Therapy for People of Color

Time and time again, research shows that mental health does not discriminate based on race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Everyone is equally deserving of mental health care, and everyone should feel safe, supported, accepted when they reach out to a therapist.
Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the reality for much of the BIPOC community. Therapists work in mental health because they want to help others, but there are no requirements for education on cultural or racial diversity to become a counselor. Professionals who haven’t personally experienced discrimination or prejudice often don’t realize the impact that inequality has on mental health and on mental health treatment.
Therapy for people of color aims to address this problem. The BIPOC community faces the same mental health struggles as white people in addition to the challenges they experience from living within a system that has historically been designed to disadvantage them. When you work with a BIPOC therapist, you can trust that you’re speaking with someone who empathizes with you.
In therapy for people of color, racial and ethnic issues are at the foundation of the therapeutic approach. You can work through any issue you’re experiencing during your sessions, but you’ll know that your therapist understands the impact that race and ethnicity may have on your life experiences.

Representation in Therapy Matters

BIPOC representation in healthcare matters immensely. Everyone should see themselves represented in every facet of life, especially in something as important as mental health care. When you see people who look like you involved in the mental health field, the idea of going to therapy can seem much more inviting. Because you see yourself represented, you’ll feel like you belong there, which will lead to a higher level of comfort in the session.

Representation also matters because it encourages cultural sensitivity throughout the entire field. As a professional, if all of your colleagues have a similar background and life experience, it’s unlikely that anyone will challenge your beliefs or your practices. Talking about representation, prejudice, and sensitivity is essential, though, and having a broader diversity in the workplace encourages these conversations. Not only do BIPOC therapists bring a valuable perspective to their work with clients, but many POC voices have been so important in educating other therapists on these topics.

BIPOC Are Underrepresented in the Mental Health Field

BIPOC therapists make up a disproportionately small percentage of mental health professionals. Being a person of color does not mean that you have to work with a BIPOC therapist. However, some BIPOC seek out therapy for people of color and would prefer to work with a BIPOC counselor. In some communities, though, there may not be as many options.

It’s critical that therapists, especially private practice owners, are aware of the disparities in the field. By learning about culturally sensitive therapy and listening to BIPOC voices in the mental health profession, all counselors can do their part to make therapy more inclusive for everyone.

POC May Face Barriers When Seeking Mental Health Support

One of the most common concerns that therapists for POC hear from their clients is that they’ve tried counseling before and have had a bad experience. Sometimes, conscious and unconscious biases from the therapist affect the session and the therapeutic relationship, leading to lasting negative effects for the client. This is an unfortunately common experience in all forms of healthcare, and it can lead to an overall feeling of hesitation to engage in treatment again.
The field of mental health in particular has a distressing history. In the early days of psychology, leaders in the field held blatantly racist and harmful views of the mental health experiences of BIPOC. Their symptoms were dismissed and invalidated, and the knowledge of this history makes many POC today worried about its lasting impact on the therapy profession.
Cultural barriers can sometimes affect the experience in therapy, too. While “BIPOC” refers to a wide range of communities, those who identify with different cultures may feel misunderstood by their therapist. If cultural differences prevent you and your therapist from connecting, it can be difficult to feel safe and comfortable in the session.

Culturally sensitive therapists are aware of the barriers that BIPOC may face when seeking counseling. They’re empathetic to your past experiences and will approach therapy with knowledge and compassion. BIPOC therapists are passionate about making therapy accessible and equitable for everyone, so their goal is to address and dismantle the obstacles that people of color face when searching for mental health care.

Honor and Validate Your Experiences with Therapy for People of Color

If you’re a person of color and have felt concerned or worried about going to counseling, consider seeking out BIPOC therapy. Your identity can affect your life experiences, and you deserve to work with a therapist who understands this.
Therapy for people of color addresses all of the mental health goals that other therapeutic philosophies address. Whether you’re struggling with a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma, stress, or any other concern, your therapist is ready to help. BIPOC therapy isn’t just about issues of race or culture. You and your counselor can explore any mental health goal that is relevant to your personal growth.
You can also use a wide variety of therapeutic techniques in therapy for people of color. You and your counselor will decide what forms of treatment are most appropriate for your goals. For example, your therapist might recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which is one of the most common types of counseling for depression and anxiety. Many therapists incorporate grounding and mindfulness techniques into their work, too. Any approach is accessible in therapy for people of color.
However, therapy for people of color approaches counseling with a racially and culturally sensitive lens. Your therapist is educated on how race, ethnicity, and culture can affect your experiences, and they’re aware of how race may impact the dynamic of the therapeutic relationship. They won’t make assumptions about your background, but they’ll bring an open mind and a higher degree of understanding and sensitivity to the session.
Like with any form of therapy, it can take some time to find the counselor who’s the right fit for you. The BIPOC community is vast, and different therapists within that umbrella will have different philosophies. You can talk to a potential therapist before scheduling a session to learn more about their approach to treatment. If your beliefs align with theirs, you’ll hopefully feel comfortable scheduling a session. If not, don’t give up your search. The right therapist for you is out there, and it’s worth searching to find a counselor who will help you reach your goals.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in therapy for people of color, Menachem Psychotherapy Group is happy to help. Our therapists bring a wide variety of perspectives to our practice, and we take a culturally sensitive approach to treatment. We address depression, anxiety, addiction, family issues, and a wide variety of other mental health issues. To learn more about Menachem Psychotherapy Group’s services, please contact us to schedule a free consultation.


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