What are some of your must-haves and non-negotiables regarding a therapist?
Experience. Interpersonal skills. Sensitivity.
Trust. Willingness to help. Knowledge.
Commitment. Confidence. Optimism.
These are many of the traits and qualities that most people look for when searching for a therapist.
Another must-have and non-negotiable when it comes to therapy that you should add to your list is a therapist being culturally responsible.
Here’s why a culturally responsible therapy experience is important for BIPOCs.
Why is a Culturally Responsible Therapy Experience Important?
Culturally responsible therapy is an important and intentional decision that mental health care providers make to see and respect each person and the different factors and aspects that make them who they are.
Being culturally responsible means also being culturally aware and culturally competent.
Cultural awareness is a therapist’s understanding of who they are to their client. It’s the ability to understand and interact with people who may have different cultures or beliefs that are different from your own.
Being culturally aware as a therapist is crucial. In order to get the best treatment for your clients, you have to understand your clients and their needs fully.
Cultural competence is actually a core competency of psychology.
The basic principle is increasing the quality of service that a therapist can provide just by integrating and sharing any knowledge they have about specific attitudes, policies, practices, and standards across cultures.
In counseling, this is how therapists can look at what they know and also what they need to know.
For example, if you have a test on a topic you don’t know much about, studying will help you feel more comfortable and better prepared. The same goes for therapists. The more they get comfortable with cross-cultural situations, the quality of their service will improve.
Cultural humility is another important factor, especially in the therapy world. Humility means that a therapist can admit to not having all of the answers all of the time. That being said, they’re open and honest with themselves and their clients, and they’re also willing to put in a little extra effort or work to learn.
Cultural sensitivity is the basic understanding that there are differences between different cultures. That understanding also includes not assigning any value to those differences. For example, there isn’t a need to say one culture over another is bad or good, positive or negative, right or wrong.
The sensitivity allows you to see and learn about different cultural backgrounds even though the culture may differ from your own.
Finding a Culturally Responsible Therapist
No one should feel like they can’t attend therapy, especially because of their culture.
Discrimination, stigma, lack of diversity, bias, cost, and insurance are often some of the biggest barriers when it comes to accessing mental health care.
One of the most significant barriers, especially for underrepresented communities is a lack of cultural responsibility. BIPOCs may be less likely to seek help, especially when they may need it most.
When looking for a therapist, you shouldn’t feel the need to hide or refrain from sharing certain aspects of your life for fear that they won’t understand what you’re going through. Your therapists should make an effect to relate any information to your personally, along with your values and beliefs, so you feel seen and heard.
If you’re a BIPOC who has tried therapy before with no success, don’t lose hope. You’ll find your therapist match, build that deep connection and understanding that you’re looking for, and it will be more than worth it in the end.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.