Finding a therapist is not always easy, but it can be especially difficult for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Access to BIPOC mental health professionals is limited for many people in these communities. When they do have access it’s often still difficult to finding therapists who are culturally competent. It is important that they are able to understand the unique challenges faced by BIPOC. If you’re searching for a therapist of color, you want to make sure that the person you work with completely understands the unique challenges you face.
Finding a therapist in North Carolina can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. But it can be especially difficult for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who are often not adequately represented in the mental health professions. This can make it hard to find BIPOC mental health resources from someone who understands your culture and experiences. In addition to this challenge comes another one. That is making sure your NC therapist understands that you have specific needs as a member of a marginalized group.
Getting A Therapist of Color That Gets You & Your Challenges
If you’re searching for a therapist of color, you want to make sure that the person you work with completely understands the unique challenges you face.
There are plenty of therapists who identify as people of color. However, not all therapists who identify as people of color have been trained to work with clients who share your identity. For instance, a Black therapist may only be trained in working with Black folks. They might not know how to help you navigate your experiences as an Asian-American woman or Latinx man. You want someone familiar with the particular challenges you face in your life. Because they’ll be able to offer more specialized support and guidance than someone else might be able to provide.
If you don’t want your BIPOC mental health care provider to just take their best guess at what works for you (and trust me—you don’t), then it makes sense that finding a competent BIPOC therapist is an important part of your journey toward better emotional health and well-being.
When looking for a BIPOC therapist, consider how much the therapist knows about your specific mental illness. For example, if you are a queer person of color and struggling with depression, look for therapists that have worked with queer people of color before. A therapist who has experience working with queer people of color will be better able to understand your unique struggles than one who hasn’t worked within this population before.
If you don’t live in an urban area with lots of minority communities, it can be harder to find a therapist of color that understands the unique needs and issues you have faced. However, If you have access to a computer, try searching for mental health providers near your home using Google. You may be able to use this tool to locate BIPOC therapists who have experience working with people from other backgrounds than yours.
You may also want to look up therapists who specialize in working with African Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), Latinos/Latinas, Native Americans/Alaska Natives (NANs), Arab Americans or Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders (NHOPIs). Some examples include:
As a person of color, you may want to seek out therapists who have received adequate training from diverse communities. You can ask them about their level of experience working with diverse communities. Or if they have attended training or workshops on cultural competency.
If you are still not sure whether the therapist is qualified to work with people from your community, ask for references and check them out. There are some great resources for locating culturally competent therapists such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), APA (American Psychological Association), and AASP (Association for Asian American Studies).
When looking for a BIPOC therapist, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
The first is to look for therapists who are trained in trauma-informed care. Recovery from trauma can be difficult and painful. So it’s important that your therapist has received training on how to support you through this process. A good place to start is the “Trauma-Informed Care Training” page on CAPS’ website. There they offer information on how they train their staff, as well as resources to help students learn more about trauma and healing from it (such as books).
Secondly, look for therapists who are trained in anti-racism. Racism is something that affects all people of color at some point in our lives. Therefore if you’re going through something difficult like an illness or loss, having someone who understands racism may help make you feel less alone during the process of recovery.
And lastly, look for therapists who are trained in social justice. If your goal is social justice work but you don’t know where to begin or have trouble finding people with similar interests nearby (especially if those interests aren’t commonly considered “cool”), finding someone who shares those views will enable them both to support one another while also helping each other grow professionally
Before you schedule your first session with a BIPOC therapist, it is important to understand what that therapist’s experience is working with people of color. It can be a good idea to ask them:
Asking about their experience, in general, is the most basic step you can take. Start with asking how long the therapist has been practicing. If they are not comfortable answering this question, that’s a red flag! Similarly, ask if they have worked with clients who were seeking BIPOC mental health resources or multicultural counseling. This will give you some insight into whether or not they have experience working with clients from marginalized backgrounds.
If your child has experienced trauma, it’s especially important that the BIPOC therapist be familiar with trauma and its effects on children. Additionally, it’s also helpful to ask them what their approach is for treating young people with mental health issues and trauma who come from different backgrounds than themselves (especially when working out of a traditional therapy setting).
You may also want to consider finding someone through an organization such as The Healing Center for Children & Families (www1). They offer training specifically focused on helping families navigate racial identity development issues in white-dominated spaces like schools or hospitals. These seminars are free but require registration prior to attendance.
Look for therapists who have trauma training. Trauma can have an impact on all aspects of a person’s life, including their mental health. If you think that you or someone else may be traumatized, look for a therapist who is trained in trauma therapy.
Find a BIPOC therapist who is anti-racist. If you identify as BIPOC and have experienced racism directly or indirectly, it is important to work with a therapist who understands this experience. So that they can help navigate it with you.
Look for therapists trained in social justice and diversity training. This will ensure that the therapist understands the issues surrounding oppression within society such as racism, sexism, and homophobia.
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