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  • Writer's picturePhebe Brako-Owusu, LMFT

Going to Therapy is not a Family Betrayal

Silence and secrets have a place in most families and in many immigrant families, the need for secrecy can come from things like fear of judgment, fear of immigration authorities, in addition to the usual family dynamics. The therapy room is supposed to be a safe place. I say “supposed” because it’s a place created by humans and humans are imperfect. Also I’ve been in therapy spaces that didn’t always feel safe for me as a Black female immigrant and a therapist. Secrecy is a family value rooted in the desire to protect. So going to therapy might feel weird because the root of your struggles might lie within your family and talking about them might feel like betrayal. It might feel like you’re putting the family business out there. Your secrets are safe with your therapist though. They have a legal and ethical obligation to keep what you say in the room (unless there’s a risk of harm to self or others, child or elderly abuse). Even if your therapist is a part of your immigrant community, they can’t see your mom at a party and say “Eheeeeee you’re the one trying to force your daughter to get married when she’s not ready eh?” They also can’t go talking about your parents being undocumented for example. Things like that would cost them their license.


Going to therapy and talking about your family is okay. You’re welcome to share all the struggles you’re having with them. It’s this openness that can lead the way to your healing. You’re also welcome to talk about the things you love about your family and your dreams for them.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you’re not strong. Strength is relative and a value you can define for yourself. Strength can mean admitting you could use some support from a professional.

Going to therapy can mean learning to solidify or explore your personal and family values.

There’s a space here for you on my couch. Contact me if you’d like to take a seat with Phebe.

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