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It has often been thought that the local bartender at your neighborhood pub made a good counselor for the common man. And then there is Barbershop therapy. It is about a 45 minute ‘on the couch’ therapy session so to speak. Some barbers in the south are capitalizing on time spent with their customers by discussing tough issues that their communities are facing. In both of these professions there is quite a bit of contact with people dealing with ‘stuff’.

As a bartender the beverage of choice, alcohol, is classified as a downer by the FDA. It influences emotional responses that move people to open up, often in a depressed sort of way, but nonetheless alcohol has always been considered a sort of truth serum. In the barber shop you also have open conversation. Often in lower income areas where the struggles are more clear, hairstylists have become superb discussion facilitators concerning local neighborhood issues. They mediate conversations dealing with frustrations, concerns, and questions customers have about their communities. Some even become mentors to the local youth whose hair they cut. It is also a great place to have a laugh and have your spirits lifted. However, I contend to add another ‘bar’ to create the trifecta of unlicensed therapists, the Barista.

In the barista world we serve a drug commonly known as an upper, caffeine. I know that sounds bad, but coffee for centuries has been the central beverage for many get togethers. It has been a staple in the religious community for well over half a millennia. Though energy is a side-effect produced from caffeine intake, intense focus can also be a byproduct. Focus can lead to deep, creative and inspiring ideas. I personally think that some of my best moments of creativity came while sitting with a friend, drinking a cup of coffee, figuring out the next big venture.

Mental health in our culture is becoming more and more prevalent and recognized as a top issue for the human race. I say the entire human race because it is one that effects all ages, all genders, all cultures, all parts of society. I would venture to say that no one can escape struggling with mental health at some point in their life. We always discuss physical health, like losing weight and such, but we forget how much more important our mental health is. It is opportunities that arise, often at a bar, a barber shop, or a coffee shop, that we in these professions consider blessings (some maybe curses). It is in these opportunities that we are hopeful people will be willing, if necessary, to unwind and decompress so as not to let the pressures of life build up to a destructive level.

I think of the 80s sitcom, Cheers, and the relationships between the customers and staff. It was often dysfunctional (but life is messy sometimes), and it was also healthy. Cheers was a show that demonstrated the complexity of the neighborhood bar or pub where the upper class rubbed shoulders with the working class. It was where gender issues were discussed and sometimes argued. It was a place where race, economics, politics, religion, sports, etc., were all up for conversation, and sometimes debate. Yet in the end people were able to vent frustrations, ask tough questions, or even walk through difficult situations together as a community, as friends.

Baristas have a wonderful opportunity before them. They are the ‘new bar’. They are the new unlicensed therapist, or at the very least an available ear. Blessings!