professionally. Like it's my first book, it's a new thing that I had not done. And so with any new thing, there's like all these new challenges and like, oh, I didn't know that that was hiding in that corner! And so having my therapist to talk about all of those things has just been very, very grounding and helpful for me.

Devi: I can't wait to dive into talking about this book that comes out. But one thing I'm really curious about. As you were speaking to especially the way you were showing up for yourself and for millions of people in the midst of the pandemic, did anything shift about the way you relate to what you do? Because I can imagine you're under duress as a beam, as a human, as a woman with her own life needs, responsibilities, and you have to show up at such a high level for those that are coming to you. Did anything start to shift or were there any observations about that time?

Dr. Joy: That's such a good question, Devi. I think like you kind of alluded to in the beginning, in the very beginning of the pandemic, it felt like there was a huge need for people who do the kinds of things that we do. This healing, helping, like okay, how do we ground ourselves and make sense of this moment? And so in the beginning, there were all these requests, of course, which is how you and I connected initially, was on a panel for somebody. There were all these requests for like come teach our group skills to manage this and come do this and that. And so, initially, I think it felt like, oh, okay, well, I can do this because I'm home. I'm not even having to travel anywhere to do these things. But I think a couple of months into it, I really began to feel burned out. Because even though I'm doing these presentations and things from home, I'm still “on” so there's still a lot that I'm offering. And so I think I had kind of fooled myself into thinking, oh, this doesn't feel as strenuous as my schedule was before when I was in a different city a couple of times a month, and really kind of on the road.

And so, one, I think it really caused me to reimagine what busy felt like. It didn't feel busy in the same way, but it was still like extending myself and holding space for people who are all afraid. Like we're all just trying to figure out what's happening. And so I think it really led me to reimagine, okay, you still have to slow down. You still can't just be going, going going, even if it's just in your bedroom doing these presentations. And then I think the next thing, though, is that it also led me to having a much deeper appreciation for the work that I do. Because I do think, during the pandemic… And I don't even think we have reached like the peak of the mental health concerns and issues that we're going to have to have as people kind of settle out of like, what is this trauma we've all experienced? And so I think it has led me to also have a much deeper appreciation for the work that I do and a much more wanting to be protective of it because it's going to be needed. So really trying to pace myself so that when there is maybe the greatest need, I still have something left to offer.

Devi: When I tell you, Dr. Joy, the way I relate to everything that you just said, I think myself and for some others that I've spoken to, I think a lot of the people that were the healers and the helpers in that moment in time, we’re just settling into. Like I feel with my body, I'm just settling into what two years of that felt like. Because when I really look back at it, I spent the pandemic in my house working more than I've ever worked and I was showing up. And it did feel like there was ease to it because I could have a dress top but have my pajama bottoms. You know, you feel comfortable because you're with your things, and I have my favorite things in the fridge within reach. And so there was this comfort and this holding. But I looked back and I said, wow, in the pandemic, I facilitated all of this healing work and I was in the midst of a divorce, and I was raising a child who was two years old. And, and, and I was in a pandemic, too. And it's just been really interesting seeing the gifts but also really seeing the fatigue of that. And I think it's just starting to come online for some of us as the world “gets back to normal.”

Dr. Joy: Whatever that means.

Devi: Whatever that means. Okay, you are in the midst of writing your first book, Dr. Joy. And when I had the chance to kind of read up on what it was about, I feel so excited because this conversation… Your book, let me start by saying, is called Sisterhood Heals and it's set to release summer 2023. That title, Sisterhood Heals, is so powerful and I think we are in the midst of creating an entirely new template for what friendship can look like. And especially friendship among women and black women. There seems to be this evolution in the air, this new understanding of emotional intelligence that people are trying to connect to. So what is this book about? Telling me the things.

