Finding a good therapist as a person of color

therapy info

Finding a good therapist means finding someone you feel comfortable with, who you can trust, and has some knowledge or experience working with people who are like you. That includes your personality, your specific mental health concerns… and your race, ethnicity, and culture.

A therapist who is culturally responsive understands right from the start that your racial and ethnic background is going to have a unique impact. They probably have some experience with racially diverse clients, but they acknowledge that they don’t know everything. They’re willing to do some research on their own so you don’t have to rehash the basics.

There are lots of ways to find a culturally responsive therapist. We’ll start by helping you know where to look in the first place—then we’ll help you narrow things down and find a really great therapist!

Where should I look?

Do you have friends or family members who have seen a therapist? Ask if they can recommend someone. They can tell you things about their experience that you won’t find online.

Many online search tools, like Open Path, HelpPro, and Psychology Today allow you to filter therapists by race and ethnicity (as well as many other factors). There are also a few search tools designed specifically with people of color in mind:

Narrowing it down

You can learn a lot about therapists based on what they put online. If you found them using an online search tool, start by looking at their profile. You can google their name to see if they have their own website, or any reviews from their past clients.

Find out what makes each therapist unique and who may resonate with you. Look for therapists that explicitly talk about race-related issues. A therapist might include keywords that indicate they’ve worked with communities of color, like “experience with race, communities of color, people of color, multicultural clients, or race based trauma.” The more detail they go into about this, the better.

Interview your therapist 

Most therapists will do a 15-30-minute phone interview so you can see if they are a good fit. Be sure and ask questions about anything you couldn’t find online. Ask them to talk about their training, knowledge and experience with clients like you. Here are some examples:

  • Describe your experience supporting clients who are from X community or are survivors of racism. 
  • What training have you received to incorporate race equity into your practice? (Some therapists may talk about cultural sensitivity, cultural humility, or cultural competence—these are all similar ideas related to cultural responsiveness.)
  • What’s your position on racism? 
  • How do you prefer a client to inform you about a race-based microaggression during a therapy session? 
  • Can you share an example of how you’ve helped someone with race-based trauma?

For more examples: We worked with the Human Rights Campaign to develop this worksheet to help you determine whether a therapist is culturally responsive.

Don’t settle for less. You can try it out with a therapist, but after 3 sessions, if you don’t feel connected, it’s ok for you to start looking for someone new. It may be a good idea to keep seeing your old therapist until you’ve found a better one—unless your therapist is making you so uncomfortable that it’s hurting your mental health more than it’s helping.

Finding the right therapist can be a challenge. But once you do, you’ll be glad you made the effort!

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