Kiva Harper is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) specializing in trauma-focused psychotherapy. Kiva has shared her insights globally, including presenting for the Government of Bermuda, and giving the keynote address at a National Association of Social Workers Conference. Kiva is helping people from all walks of life work through their trauma to live safe and fulfilled lives. In this interview, Kiva shares her personal journey to becoming a mental health professional, and some of the key steps we can take to improve mental health for professional women of color.
Did you always know this was the field you wanted to work in?
Not always. I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn't know how until I was almost done with undergrad. I got my start interning at the Dallas County District Attorney's in the Family Violence Division. My job was to take affidavits for protective orders from survivors of domestic violence. That's when I realized I wanted to help people who had – or were currently experiencing – trauma by offering them therapy as a tool for healing. I started my career working at a domestic violence crisis center.
What are some of the most common mental health issues plaguing professional women of color?
From my work, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the more common mental health challenges for women of color. These are often overlooked or misdiagnosed because women of color often experience the symptoms differently than others.
In your opinion, what is the relationship between mental health and confidence?
Mental health symptoms often distort reality, which in turn may cause us to question and doubt ourselves. Self-confidence thrives when we are emotionally healthy.
Why is it important to have more therapists and mental health specialists of color?
People generally gravitate to therapists they can relate to on some level. I have had years of training in treating trauma, yet most of my clients choose me because they see my brown face on my website. Additionally, therapists of color are able to identify mental health diagnoses that might otherwise be missed in women of color.
Do you think there is a link between representation and confidence?
Absolutely! I immediately thought of that beautiful young girl looking up at that painting of Michelle Obama. Women of color don't always see ourselves favorably represented in the media. When we see other WOC being amazing, it fuels our confidence to know we can be amazing, too! Representation really does matter.
What can we do on a daily basis to cultivate a sense of self-care and mental health?
We can – and should – be intentional about cultivating self-care. Self-care is so much more than pedicures and massages. Each day, we can set our intentions for the day, practice gratitude, and set the boundaries needed to protect our energy.
How can we do a better job of supporting the health and well-being of black and brown women?
The most important thing we can do to support the health and well-being of Black and Brown women is to openly and candidly discuss mental health, which will, in turn, reduce the stigma. We also need to check on one another and have honest conversations when we notice someone is not okay. Finally, we must talk to our children about mental health. Doing so helps to normalize these kinds of conversations.