Dr. Joy: I feel so excited to chat with you about this, Devi, because I've also heard you talk about this. I know that this is something that's important to you as well. But when I think about who we have been as black women and what our history in the country has been and in the world, a lot of our surviving and thriving is connected to one another. And I think I have seen that even more so in the pandemic, just around mutual aid, exchanges, and offering what you have to your community and to your neighbors and all of those kinds of things. And so to me, it is crystal clear as it always has been, that to get through this thing called life, it has to be together. That we need to do this thing together. A lot of my experience has been in facilitating group therapy and so the book is really about the lessons and things that I have learned from group therapy that can also help us in our individual sisterhoods. How do we pay attention to the different dynamics that happen in sisterhoods, and the changes? And if, unfortunately, a sisterhood has to end, how do you navigate that in a way that's as compassionate and kind as possible?

Devi: Okay, take my money. God, this is so needed, this is so needed. And to what you said a moment ago, this is so important to me and it's something. Especially as it relates to boundaries with people and how we can have boundaries with kindness and compassion, that a friendship gently falling off, it doesn't have to be beef. We can still think fondly of each other and just still move forward with our lives. Like these are things that haven't been naturally kind of shared with so many of us or role modeled in any way. I would love to start by grounding this in having, especially for everyone listening, Dr. Joy, what would you consider to be a healthy dynamic, a healthy template of friendship? What should healthy friendship feel like, look like, be experienced as?

Dr. Joy: That's a big question. The first thing that comes to mind for me is reciprocal. It should feel like there is space for everybody in the circle to feel like they are getting their needs met, but also meeting the needs of other people. But I think when you talk about boundaries like you just did, that is where we often see that not happening. So sometimes there are certain friends who are kind of stepping up a lot and then there is no space or other people are not really kind of doing their part. So the first thing is reciprocal.

I also think that it is a space where everybody feels celebrated. When we think about a circle, there is no one part of a circle that is like bigger or stronger. We all come together to make the circle. And so when I think about healthy friendship, I think about a space where everybody feels celebrated and you are able to have your moment, but it doesn't diminish my moment or what can happen for me. So a space where everybody really feels celebrated. And also a space where conflict can be resolved in healthy ways. I think when people hear conflict, they often want to run in the opposite direction, but conflict is natural and normal, like it just means we maybe disagree on some things. And conflict actually can make your relationship stronger. But what really deteriorates our relationships is an avoidance of the conflict. Like we don't want to have the hard conversations, we don't want to say the thing, we don't want to address the elephant in the room and it actually makes our relationships weaker. So I think healthy friendships also involve an ability to really handle conflict.

Devi: Okay, hold on, because I wrote some notes, I want to go back. The first pillar that you spoke to was the word reciprocal. What is that definition in relationship? I found, and I have this clip that a lot of people saw last year where I was saying I'm not available for anything that's not mutually beneficial. And I think everyone's vocabulary, the way they relate to words is different. So so many got it but then some people were like, mutually beneficial, so someone has to do something for you back? And it's like, okay, instead of mutually beneficial, let's use the term mutually supportive. Let's use the term reciprocal. I think a lot of people when they hear those words, they have this idea of more of a monetary exchange or something that is like, “you did this, check, now I will do this for you.” And something that I've tried to share with people is like even gratitude is reciprocity. Even a heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for what I'm giving feels reciprocal to me because there is something for me in it as well. There is something that fills me. What is reciprocal in a relationship sense?

Dr. Joy: I think of it in its simplest form as like a natural kind of give and take. And you're right, it's not a scorecard, it's not like a tally like, okay, I did two things and so now next week, you have to do two things for me. I think it is more of a feeling of being in a relationship where you know that they have your back and you also have theirs. It doesn't have to mean I did five things nice for you, and so now you’ve got to do seven. It is more like do you feel like if you called on them in your time of need, they would be there? And I think it's important to think about we all are human and so there's all kinds of things that are often happening in our own lives, so there may not be times where we can be there for a friend in the way that we want to. But I think when you look at the overall picture, the overall history of a friendship, does it feel like more often than not, this is somebody who you know is in your corner, who you can call when times are tough, and vice versa? Like it should not feel like a one-sided kind of thing, where you're the one always making the calls, always texting, always doing the planning. It should feel like everybody has a part in this friendship.

