WACO, Texas — Finding people of color in mental health professions can be a challenge, but it's also what inspired one Waco woman to start her own practice.
Sharon Miles decided at a young age she wanted to become a therapist to offer others the help she once needed herself.
"It's the only career I've ever considered and so once I figured out what a therapist was, that's what I worked towards being," she told 25 News.
She now owns Milestone Psychotherapy and works to help break the stigma around mental health care.
"Your mental health means everything," Miles said. "If your mental health is not functioning correctly, it can affect your body, your brain, your relationships. Mental health is the stem of it all."
Tinyka Jones is just one of the many people Miles has been able to help through the years. They met after Jones lost a close friend and she said working together has really changed her life.
"It's been awesome, almost life-changing," Jones said. "It did start out as grief counseling and turned into an evolution of who I am and what I aspire to be. I started discussing goals I had with her in my life and goals as a person. We've been working through those."
Jones said when looking for a therapist she specifically wanted someone with her shared experience.
"I knew that I needed help," she said. "I knew that I needed to talk to somebody, but I did want it to be somebody that could relate to me on all aspects of who I am as far as my culture, my gender, as well as my color."
Miles said the mindset is not uncommon as many are less likely to open up to people they don't think will understand them.
"Being black, indigenous, people of color most of your life is what will people think," she explained. "Although many of would say no that's not what we're thinking and we're not choosing to consider someone else's opinion, what matters most is our own culture's opinion, our own ethnicity's opinion."
The fear of judgment is just one reason people might not consider therapy. Miles said others include pride, as many don't want to come across as weak with another being a strong dependence on religion in minority communities, which leaves many people trying to pray away mental health troubles.
"Mental health is just so stigmatized so much," Miles said. "Still today there are children who will ask their parents can they come to therapy, can they talk to a therapist, and because the parents don't believe in it, the child doesn't get help."
Miles now hopes to help break that stigma through her work and sharing her own story.