Meet Asha Tarry. She’s an author, an award-winning community mental health advocate, psychotherapist, and certified life coach. Asha has 20 years of experience providing evaluations, diagnoses, treatment, and life-enhancing skills to children, adults, families, and couples. She continues to demonstrate that therapy works and that mindfulness is a holistic way of healing oneself on a continuous basis.
A significant portion of Asha’s work has been conducted in marginalized communities with survivors of intergenerational trauma as well as with professionals in search of a fulfilling life. She’s written and spoken for several publications, which once included one of the nation’s largest online medical news outlets in the black community, BlackDoctor.org.
Asha’s work as a mindfulness practitioner has been utilized by professionals in the United States, Asia, and Europe with partnerships through Thrive Global, an Arianna Huffington company, to prevent employees from experiencing workplace burnout.
Asha’s goal is to enlighten, educate, and create safe spaces for everyone, from children to the elderly to live more emotionally empowered and mentally resilient.
With a willingness to learn openly about yourself and the world, one begins to see what’s going on
How did you get started as a therapist? What motivated you to get into this profession?
I went to school initially for nursing. I knew since the age of four that I wanted to be a registered nurse. But, after 2 unhappy years of studying in my major I changed my track to Human Services. From there, I proceeded to grad school and obtained a Masters degree in Social Work from Fordham University School of Social Work in New York. I always wanted to help people, but as much as I learned from working for nonprofit and for-profit organizations in mental health I couldn’t do it as freely and as creatively until I founded my own company, Behavioral Health Consulting Services in 2014.
What is the greatest myth about therapy?
The greatest myth about therapy is that a therapist will fix your problems, in a few sessions mind you, and that most of our issues will be resolved from that immediately after.
How can we apply mindfulness in their daily lives, especially right now with the current news cycle and the anxiety it brings to many of us?
Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental moment to moment awareness. This can be practiced now and at any time. The goal is not to get rid of the unwanted feelings, but instead to observe them. Once you notice what you’re seeing, feeling, and thinking you can be more conscious of what you may want to do about it, and in a more responsible way.
As a therapist, I help clients use Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques which includes observing patterns of thinking and how thinking affects their emotions and then their behaviors. With a willingness to learn openly about yourself and the world, one begins to see what’s going on, learn skills on how to regulate dysregulated mood changes and radical acceptance modifications to be more responsive to their needs and environment.
The murder of George Floyd has brought grief all over our nation and many do not know how to cope or reconcile this grief. What are some tips to dealing with this news and the issues it has highlighted?
There are a few ways I usually recommend people work this through, and that includes observing what you feel, and putting words to it if possible. Sometimes, exercising your right to become more active in your own life with social politics helps people feel empowered. Also, try not to judge or direct people on what steps they should take to feel relieved. Instead, help them by reminding them to question what they’re doing with their time and maybe ask how they want to feel so they can be more conscious of what they choose to do with their feelings. If it feels like that’s too much to do, then be clear about your boundaries. If being too involved triggers flashbacks of other traumas, limit your intake of the news and ground yourself in activities that relax you, or bring in pleasure such as listening to calming sounds, meditating, or writing out how you feel.
Another helpful counter to perpetual sadness is working actively to increase serotonin, that’s the joyful chemical in our brain. That might come from moving your body to do things that stimulate other senses such as your eyes and ears with different programs to watch that make you laugh, or sounds that make you feel that happy feeling.
Recognize the sorrow that people have and be compassionate, which includes listening without judging people’s suffering and how long it may last.
How can we manage grief about the systemic treatment of people of color?
Recognize the sorrow that people have and be compassionate, which includes listening without judging people’s suffering and how long it may last. You can try to imagine how you would feel if you were in their shoes. Ask questions about how you may be of service to injustice. Then, show up and do that as often as possible. Possibly, encourage people you know who also want to help to do it too.
Be mindful of your intention, first.
Try not to pity others, but instead be understanding and be invested in one’s own implicit behaviors. The goal may be to find other ways to use grief to do something meaningful on a consistent basis.
Do you have any tips for continuing to do the work of anti-racism and avoiding allyship fatigue?
Do independent studying. None of us should stop learning simply because we’re out of school. Much of what we learn in school is limited and directed at test taking. There’s so much more we can do to learn about the world, other cultures, sociology and humanity. Go to museums, search online for podcasts created by people of color and books written by white people on dismantling racism. Join affinity groups that are actively engaging white people and others in deconstructing internalized racism. But also be reasonable with how much you can purposefully dedicate to one or more things at a time.
Do it patiently, but consistently in small to moderate ways at first, so you avoid fatigue and burnout. It’s a process, but still try to remain empathic and curious about what it takes to do ally work, but with the exception of leaning on people of color to direct you or sympathize with you. That’s on the shoulders of everyone involved to do their part to take care of themselves.
Have you encountered any challenges as a female black therapist that you’d like our readers to know about?
Challenges with racism? I’ve encountered lots of microaggressions in my life, some I may have been unaware of even as they were happening. Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University in New York City, who popularized the word, “microaggression” and its sub-categories: microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations informs us that these insidious things go on daily in places where white people and people of color converge.
I’ve been asked about places I visit in New York where my family lives that are typically outside of the color lines from white people. The surprise is from their imagination of where I wouldn’t typically be seen, as a person of color, in specific racialized communities. I’ve been given the surprise looks by whites when I articulate my thoughts on world culture. On the contrary, I’ve also faced challenges at times as a small business owner with people of color. I’ve encountered microaggressions with disregarding my work policies.
I’ve also been invisibilized, too, which means I’ve been treated at times as if I’m not in the room or not a person of color when I’m present to conversations about “other” people as though I’m not in the category of “other.” It’s subtle, but it’s evident to me. And that is what Dr. Sue often discusses about the nature of racism; it can be covert and overt and at the very same time go unnoticed by white people.
Tell us a bit about your book Adulting as a Millennial: A Guide to Everything Your Parents Didn’t Teach You
It’s a book that I was excited to write and it’s for millennials. It’s a guide to helping them navigate the world with more intention and meaning. I used parts of my life and how I transformed my work, my income and my relationships to live with more love, joy and intention in my life. My goal is to reach 100k people with this book by Dec. 31, 2020. I want this book to be used for self-discovery and enhancing EQ in social and work settings. The 3 tenets of the book are: tenacity, integrity and mindful action. I offer questions on how to examine one’s behaviors, relationships and emotions to motivate oneself.
One thing you can’t live without.
Love and affection. To me, they go together.