Devi: And everybody's part doesn't have to be the same kind of part. I think in some friendship dynamics, it's like, well, I threw a big party for you - I wanted a big party, too. And it's like, but are you the person that's really good at that? Does that person know how to do that? Did you tell them you wanted that? I think as we expand this conversation, it's so important to know that we should be bringing our strengths to our friendship, we should be bringing our gifts to our friendship, which means we'll all be kind of adding to it in so many different ways.

Dr. Joy: I want to touch on something you just said because I think this is important. The idea that I threw you a big party and so then I expected that you would also throw me a party - was that expectation actually voiced? That is one of those things that I think also gets in the way of us having really healthy, full relationships. Is that we feel like friendship should be natural, like it kind of feels like, oh, we go to school together in our childhood, that is how we become friends. But when you are a grownup, you have to work a little harder at that, and sometimes what is often missing is that we don't learn that we have to actually voice those expectations. In the same way we would do in romantic relationships, it's important to do that in platonic friendships as well and other relationships. So I think that unvoiced expectation and the idea that they should just know that you wanted that to happen - well, how would they know if you didn't tell them? And it doesn't make them a bad friend because they didn't do it because you didn't let them know that that was actually an expectation.

Devi: Everybody listening, I want you to sit in that for a second. Take a breath, see how that feels, see where you land in that equation and just notice it. For those listening, because I think, especially for generations that came before right now, we've done an immense amount of unpacking major, major consciousness blocks and concepts over just the last handful of years. We have dived into women, sexuality, we have dived into race, deeper than we've ever gone. Multiple cultures and that experience, especially within America. There have been so many unpacking in a short time, we're all kind of processing that. And I think something that many are coming to notice is a lot of us grew up in communities and households where the adults were emotionally immature and there was just not a role modeling of behavior that can lead you in a life where you feel like a healthy functioning adult that can meet your own needs. So I think a lot of people that are even in friendships and communities that they do love, they don't know anything different. It may not be in the plan for them to uproot and find a new tribe. Are there ways to kind of bring some healing and to upgrade the way we are in friendships with each other, without having to find new friends?

Dr. Joy: Yeah, that's basically the premise of the book. This idea that, and you're right, like a lot of us have not come from homes where that was role modeled for us. In generations and the generation before them, a lot of what they had to do was really survival based. There were decisions that they made that unfortunately impacted us in some ways that didn't really foster our emotions, but in a lot of ways, it was what they felt like they had to do. But I do think because we are having these kinds of conversations right now, it provides an excellent opportunity for us to be able to do that healing work with one another. Can I say to you as my sister, “Ouch, that hurt,” and that doesn't mean that the friendship ends? It just means that this is now an opportunity for us to talk about it. And how can I hold you accountable? How can you learn from the situation and it not mean that you're a bad person? I think we have to really look at our defensiveness and how that often comes up when we've hurt someone. But it doesn't mean that you're bad; it just means, ouch that hurt me and I want to talk about how we can continue to be in relationship and you not do that thing or you not hurting me in that same way in the future. So I think our sister circles really provide an important opportunity for us to actually do that healing work with one another.

Devi: I'm so excited for all of us. This time of there just being more space for vulnerability, and there being space for being in practice with the things that you just didn't know. I feel like there wasn't as much grace for those processes or there just weren't as many people trying to do it at the same time previously.

Dr. Joy: You use a very important word there, Devi. Practice. Like we are all really just practicing being human. There is no perfection and there’s many workshops that we go to, and books we read and podcasts we listen to. Like, we're all just practicing. And so I think it is really important for us to be gracious with one another, but I think there has to be some limits to that. You don't want to be extending so much grace that you're actually betraying yourself. So I think that there is sometimes work that we need to do individually that needs to happen before we're really able to be in circles in full ways. And so, back to our earlier conversation around boundaries, you can't continue to let somebody overstep your boundaries and not redraw them and say, okay, I would like to still be in relationship with you, but this is what it looks like. So maybe that looks like less access, maybe that looks like just more spread out when we get together. But I don't think that you want to offer so much grace that you are then betraying yourself.

