When seeking a therapist, it is natural to want to talk to someone who looks like you – even if it is on the most basic level. For People of Color, finding a therapist with the same cultural background who is also of color is a significant step toward a fruitful relationship. Culturally competent therapy allows you as a client a safer and more productive environment to address your issues. Below are just a few reasons that using a therapist of color can be beneficial for your mental wellness.
Relatability – When working with another person of color, some cultural references can be used to address pressing issues. Some of these cultural references can lift a tense or serious moment. Though there is individuality across colors and cultures, there are also shared experiences across the diaspora. These experiences act as a kind of validation for clients of color and can make conversations less uncomfortable.
Trust – A result of your shared experiences with a therapist of color is trust. It is beyond the basic level of confidence you put in your therapist to show competence and to keep their oath not to share confidential information. This type of trust also includes an understanding that you can share details about racial or societal issues such as microaggressions. There is an added benefit in being able to share experiences without having to go deep into the cultural context. This allows you to see the therapy less as confiding in a stranger and more like telling someone who can relate how you’re feeling while sharing insightful information and observations.
Freedom – Both relatability and trust lead to a sense of freedom that you can experience with your therapist of color. The shared experiences, challenges, and mutual understanding allow you to be free in your conversations, which is how you get to the root of your goals for therapy.
As you start or continue the process of searching for a therapist of color, know that it will take some work. Depending on where you live, there may be a limited number of Black therapists or therapists of color that you can see, but this is not a reason to stop looking. Some steps that can help:
● Look up online directories created specifically to highlight therapists of color
● Ask organizations you’re contacting if they have available therapists of color on staff
● Ask friends and associates if they can recommend a therapist of color to you
● If you cannot find a therapist of color, here are two things to do. One, feel free to ask the therapist you are working with if they have any experience working with clients of color. Two, ask how they address any particular issues you may want to bring up.