The Black Girl In Om List: JOY HARDEN BRADFORD, phd

Interview and introduction by Lauren Ash. Photography courtesy Joy Harden Bradford, PhD.


The Therapist the World Needs More Of


From creating a therapy directory providing a collection of culturally competent and high quality mental health professionals to support us in our wellness journeys, to a weekly podcast offering insight on everything from what to do when your trust has been violated in a relationship to creating affirming spaces for QPOC, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is here to help black women ascend. As the founder of Therapy for Black Girls, she has already reached countless black women and girls who may otherwise not have had access to these kinds of conversations. Dr. Joy has her eyes set on even more growth with her platform (pray she visits your city with an event next year!). Praise dance. Pssst, for anyone identifying with Molly from Insecure (either the initial hesitancy to begin your search for a therapist, or the vulnerability it takes to be completely open with your therapist) just press play, love. Healing doesn’t always feel good, but it’s always worth it. Connect with Dr. Joy on Instagram @HelloDrJoy and receive loving affirmations and the latest podcast news over at @TherapyForBlackGirls.

what is your go-to practice for grounding yourself?

Going outside, when weather permits. I’m in Atlanta, most of the time weather is favorable. (Laughs) Going outside and feeling the sunshine on my skin is really helpful for me. Even sitting on my porch watching cars past is something that takes me out of the busyness of the phone ringing and kids yelling. That’s really helpful for me.

What was one of your biggest challenges in creating Therapy for black girls and how did you rise above it? Or, how are you still working through rising above it?

I don't know that there was anything difficult about creating it because like the creation of it felt so organic. It involved things that I was naturally doing. It involved things that I was naturally doing and related to things I wanted to share with people, but as it has grown, that's where I feel like more of the struggle is: how to manage it now that it is this big. So, you know, it felt difficult to figure out adding people to my team because, of course, all of this has been like my own creation, but you can't do it all by yourself. Figuring out the right people to hire and people who you can really trust with your vision I think is important. So that was a bit of a growing pain.

But I also think that because of what I do in the time that we are in, it has felt really difficult sometimes for me to manage the expectations of what I feel like the community needs from me versus managing my own sadness and anxiety about what's happening in the world. In particular, I always kind of come back to right after Charlottesville happened, you know. I felt like my community was going to be expecting an episode that next week to like help them to make sense of it and to manage for themselves, but I just didn't want to do it. I felt so weighed down by it. I felt like I don’t want to have to keep doing this. And I did do it. And it seems that those times make it difficult for me to show up the way my community needs me to.

And was that because you were still processing charlottesville and you wanted to honor your own time?

Yes, I was so disgusted like that that kind of thing was continuing to happen, you know. I felt like even just a few weeks before that I had done an episode about something similar. I can't remember if that was before or after Las Vegas, but those things were in very close proximity. I just felt really drained by what was happening in the world, but also felt like I needed to be able to give my communities ways to manage also.

That makes perfect sense. Thank you. What is your advice to other black women when it comes to expanding their vision or their purpose?

Make sure that you are paying attention to yourself and your why. click to tweet Especially with the way social media is and how connected we are to it. Sometimes I think it is really easy to kind of get lost in shiny object syndrome and to feel like, oh I want to do this thing and I want to do that thing. You know, all of these ideas sound really good, but those aren't always [necessarily] connected to what your vision was at the core. So I think it's really important to always be grounded so you don't get caught up in trying to do new fancy things that really don't honor what you intentionally set out to do.

How do you Polish your inner voice to ensure that the dialogue is one of abundance?

I try to really be quiet. I'm active on social media but I feel like only as much as I need to be for the work that I need to do. Because I even find myself sometimes just really distracted because there's so much amazing stuff that black women are doing right now you want to cheer people and be supportive. But I think sometimes you can get lost in that. So I really try to just be quiet and make sure that I am staying connected to the work that I feel like I need to be doing for Therapy for Black Girls.

I have two little ones and so quiet time isn't always the easiest thing to come by when they're home. But I will stay up later, you know, after everyone's asleep. And I then think about, okay, what did I do today? What kind of work do I need to keep doing to kind of stay connected to what I needed to do?

What is the most powerful lesson you've learned about healing The Feminine Mind, body, and soul?

How powerful community is. You know, sometimes we get messages about self care and yes you do need to take care of yourself, but I also think that there is some real power that comes from joining with other black women that also fuel you. Care like that can also be incredibly nurturing and healing. You were communing with other people who are all connected by wanting the same kinds of things for each other.

You just literally spoke to the two closest friendships I have with black women and like we always talk about how we found, we discovered, what self care looked like first and foremost with our relationships with one another and then from there we started our individual journeys into it. What are your foundations for healthy relationships? And in addition to that, how do you deal with people in your life who might not be meeting your needs for healthy relationships?

So boundaries are incredibly important to me. I feel like I'm always preaching that. I don't think we often know what they are and how to honor ourselves in boundaries. I think a lot of times we interpret that word as if it is a negative thing. Like, I'm being aggressive or keeping people away, but it really is so that you can have more of the nurturing kinds of relationships that you actually do want to have and not the messy, toxic ones.

For me, I have some very long standing relationships; I am still friends with people that I have gone to high school with and college. Staying connected to people who have known me before I was ever Dr. Joy has been incredibly important. But, [I] also [value] making new relationships with colleagues and you know, other people across the country who are doing similar kinds of work. That has been good, too, bringing a new energy.

When relationships feel like they have fizzled out for some reason or it just doesn't feel like we're in sync anymore, I think it has been really easy for me to honor the place that that person had in my life. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, right? It just means okay, this is not the place for this right now, it doesn't mean that it never could come back, or that they're bad or I'm bad. I think really being able to honor that space has helped me when I've needed to separate myself from relationships that weren't a good fit anymore.

Let's talk about expansion. So what is one area of your life where you are calling in and energy of expansion?

So I think that next year will be a lot about events for Therapy for Black Girls and I have been kind of nervous about that just because it feels like it requires travel and planning and you know, just all of these things feel very different than being able to work from my bedroom or record my podcasts in the closet. This will require like different level of involvement with other people. So I feel like that is an area where I will be expanding in the near future.

That's amazing! And then last question is, if you had to describe your journey from root to rise in three words, what would they be?

Organic. Community-driven and powerful.

I love it! You snuck in a hyphenated phrase, an extra word. That's beautiful. And from what I know about you, that's very, very true.

Receive something meaningful from this phenomenal woman? These 20 black women embody our mission fully. And their journeys over the past year illuminate what it means to root to rise. Share with us on social how you plan on doing the same in the year to come. #BGIORootToRise