Devi: Thank you for saying that. Because a boundaried grace is what we're after. A compassion extended to self first, then others, is what we're after.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And I think, back to our earlier conversation about just how draining and how much has happened in the past couple of years, I think that that is also something that impacts our relationships. We are trying to offer, not from the overflow. The idea is that you refill yourself so that you are able to be in relationship with others from your overflow. But if you are all tapped out, that may be why you're a little cranky with your friends, or why you're feeling like, oh, I don't want to answer this call. So it goes back to really making sure that we're taking care of ourselves and doing the kinds of t
hings that we need to do so that we can actually be in healthy relationship to other people.

Devi: One of the things, I was finding that I was getting a certain kind of comment back in relation to anytime I put up content around friendships. I'll give you a scenario and I would love to know if you would walk us through what this process is. Some people that are in friendship, for many, friendship is your created family. That is maybe your safe space for the first time but it also sometimes becomes the space where you project everything that happened to you prior to the friendship and it becomes the space where you kind of have toddler childlike bratty behavior that maybe you weren't allowed to have with your parents. And so I think something that people were saying to me is, I tried to talk to this friend about this, but they don't even treat the ex that dogged them out the way they go off on me. Or they treat the guy they only dated for a month with more grace or more understanding, but there's all this expectation on me. What is that dynamic, when we are projecting on other people some of that original wounding? What is that?

Dr. Joy: Devi, I feel like you have an early copy of this book. And you clearly do not, because there is no early copy of the book yet.

Devi: I would like one!

Dr. Joy: Absolutely. So what you're talking about and why I think group therapy can be very powerful, what you're basically talking about, there is a term in group therapy called the recapitulation of the family unit. What often happens in a group of strangers, if we're talking about group therapy, is that there will be members of the group who will pull things from you that remind you of your original family unit. So you will find yourself acting out towards a group member as though they are your mother. And clearly it's not about them, it is what they have arisen and awoken in you. And in our sister circles, in our friendship circles, the same kind of thing happens. It is still a group dynamic. And so when you find yourself acting out or maybe wanting to be bratty, so to speak, or being super selfish, it is very likely that what's happening is that some of those childhood wounds or childhood areas that have not been addressed are present, and you actually don't even know it. And that's something that often is playing out on the subconscious, so we don't always know this is what's happening.

And so I think being able to have some of this language like, hey, they aren't actually reacting to me. They are reacting to the thing that my presence has now awoken in them, that they have not dealt with. And so I think being able to have honest conversations. And the more we know about our friends, and the more we know about their history, it is sometimes easier to kind of see that. But I don't want us to try to play therapist with our friends. It's not about us trying to do the work of therapizing and psychoanalyzing our friends. But I do think it can be helpful to be able to call attention to like, hey, I wonder what's going on here. I'm noticing this dynamic where it feels like you're able to extend grace to other people and it doesn't feel like you're able to do that with me. I wonder if you've noticed that. And so really just kind of calling attention to these things. Because of course, they happen. We are with these people, like you said, they are our created family, and what that means is that we then create some of those same dynamics that we had in our families of origin.

Devi: This book, oh my gosh, this is gonna be so powerful. Again, I'm gonna say this title and hopefully by the time this airs, you can get that preorder on Sisterhood Heals. It will be out this summer 2023. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford. God, this book is so needed right now and I'm so excited for everyone that picks it up. Because understanding this changes your life. Understanding this brings the ease that everyone is talking about. This is a moment where so many of us are reclaiming ease, rest. But what that means is like really doing the work to clean up your life, to pack in the empty places. More love so that ease is really the natural state, not the avoidance. And this book, we need to clean up our lives, we need to edit the intimate facets of our lives, our friendships, our households. How we show up in the world and our work.

Dr. Joy: Devi, I want to turn the tables a little bit because I would love to have this conversation with you. In doing the research for the book, one of the things that kept coming up was how friendship dynamics changed after somebody got engaged or married. And so I think the common thing people think is like, oh, somebody was jealous. I got married first and so then they got jealous and then the friendship ended. And I'm wondering in some of the posts that you have put up around friendship, has this conversation come up for you? Or do you have personal experience or thoughts about why that dynamic changes when there has been like the presence of an engagement or a wedding?

