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The Short Version: When things don’t work out with a guy, it can take a while to find your center and remember the value you had before things went south. Often, friends may try to help by taking you out to a club or bringing over ice cream, but it can be much more effective to talk with a licensed therapist to help you move past the hurt. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Founder of Therapy for Black Girls, has the experience and the training to help women start over and live their best lives. She specializes in listening and supporting young black women with individual therapy sessions in the Atlanta area as well as through her popular podcast.
Anyone who’s experienced heartbreak understands that it can throw your life off track. I’ve had more than my share of breakups, and they’re never easy. Even when it’s my idea to end the relationship, I still hurt.
Some of the ways I’ve dealt with heartbreak are ceasing to eat, crying a lot, and spending too much time alone. My work may suffer and my friends worry about me. Usually, my dearest friends will force-feed me pizza or ice cream, and make me laugh long enough to forget my troubles. They may even try to drag me out to a club or a bar, but I don’t like to drink when I’m feeling sad.
When you break up with someone, that dream fades, and you realize that you’ve created an unrealistic expectation of what happily-ever-after looks like. You may even start to wonder if you’ll ever find true love — or whether you deserve it. Iit certainly doesn’t help to see pictures of other happy people — including your ex — on social media.
If you find yourself experiencing those feelings, a trained therapist can help you snap out of it much faster than ice cream, tears, or clubs.
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is an expert in these situations. She’s a licensed psychologist who founded Therapy For Black Girls, and she specializes in helping young black women move forward in their lives after failed relationships.
“Most of my clients are black women from 21 to 35 who may be in different stages of a breakup. Some are recent, and others may be ready to get back into dating after a while but are a little gun-shy,” she said. “With some clients, I’m working to help set boundaries in relationships. I help them identify what is important to them and teach them how to create boundaries surrounding those things.”
Dr. Joy said she was attracted to the field of psychology because she already had one of the most important qualities of a successful therapist: She cared what others had to say.
“I’m naturally curious and a good listener. It was a very natural pathway for me because, at the core, a therapist is a good listener,” she said.
Once she earned her license in 2009, she began working on campuses with college-aged women. Dr. Joy found the women frequently struggled with breakups, which often included working to recover from depression. Those transitions can be difficult, especially on a college student, and Dr. Joy’s training and sympathetic ear helped.
Soon, she narrowed the focus of her practice to black women — particularly millennials — since it can be difficult for that particular demographic to find a therapist who relates to them and can help them through a challenging situation.
The most popular program she offers is called, “Breakups Suck!” and is designed for women who find themselves scrolling their Facebook feed, clicking on Instagram stories, and, as a result, feeling depressed.
Her process takes clients from assessment to action. First, she works with them to take a more in-depth look at their lives, including understanding what happened in the relationship, and talks to them about what they can expect for their future. Working through these issues helps them let go of the ex. Through the program, Dr. Joy helps participants develop the confidence to date again.
“I help them realize the connection between the pain they feel and the exposure to their ex on social media.” — Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Founder of Therapy for Black Girls
“Social media is a common theme because it makes breakups so much more difficult than they were 10 years ago. We are so connected to our partners on social media,” she said. “A breakup can mean unfriending, blocking, and cutting out mutual friends. The whole process can take a lot of time because it’s very complicated.”
Dr. Joy said that many of her clients are most reticent to let their former partners go on social media. They may not want to see him or take his calls or texts, but they still want to keep up with his Facebook profile and Instagram stories.
“I help them realize the connection between the pain they feel and the exposure to their ex on social media,” she said.
Dr. Joy also started a popular podcast — which already has nearly 70 episodes — as a way to reach even more young black women.
On the podcast, she tackles a wide variety of topics, including improving communication with your partner or why to consider couples therapy. The podcast helps listeners understand what to expect after a breakup, and includes mock therapy sessions with fictional characters to make Dr. Joy’s advice relatable to the situations she describes.
“Friendship is a big topic. How to make new friends or how to end a friendship that has run its course,” she said. “There are so many different topics. It just depends on what people are interested in learning.”
All of her podcast episodes are archived on her website, as is another free resource for people throughout the country: a therapist directory. If you don’t live in the Atlanta area, but are ready to work with a therapist, Dr. Joy has a curated list of nearly 800 therapists nationwide whom she recommends.
As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Bradford approaches her clients and their situations with a solid foundation of research and theory — but she also adds a bit of her personality.
“I do a good job of balancing support and challenges,” she said. “I do a good job cultivating a trusting relationship with my clients so that, when it’s time to challenge them, I can say, ‘Hey, you said you want to do this, but your behaviors are not matching up with that. Let’s talk about how we can change something or why you are still stuck in this process.'”
Dr. Joy said she has found that clients can handle that challenge a better when they know it’s coming from a place of concern. They understand she’s not judgmental, and that she wants them to meet the goals they set for themselves.
To help more black women lead their best lives, Dr. Joy is working to organize half-day retreats, live events, and small group sessions in the upcoming months.
“I went into the field to help people live the best lives possible,” she said. “With my podcast and the Therapy Directory, I impact and connect with more people than I ever could through my individual practice. That’s so cool.”