When Berthina McGill noticed a need for minority clinicians in the Gainesville community, she immediately got to work on filling in the gaps.
McGill – who has over 15 years of experience providing mental health services – established her private practice, Appendix Inc., in Gainesville last October. Starting in early February, the 38-year-old licensed mental health counselor will offer two discounted therapy groups for Black women and members of the LGBTQ community, respectively.
Sessions for the Black women’s therapy group will begin Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. The sessions for the LGBTQ group will begin Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. Meetings will be held weekly and in person at 2790 NW 43rd St., Suite 100, for $30 per session. Masks are required, and COVID-19 guidelines will be enforced.
McGill said during the past year, she noticed a rising demand for therapy from her clients and the Gainesville community. She said many of her clients have expressed a particular appreciation for their sessions as a form of social interaction since many lost the ability to see friends or family due to the pandemic. The political climate of 2020 only added to the desire to communicate with peers in a safe place.
“This group is something to express any emotion, to feel loved and motivated and to feel better about ourselves,” McGill said.
McGill’s decision to create group sessions specifically for Black women and members of the LGBTQ community stemmed largely from requests from her own clients, she said. Group therapy – and therapy as a whole – is a passion of hers, she said; so when people approached her concerned about the slim options for identity-specific group sessions in Gainesville, she eagerly took on the challenge.
“I definitely have a goal of having different group sessions,” she explained. “I want to see the needs of the community, and then we can narrow them down.”
In addition to the discounted group sessions, McGill said she also offers individual sessions at a price lower than most other local services in order to avoid cost being a deterrent for those seeking therapy. Having a high salary, she said, is not what draws her to work in mental health counseling.
“I’m here to be there for the community, be there for the people,” she said. “That’s what brings me pleasure.”
Though the discounted sessions are currently aimed at specific marginalized communities, McGill believes all people can benefit from therapy, which offers an outlet for open communication without fear of judgement. McGill said she strives to be that ear or someone to talk to, from a clinical perspective.
LaNya Lee, a 20-year-old UF psychology junior, plans to participate in both of McGill’s upcoming group therapy sessions.
Lee said there is a noticeable lack of affordable mental health services catered toward Black women and LGBTQ people and spaces in Gainesville exclusive to these communities in general. As these groups compose some of the most marginalized communities not only in the area but the United States, Lee said facilitating these safe spaces is especially important.
“Living in Gainesville and being at a predominantly white institute, it can be hard to be surrounded by situations where you might not feel safe or comfortable,” Lee said. “It’s crucial to have spaces where these people can come together and feel like they’re welcomed and loved and cared for.”
Providing a space where individuals from marginalized communities can be authentically themselves and process what they’re going through, Lee said, is one of the prime goals of McGill’s upcoming group sessions.
Lee said similar therapy groups centered on transgender people or the Black community as a whole could also be beneficial in the future. Lee said they hope such opportunities would help these communities survive and process current global events.
For Lee, therapy serves as a bouncing-off point to facilitate open discussion and get difficult topics off their chest, and clients interested in McGill’s group will be provided with a safe space, Lee said.
Those interested in securing a spot can contact McGill at Berthina@yourappendix.com or (352) 470-0601.
Contact Veronica Nocera at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.
Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine.