Therapy for People of Color: How to Find a Therapist Who Understands You

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face racial disparities—both in terms of mental health problems and access to mental health care—compared to white people.

In the United States, systemic barriers and inequities prevent racial and ethnic minorities from accessing mental health services. These communities are also disproportionately affected during national public health crises, such as the coronavirus pandemic. When this happens, these disparities are further exacerbated.

Moreover, with a 24/7 news cycle of BIPOC-identified people dying at the hands of police brutality, expressions of white supremacy and racist comments flooding social media, and cultural appropriations against ethnic minority groups on the rise, more BIPOC are seeking mental health treatment, according to the New York Times. Fortunately, there are resources available that specifically cater to the needs of those who are BIPOC-identified. Whether you’re looking to try therapy for the first time or searching for a new therapist, here’s how to find a provider who understands you.

Therapy for People of Color

Why is it so hard to find a BIPOC therapist?

Historical dehumanization, oppression, and violence against Black people and other people of color in the U.S. have evolved into present-day racism. In other words, U.S. history has cultivated a deep mistrust between BIPOC communities and various governmental systems, characterized by a wide range of disparities, including inadequate access to and delivery of health care.

Although BIPOCs develop mental health conditions at the same rates as their white counterparts, they experience direct traumatic stressors at higher rates. Processing individual trauma and coping with police brutality, protests, social stigma, and microaggressions, further exacerbate mental health issues among People of Color. Within the last year, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have also taken a significant toll on mental health, especially for workers of color.

While the U.S. federal government has taken steps to address the issue of racial and ethnic disparities in health care and provide cultural competency training, inequity remains prevalent in America’s health care system. According to the American Psychological Association, 83.6 percent of psychologists are white, while only 14.6 percent are Latinx, Asian, and Black people.

With that said, it’s still possible to find a therapist of color who understands you and your experiences. Help is always available, and BIPOC mental health resources and online therapy platforms can provide a safe space to explore your mental health concerns.

Should you search for a BIPOC therapist?

Although therapists specialize in a wide range of areas regardless of their background, racial disparities in mental health care can be disheartening. Identity is important, and it can feel uncomfortable to speak up about the struggles affecting BIPOC (such as systemic racism, microaggressions, and anti-blackness) to someone who has never experienced those issues.

According to the Los Angeles Times, therapy is a highly personal experience, and sharing stories, feelings, and experiences requires establishing trust between you and your therapist.

Feeling comfortable with your therapist requires an understanding of where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced, and how your identity is woven into your mental health. When you’re a Person of Color, finding a mental health professional who shares an aspect of your identity or who is also a BIPOC may be a top priority during your search.

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How can you find a BIPOC therapist?

While every person’s experience is different, working with a therapist who shares an aspect of your identity can lead to a more profound sense of trust, which is paramount when sharing intimate details of your life. To help you jumpstart your search for a BIPOC therapist, here are some tips.

  • Create a list. Before starting your search, ask yourself why you’re seeking support. Finding the right therapist begins with understanding your reasons for attending therapy. Being able to articulate your goals can help you find a therapist with experience treating similar issues.
  • Search BIPOC-specific directories. After writing down your goals, you can start searching for an inclusive mental health professional through BIPOC-specific therapist directories.
  • Interview potential fits. Now that you’ve found a few potential candidates, you can assess how they align with your needs. Don’t be afraid to reach out and schedule an initial consultation before setting up an appointment. Consider asking questions like, “What are your experiences working with BIPOC clients?” and “Do you have any specific training in working with people of color?”
  • Prepare for trial and error. Finding a therapist isn’t always easy. Sometimes, you might get a gut feeling that you’ve found the one, but other times, you’ll have to continue your search. Don’t settle for a therapist you don’t feel comfortable with.

Mental Health Resources for People of Color

If you’re unsure how to start your search, don’t worry—therapist directories, online therapy platforms, and local and national organizations can help you search for an inclusive therapist. Some helpful resources for people of color include:

  • The Loveland Foundation helps Black women and girls access mental health services. The organization runs a therapy fund and works with mental health professionals to ensure women of color can afford mental health care.
  • Therapy for Black Girls features a directory, podcast, and blog that helps African American women access mental health services.
  • Therapy for Black Men features over 70 mental health practitioners and a database of therapists and coaches for Black men.
  • Therapy in Color offers a list of clinicians and counselors dedicated to addressing mental health issues in African American, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
  • Latinx Therapy offers a search tool to find mental health professionals in your area, including bilingual providers, as well as COVID-19 resources for immigrants and undocumented folks.
  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network offers an interactive Google Map to help trans, queer, gay, and bisexual people of color find therapists of color who are affirming to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Ethel’s Club offers a safe space for Black Americans, Indigenous people, Native Americans, Asians, Latinx, and other non-white individuals in the New York area. If you’re not from New York, you can still connect with People of Color through the digital community.
  • The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation raises awareness of mental health in the African American community and helps combat stigma. Currently, the foundation is offering free virtual therapy groups for adolescents and young adults.
  • WithTherapy, an online therapy platform, connects clients to licensed mental health professionals based on their personal preferences and requirements. Whether you’re searching for someone with cultural competency training or who shares your racial or ethnic background, WithTherapy can help you find the perfect fit.

Finding the Right Therapist

Finding the right therapist requires time and effort, but putting your mental health in the right person’s hands is worth it. Working with a BIPOC therapist can help you avoid the potential of disconnect or misunderstanding in your mental health treatment by creating a safe, supportive environment for you to express your concerns.

To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional at the Therapy Group of DC. Whether you’re searching for someone who shares your ethnicity, race, or spirituality, we’ll connect you to someone you feel comfortable with.

One of the experienced, compassionate therapists at the Therapy Group of DC will help you navigate your mental health concerns, find healthy ways to cope with stress and find the mental health support you need.

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