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Karra Harrington
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This post is part of a series offering tips for finding culturally sensitive care for your identity or background. You can check out more articles from the series on our Education Hub.

In the mental health field, we know that having the right therapist is essential for therapy to be helpful. But how do you find the right therapist in the first place? One thing to look for is a therapist who you feel comfortable talking to–someone who “gets” you. This probably means they understand the things that are unique about you and your life experiences.

Most importantly, the right therapist tailors their therapy to better fit your identity, culture, and values. This is called “culturally sensitive care.” 

The problem: Sometimes finding a therapist with your same background is hard just because there aren’t enough of them. For example, while Black and African Americans make up 13% of the US population, only about 4% of psychology workers identify as Black or African American. 

In this article, we share some guidance on how to find  culturally sensitive care and specific information and resources for finding the right therapist if you’re Black or African American.

Tips from an expert

To help you understand how to navigate the early steps of this process, we spoke with Dr. Jessica Jackson, licensed psychologist and mental health equity advocate. Dr. Jackson says that therapist-patient fit is critical. It’s important to look for a therapist who you feel comfortable talking to and sharing personal details with. 

On the other hand this “doesn’t necessarily mean finding someone with the same background as you,” she cautioned. “Instead, look for someone who considers you and all the different identities you bring.”

Your cultural identity is made up of lots of different parts and it’s up to you to choose which parts are important. The right therapist will adapt their approach to therapy to meet your needs. This is called culture-centered practice, and it’s important because a therapist working in this way will think about what’s going to work for you in a more holistic way. 

“Finding the right therapist is less about how they identify and more about how they work with you,” said Dr. Jackson. 

Put another way: Even when a therapist has the same background as you, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll like working with them.

How to find care

Dr. Jackson describes the process of finding the right therapist as being like dating. 

“When you go on a first date, you’re trying to see if you communicate well and feel comfortable together,” she said. "You can tell when you click and feel comfortable sharing more."

In other words: it’s okay to talk to different therapists and see who you click with best and whose style you like the most.

Look online

As with most things today, a good place to start is the Internet. 

Most therapists have websites where they list their credentials and approach to care. This makes it easy to read about them and look for things that resonate with you. For example, look at the specific words that they use and how they describe what they do. Notice how you feel and whether it seems like you would feel comfortable with this person. 

Dr. Jackson adds that it can help to think of the qualities of a friend that you feel comfortable talking to. This can be a clue into what to look for in a therapist who is a good fit. 

Interview your therapist

Another way to tell if a therapist might be a good fit for you is to ask them a few questions before starting therapy. Think of this as a therapist “interview.” It’s normal to have some anxiety or worry about asking these questions.

While you can ask these questions over email or in person, we recommend trying to interview a potential therapist over the phone so you can hear their voice. Some sample questions you could ask your therapist:

  • “How would you describe your experience treating clients who share my Black identity?”
  • “Describe your knowledge of safety risks related to my identity as a Black person?”
  • “What is your practice’s position on the mental health impact of navigating oppression, racism, and racial violence?”
  • “What is your practice’s position on the mental health impact of navigating multiple systems of oppression?”

(Thanks to our friends at Human Rights Campaign and Mental Health America for developing these questions!)

Can I get therapy in another language?

If you’re looking for therapy in a language other than English, things get a little trickier. You’ll have to make sure that you find a therapist that you can communicate with. Most therapists in the US only speak English.

Some mental health clinics and therapists use a professional interpreter when they don’t speak their client’s language. The interpreter will likely be over the phone, translating what you and your therapist say to each other. It’s up to you if you are comfortable with having an interpreter in the room with you and your therapist.

Where to find the right therapist

You can search Healwise’s  directory for affordable mental health services that specifically serve Black or African American people.

Here’s a list of other places where you can find a therapist who is Black or African American, or at least respects and values that part of your identity.

  1. African American Therapists
  2. The Association of Black Psychologists
  3. Black Emotional and Mental Health
  4. Black Female Therapists
  5. Black Girls Smile
  6. Black Men Heal
  7. Black Mental Health Alliance
  8. Black Therapists Rock
  9. The Boris Lawrence Henderson Foundation
  10. Clinicians of Color
  11. Immigrants Rising (California)
  12. Inclusive Therapists
  13. InnoPsych
  14. LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color (QTOC) (Northern California)
  15. The Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund
  16. Melanin & Mental Health
  17. MyTruCircle
  18. National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
  19. Open Path Collective
  20. Psychology Today–Find an African-American Therapist
  21. Sista Afya (Chicago)
  22. Therapy for Black Girls
  23. Therapy for Black Men
  24. Therapy for Queer People of Color
  25. Whole Brother Mission

African American
Cultural Sensitivity
Finding A Therapist
Understanding Your Options
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