Often times, people of color (specifically African Americans, Caribbeans, Haitians, Africans and Hispanics) become a little skeptical when seeking mental health counseling with licensed professionals who are white. The biggest concern is not knowing if the white therapist can relate to their struggles, challenges or life experiences. When they finally take a step to seek professional counseling, they quickly find out that the selection of therapist of color is at a minimum.
Most of the time, they are left to choose from a big pool of white, older therapist who may or may not share their experience. Finding the right therapist is important. It is important to feel you can effectively and honestly communicate with your therapist. Just because a therapist shares your race or culture, it doesn’t mean that he or she is the right fit for you. I would love to see more therapist of color in private practice and, until that happens, people have to work with what’s available.
There are some steps you can take to safeguard your feelings and increase your comfort when seeking services with a therapist of a different background, race and culture. When seeking services from a licensed professional who is not of your race or culture, I would recommend asking three very specific questions. Remember, it is important to tailor the questions to your specific situation.
How comfortable are you working your with people of color?
Have you ever resided in or amongst people of color?
Do you feel not being able to relate to a person of color can hinder the therapeutic relationship? Why or why not?
Asking these very specific questions can help you in determining if the therapist is the right fit for you. There is no specific answer you should be looking for. It is a way of starting the conversation and addressing the elephant in the room head on. If you are not comfortable with the answers given, then it will be up to you to consider thinking about if you can have a successful therapeutic relationship.