Devi: Oh, this is spicy, Dr. Joy. It's so funny, because just this past weekend, I was hanging out with some friends and I was talking about my experience with some of my bridesmaids when I got married. And it was so interesting, because there was one person who is no longer in my life. It was shocking yet not, but it was fascinating to watch and confusing. Where I remember I got engaged and all of a sudden, I found out way after the wedding, all the ways they were trying to sabotage the wedding. Like not sending out invites to things, not inviting people to things that I asked because they had a personal issue with them, which created a rift for me and that person. And I've even heard from people, situations where someone decided to get pregnant just because they wanted to have something going on to talk about while their friend was in their new marriage. And it's fascinating. It's absolutely fascinating what comes up and I was getting a ton of those responses. The main way that people were responding with this dynamic, Dr. Joy, was around just feeling like they had lost something, more than anything. It was more of a feeling of I've been abandoned, or I won't have my needs met anymore. To my ear, that also sounds like some of those deeper woundings, those projections, those kind of throwing your needs and worth on someone else. But that was the leading thing. People just feeling sad, feeling like now they'd have less.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I completely agree with that. That is my assessment as well. Oftentimes what happens in those situations is that grief is triggered. And we don't think about it as grief because, one, we often think about grief only as the death of a loved one, but there's all these other ways that we experience grief. And I think changes in a relationship that is super important to us, even though it's a happy time maybe for our friend, I think we have real trouble juxtaposing that to like ouch, I feel like now I'm going to lose them. And so I feel like we need to do a better job of having conversations around like, I'm really happy for you but I'm also a little worried about what this changes for us, and like sad about the fact that our dynamic won't, of course, be able to be the same as it was. So I think all of this acting out that we sometimes see is really a grief response that people just don't recognize and don't have the language for.

Devi: Yeah. And then sometimes for some people, that thing kicks in where you say, well, let me just sink this ship because then at least it's my choice.

Dr. Joy: Gonna get in front of it so that it was my decision.

Devi: What do you think of the story I told?

Dr. Joy: About the bridesmaid? I mean, I definitely think there was clearly something going on there and I wonder if you saw signs. Looking back, were there things that you recognized even before you got engaged, that indicated like, oh, something may be a little off, or something feels unsettled about this person?

Devi: Yes. And that was a lot of my work in listening to my intuition. I have a very particular style of integrity that I move in the world with. I really believe in spiritual hygiene and I think that good choice-making, compassionate choice-making, it's incredibly important to my life. So I used to get those kinds of worlds blurred where, when I saw people that weren't in integrity, it was because they just didn't know and I needed to show or I needed to help. So I am a super, super reformed, fixer and people pleaser. I'm the person that used to want to do everyone's work for them. And just, no, no, no, but look, read this book, and… and I was taking it all on. And gratefully, that is no longer my life. But yeah, when I look back at that friendship, absolutely. We had been childhood friends, and I saw those traits in that person. I remember making mental notes way back at 10, noticing how they were kind of treating people or making things about them. And I just let it go on for way too long. And then I saw the biggest… Because when things aren't super affecting you, when they're more like kind of tiny irritations, it's just kind of like, yeah, that's them being them. But when you keep that dynamic in your life, when they have the opportunity to do it at a higher stake, they will. And so you need to curb it when you first notice it. It is so important.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And who knows what kind of abandonment history there may have been? I don't know, of course, this person, but what got activated, clearly something got activated with your engagement, which then led to all of this behavior kind of really stepping up a notch.

Devi: Yeah. Well, lasting peace, lasting peace to all involved. I have a very specific question for you. I'm so curious. Dr. Joy, Therapy for Black Girls has been such a leader in the mental health space. One of the data points around therapy for black women is that only 5% of US therapists are black. Can you speak to the importance of speaking with therapists that have a deeper understanding of your cultural needs, but specifically some of the personality traits, experiences, and trauma that seem to happen within particular communities? Is it important to find someone that looks like you or understands your experience to unpack yourself with?

