This piece is part of a franchise called 'You Good?,' where we’re dismantling the stigma around mental health in the BIPOC community. You’ll find a helpful guide to finding a therapist, wellness groups and more ways to check on your own mental health.
According to a 2021 study by the American Psychological Association, around 81 percent of psychologists are white and only about 19 percent combined are Black, Latinx and Asian (and that doesn’t even account for other groups that have been lumped into one percentage in the data.) Now, we know all therapists can specialize in a variety of areas—regardless of their background—but stats like this can be so disheartening, especially for BIPOC individuals interested in therapy. Identity is important, and can be important to share yours with someone who has had the same experiences (good and bad) firsthand.
"A large benefit of having a therapist who reflects your identity is that there may be a greater understanding based on some shared experiences. While every person’s experiences are different, there is no mistaking that walking in the world with darker skin informs your perspective," says Jor-El Caraballo, NYC-based mental health professional and co-founder of Viva Mental Health. "Sharing that identity has been well-demonstrated to create a deeper sense of trust between therapists and clients and that’s incredibly important when you’re sharing intimate details of your life."
And, while it can seem daunting, finding a BIPOC therapist is possible. Here, Caraballo’s tips for how to find one and get started on your therapy journey.
1. Create a List
Before you start your search, write down what you're looking for in a therapist. "Finding the right therapist often starts with understanding your reasons for seeking out therapy and having some idea of—no matter how broad—what you’d like to achieve or get out of therapy,” explains Caraballo. Ask yourself, do you need someone to help you manage your anxiety? How about someone who understands generational trauma? Maybe a professional who can provide steps to dealing with law enforcement or microaggressions on a daily basis. “Being able to articulate this can help you align yourself with the right therapist who has experience supporting people with similar issues and has the competence in helping you move forward,” he adds.
2. Search Through BIPOC-Specific Directories
Now that you have settled on some areas you want to address with a therapist, Caraballo recommends looking for an inclusive professional through BIPOC-specific directories. Check out sites like Inclusive Therapy, National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network and Therapy for Black Girls to get you started. These directories often provide virtual or in-person services, while letting you narrow down your selections based on type of therapy, background and even financial assistance.
3. Put on Your Interviewing Hat
You found a few candidates. Great! Now, it’s time to put on your detective cap and ask your potential therapist some questions. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask them a few things before setting up an appointment. Caraballo recommends asking, “What are your experiences working with BIPOC clients?, "What’s your relationship to social justice?” or “How does race/ethnicity impact therapy?” Gather questions that will give you a sense of what you may or may not expect from your first session.
4. Be Prepared for Trial and Error
Look, finding a BIPOC therapist is like speed dating. Sometimes, you'll find “the one” and other times you might have to go back to the drawing board. However, Caraballo doesn’t want you to feel discouraged (and just settle if you're unhappy). "I think that one sign that potential clients can look out for in an initial contact is how comfortable the therapist is in talking about racial/ethnic identity. Do they seem comfortable answering your questions on the topic, or do they seem taken aback or awkward? If it’s important to be able to speak honestly about your identities and experiences, it’s important to not settle for a provider who doesn’t seem capable of creating that comfortable space for you."
5. If Therapy Is Expensive...
Sessions can be costly and there are only a few insurance companies that will cover it (or not at all). Luckily, there are some BIPOC directories and nonprofit organizations that are willing to offer financial assistance. A great example is The Loveland Foundation, who strive to make therapy more accessible, especially for Black women. There is also The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (founded by Taraji P. Henson) and Sad Girls Club, which offers free virtual therapy sessions based on donations.