Charity Maruva Hopes To Dispel Myths Against Seeking Family Therapy In The Black Community, Through Her Practice.
A bookshelf sits on one side of the room, a medium sized couch with colourful scatter cushions on the opposite side and a small antique table is stationed in between. I immediately get the sense that this is the space Charity Maruva utilises for her therapy sessions.
After working as a counselor in the NGO sector for 13 years, Charity decided to switch gears and venture out on her own a year ago and launched Solutions Counselling.
“The passion to help people navigate through the various challenges they face in life inspired me to open a private Counselling practice,” she explains.
One of Charity’s goals in building her therapy practice is to encourage positive associations with therapy within the black community, in which therapy is still dismissed as a Western intervention.
“The moment you want to talk about therapy, people become skeptikal,”says Charity.
The discussion around mental health in Zimbabwe can hardly take place without touching on the cultural aspects that deter some people from seeking therapy. Traditionally, help within the black community and most African cultures is sought within the family. But this model has slowly begun to change.
“Our social structure is becoming different as the world changes. Before, we used to have a very solid social structure, we had our aunties, our uncles [and we] would send the kids there, but now, those structures are no longer as solid as they used to be ,” Charity says.
Establishing her own therapy practice came with a lot of lessons, including navigating ways to enter the field by initially warming people up to the idea of therapy before getting the ball rolling. First, she learnt that it’s all in the title- well partly.
“I think in Zimbabwe, you are more acceptable as a counsellor than a family therapist. Our culture is sort of behind in terms of therapy.. you have to see what is comfortable and what people accept,” she explains.
Some key things Charity has learnt about therapy seeking behavior in Zimbabwe during her quest:
1. THERE IS STILL STIGMA AND/OR A GENERAL LACK OF UNDERSTANDING AROUND MENTAL HEALTH.
When the local community thinks of mental health, there is a lingering association with someone who is ‘psychotic’, according to Charity. “And yet you see that we are talking about your mental wellness which is just as important as your physical wellness.”
2. THE ENVIRONMENT MATTERS WHEN IT COMES TO THERAPY.
A lot of counseling assistance offered involves public counseling centres. But most people do not want to be seen going for therapy. Private counseling offers a concealed environment that suits their privacy need.
3. WOMEN ARE MORE OPEN TO THERAPY THAN MEN.
Majority of Charity’s clients are women. Women are more open to seeking therapy than men and this may be because culturally, there is a tendency to raise men to be strong and to not express their feelings. In the case of married couples, women eventually drag their men to join them for therapy after beginning the process on their own, says Charity.
4. THERE IS A MISUNDERSTANDING ON WHAT DEPRESSION IS.
If someone has a physical ailment, it’s more acceptable than a mental related illness. Depression should be treated as any other illness; “I really hope people can get past that. Because people with depression can get treatment and they need that support,” she says.
5. A LOT OF TEENAGERS ARE BEGINNING TO SEEK THERAPY SERVICES.
“I’ve been liking that we are getting a fair share of children coming in but it shows that people are beginning to accept that as parents, sometimes we just don’t have the know-how of how to deal with teenagers,” she explains.
Charity advocates for a preventative approach when it comes to mental health where possible, encouraging people to seek help when they feel unable to cope with daily routines or when they feel stuck.
“If they do, we can make strides, because a lot of people deteriorate into depression when it’s not necessary”
But, a lot of awareness is still needed to let people know that its actually okay to seek professional help says Charity. If you have a close friend or a family member dealing with a mental illness affirm the importance of their existence. They cannot help but feel sad and sometimes all you need to do is be there for them and just sit with them. You will not necessarily change a situation abruptly but it’s amazing what support can do. Ultimately however, they will need professional assistance.
“Your friend will listen to you, but you want someone who is trained to be able to detect trends to help you organize thoughts and deal with a situation accordingly,” Charity says.
“I really believe a healthy mind will lead to a healthy life, that’s my motto,” she says.
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