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BIPOC: How to find the right therapist

Finding a therapist is hard. Period. But for those of us who identify as BIPOC, we have some added layers of difficulty. In a world where most mental and behavioral health providers are heterosexual white women and men, we find ourselves in a situation where our therapist most likely has a very different experience of the world than we do.

I recommend using websites such as Psychology Today to find a therapist, as it is a very common advertising service for all behavioral health professionals. There are also other websites that are more specialized in the types of therapists and professionals that you find listed on the platform. For example, South Asian is a directory specifically geared towards finding a therapist that identifies as South Asian.

After you have found a few therapists to choose from, it’s good to ask them for a quick phone call to learn more about their practice. My phone calls with potential clients last about 15 minutes and I provide this service free of charge. To give you an idea of what the conversation should look like, below are some suggestions for what look for in and to ask of your potential therapist:

* A therapist that is actively practicing anti-racism. Ask your therapist about the impact of racism on mental health and emotional well-being. Also, how often do seek out additional education regarding racism? How do they ensure that they are equipped to provide culturally competent services to individuals of different backgrounds?

* Someone who understands intersectionality; meaning, how all the parts of your identity come together and influence your experience of the world. For example, an unmarried transgender person who identifies as a Chinese American woman has a different experience of the world than an individual who identifies as a heterosexual Black male with three children. Does the therapist understand the nuances of being Chinese American and also transgender? Is the therapist knowledgeable about the experience of Black men in America? Can the therapist speak to the unique struggles of Black fathers?

* Therapy that acknowledges historical trauma and the effect it has on your therapy. A therapist that acknowledges systemic racism is a must. Ask your potential therapist how they help their clients to cope with these issues.

* A therapist you trust- listen to your gut. If you don’t click, it’s not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit.

* Think about your cultural background and what values and norms may impact you. For example, Eastern cultures tend to emphasize family or community more than the individual. How does that play into what your goals are for therapy? Does the therapist have any experience working with a family/community focus in individual therapy?

Take time to sit and consider what questions you may ask of your therapist. The above questions are by no means the only ones you could ask. Therapy is not just important for your emotional well-being, but in many ways this is a financial investment in YOU. Insurance or private pay, you are spending your hard earned money. Make sure it’s well-spent! *** The content provided within this blog post is not a substitute for therapy. It is intended for educational and entertainment purposes. If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health emergency contact 911 or the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You may also visit the nearest Emergency Room.

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