Dr. Joy: I would say it is important if it feels important to you. Because that won't necessarily be a qualifier for a lot of people, but I do think, at least my experience has been that for a lot of black women, that does feel very, very important. Because there are some things that you just assume that another black woman will understand. When I think about like going through the pandemic and then all of the continued racial injustice, George Floyd being killed, Breonna Taylor being killed, there are ways that I think black women take in those stories and experience those things that you just get. And so if I came to the session the week after finding out about Breonna Taylor, I'm not going to have to go into too much backstory with my therapist because my therapist is also a black woman. Because there are some things that I know that she understands because she's also a black woman in this country.

So I think for people who that is important, it is absolutely okay to chase that, to look for that in your search. But as you mentioned, there are not that many of us and so what that means is that either people end up on waiting lists or people will see therapists who aren't necessarily black women. That may mean that you see a black man or somebody else or another person of color. But what that means for other therapists who are not black, is that there is some work that they need to do so that they are creating conditions that are safe for black women to come into therapy to unpack these kinds of things. There are lots of microaggressions and ruptures that happen with nonblack therapists because there's this questioning of reality. Like, did that really happen in the way that you are saying it? Or tell me why you would be so impacted by this thing that has nothing to do with you? Other therapists really need to make sure that they are doing their own work so that they're not perpetrating those kinds of things that then make it difficult for people to even continue to believe in therapy. So because a lot of our families, there's not a lot of history of parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles going to therapy, a lot of times, we're the first ones who may be having that experience. And so if we don't have a good experience, then that sometimes leaves us feeling like, oh, this isn't actually helpful. Or this made me feel worse, so why would I pay somebody to go and do this thing?

So I do think, if it feels important to you to find a therapist who matches you in some way, it is absolutely okay to do that. But I do think that there are also a lot of therapists who may not match you. And so I typically encourage people to just be open to surprises. But not to betray yourself by like continuing in weeks and weeks of therapy with somebody who's like perpetuating racism against you. Absolutely not. There are some therapists who have done their work, they have done incredible work working with other black women and so they actually may be a good match for you. But you might not know that if you are not open to seeing if somebody else might be a good match for you.

Devi: As people are looking for therapists, especially now because, very gratefully, for the first time ever, there's this mass movement to love yourself, to heal yourself, to get the tools that you don't naturally have. And it is gorgeous and it's so exciting. And also, for those that are coming to healing work for the first time, something I speak to a lot on this show, Dr. Joy, is taking your time to research and date a little bit in this space, for lack of a better word. Because as with any other field, as with any other anything, even with therapists, you have your extraordinary, you have your good, you have your solid, you have your mediocre, and there are therapists that are not good at what they do. This exists in every field and every walk of life, high and low. So you can't just think because someone has that title, that that will be your perfect fit easily, or that will be enough. So any insight that you can share with everyone about really how to gain deeper insight on if a therapist is a “good therapist.”

Dr. Joy: I want to take that a step further, Devi, because somebody could be a good therapist, but not a good therapist for you. Because again, therapy is such a human relationship. So much of what actually is doing the work in healing is the relationship that you have with your therapist. And so somebody might be great, but they might just not be a great fit for you. And it doesn't mean that they're a bad therapist or that you're a bad client, it just says something about the dynamic that maybe is just not what you need, maybe in that moment. I also use a lot of that dating language, although of course, there are boundaries in your therapeutic relationship… That is not appropriate, we don’t want to go there!

But it is a series of kind of like getting to know these people. So the great thing is that a lot of therapists have a lot of information about themselves out, available to the public now. Many of us have websites where you can learn more about our practice, a lot of therapists create content, so you might find YouTube videos or Instagram videos or TikTok or Twitter posts that will give you a little bit of an insight around how they speak. Because sometimes therapists have a particular way of relating that you absolutely know like, this probably wouldn't work for me. And you can probably get a sense of that from a TikTok or from a YouTube video. So doing your research is really important.

And then the other thing is that a lot of therapists will give you like a free 10-to-15-minute consultation to ask any additional questions you have after you've done your research. But as therapists, we're also listening for whether we feel like we would be a good therapist for you. The other thing that you want to pay attention to is whether they actually have training and expertise in the thing that you're coming for. You might find somebody's YouTube videos and think, oh, they are great, I would love to work with them, but then they actually are not trained in the thing or have additional expertise in the thing that you need. And then that probably is not going to be a helpful relationship because they may not know enough to really help you through whatever your concern is. So hopefully the therapist will tell you that. Like, oh, I’d love to work with you but I actually don't think that this is my area of expertise, but let me give you some referrals.

That's the other thing about these consultations is that if we hear you talking about something that we feel like, okay, this is not my bag, then I also have a referral network of other colleagues who I think could maybe do some great work for you. So then I can maybe refer you to somebody else who could be a better fit. And I typically tell people, sometimes pretty early on, like okay, I really feel like I'm gonna be able to do some good work with this person. But sometimes it takes a little longer because you're trying to feel it out and like, okay, who is this stranger and I'm telling them all of my business, and they're not saying anything about themselves?

But I don't want people to get like four months into therapy still questioning. I think early on, even if you're not ready to maybe share some difficult things or you're not quite ready to kind of take yourself there, you can get a sense of whether this person is going to help you to create an environment that will allow you to get there. There's nothing wrong with like warming up and like, okay, let me feel this out before I really dive in. But I think there should be some indications pretty early on that you feel safe in the space, you feel comfortable, you don't feel judged by this person, you don't feel like the need to withhold. It is often a place that you look forward to. Now, therapy isn't always easy, and I want you to hear that. There will be some weeks that you are absolutely like, oh, I don't want to do this. But it should feel more like, okay, I'm afraid to do the work - not I feel uncomfortable in this space.

Devi: Yeah. Oh, you gave us so many tools, yes. Because the thing that you don't want to do is have now therapy be another container for the behavior that you have done at other points in your life. So don't go in there and perform. You don't need to win them over. You don't need to get them to like you. This is the space to try out your new self. Okay, my last question, and this is actually more of a personal question. For choosing a therapist, if you are someone who is highly self-aware, that has done years and years of work, and all different kinds of therapy, what is the best way to court a new therapist where you can say I don't need to like start from scratch? Or is there a way to kind of show up, if you're someone that has done therapy in the past, when looking for a new therapist, to create some baseline of these are the themes I've worked through, this is where I am now, this is what I'd like to work towards? For those that have kind of been in the therapy world, myself included for a while, and you're looking for something more but you don't want to have to start from the getting to know you phase, what do you do?

Dr. Joy: Unfortunately, I don't know that there's a way to get around the “getting to know you” phase because it’s a new person. You’re trying to skip some steps there. Every new therapist is gonna want to have their own relationship with you. And I hear this a lot, not necessarily just in the like, I've done a lot of therapy and so I'm looking for something different. But people who maybe have worked with a therapist for a while and feel like, okay, I don't think I'm getting what I need anymore, I need something different. They just don't want to have to like explain all of that backstory anymore. And I totally get that. You don't necessarily need to do that. So one way around that, if you are interested, is that you can sign a release with your old therapist that allows them to give the new therapist records and they can kind of look through and whatever.

But the other thing to keep in mind is that you're not necessarily starting with a new therapist in the same place that you did with the previous therapists. So if you now are wanting to work on more things related to like advancing in your career and whatever comes up there, you won't necessarily have to talk about the same issues related to your childhood with this new therapist, because that is not as pressing. So any therapist that you are talking to is going to do what we call an intake, where they're getting to know a little bit more about you and what's bringing you in. And of course, if you have had therapy before, they're probably going to ask you like, okay, tell me a little bit about your previous experiences. What did you like, maybe what didn't work? But they're not going to necessarily take you digging back through all of those things that you had to do before, because that's not what brings you in now. And maybe some of that will come up as needed, but it's not where you're going to start. So it's not like you're going to duplicate what you've done with therapy in the past.

But for people who are pretty therapy savvy and who have done a lot of different kinds of work, I think it can be helpful to find therapists who practice in different kinds of ways. As therapists, we all go through general training, but a lot of us do additional training and coursework on top of our graduate degree to specialize in things. So you will hear a lot of therapists talk about CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR which is a therapy specifically helpful for traumatic experiences. There are also some therapists who practice like psychoanalysis, more insight kind of work. And I tend to think that that kind of work, the more insight-driven work is maybe a good place to look for people who have done a lot of therapy. So maybe you're not necessarily looking for symptom reduction. You're looking more like, okay, help me understand these patterns, and I don't quite feel like I'm relating to people in the way I want. Insight-driven work may be a better option there.

And group therapy. That is also something that a lot of people have not tried, that I think can be incredible. Because there are insights and breakthroughs that you can make in group therapy that it will take like months to get to with your individual therapist, just because there are more people. There are more people for you to interact with and more people awaken things in you. So group therapy, I think if you can find it, is also another option for people who maybe have done a lot of therapy. This could be a different experience for you to kind of gain some greater insight.

Devi: I love that. And it's also so powerful to watch someone being facilitated as they're working through something. It gives you kind of procedure for yourself or changes how you relate in your relationships. Dr. Joy, thank you. I am just, I love being in conversation with you. I had the pleasure of being on your show Therapy For Black Girls podcast, and I did a meditation there, so anyone that is really loving this episode, please check out that episode too. And all the others that Dr. Joy does. Your new book Sisterhood Heals is set to release this coming summer 2023. We need this, we need this, we need this. Thank you, thank you so much.

Dr. Joy: Always a pleasure, thank you so much.

Devi: Thank you once again, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, for joining us on this really, really expansive episode. And just take a second. Let's do a little soul work. Take a second after this episode clicks off, before you kind of jump into the rest of whatever you're doing. And I want you to just, for your soul work this week, I want you to start to notice, how do you define the word friendship? How do you define the word sisterhood? Or brotherhood? How do you uniquely define and experience the word community? And just allow that to kind of go back and forth in your mind for the rest of today, for tomorrow. You have a notebook nearby, maybe jot those down, those words - friendship, brotherhood, sisterhood, community. And as you think of those words, I want you to really challenge yourself to not just give it maybe the top-of-mind definition. Well, sisterhood, it's a grouping of women. Or community, you know, various people coming together. Really think of what those words have looked like or not in your life over the course of your entire life.

So how did you experience friendship as a child? How did you experience friendship as a teen, a young adult? Someone in your twenties, in your thirties, in your forties? How did that word evolve? How did that experience evolve? How was it felt by you? Get a little surgical with the way that you're investigating these words and do the same thing with sisterhood. What are thoughts or your noticings about sisterhood at various stages of your life from childhood through now? And then after you spend a few days letting that kind of roll through your mind, let's take it to another step. I want you to think of what all of those words, terms mean to you now, and how you’d like to feel them or relate to them. For instance, that word sisterhood. If that actually brings up some charge, some disappointment, some pain from earlier stages in your life, what is the way you'd like to know that word now? What could that look like now, opening yourself to wider friendship? And do that with each of those words. What would you like to be your relationship with friendship, sisterhood, brotherhood, community? There is no right or wrong. It is just your experience and your intention. Investigation is how we get free.

Thank you for listening. If you have extra time today, take a second, go to the Apple app for podcasts and add a five-star rating. And if you have the time, write a little review, I appreciate it. And big love to everyone that has shared there already. Namaste.

Hey, find me on social. Let's connect @DeviBrown, that's Twitter and Instagram, or go to my website, And if you're listening to the show on Apple Podcasts, please don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe, and send this episode to a friend. Dropping Gems is a production of iHeart Radio and the Black Effect Network. It's produced by [?] and me, Devi Brown. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Dr. Joy: I'm so grateful to Devi for inviting me to be a guest on the Dropping Gems podcast. Make sure to check out the other beautiful conversations she has every week on Dropping Gems, and you can find the podcast on Apple podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and anywhere else you tune into your podcast. And don't forget to preorder your copy of Sisterhood Heals at And be sure to text two of your girls and tell them to grab their preorder as well. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here