3 Min Read
Many black people have a justified difficulty trusting healthcare in the US. This is no different when it involves their mental wellbeing. As a community of people who have been systemically disadvantaged in the United States, there are significantly lower levels of trust in healthcare professionals. Knowing who to turn to for help can be difficult. Unfortunately, this means that many don’t always get the treatment they need and deserve.
Because of the relatively lower numbers of black mental health professionals, black people often have trouble asking specifically for a black therapist or doctor’s help. This puts them at another disadvantage – the truth is that a person of the same race has shared life experiences that make it easier to understand the cultural backdrop influencing a patient’s condition. Racism, inequity, colorism, stigma, and socioeconomic disparities play a significant role in black mental health, so it is essential to seek Culturally Competent care.
If you’re a black person or person of color looking for mental health care, it’s okay to ask for a black therapist directly. Your mental well-being matters, and working with someone who understands the systemic and long-term traumas of racism can lead to more meaningful interactions with your therapist.
Finding a therapist who understands the discrimination black women face in the workplace, or the anxiety black men have when being pulled over by police, is much easier than you may think. A quick Google search for a therapist in your area will point you in the direction of private and public mental health community agencies and facilities. While some sites will specifically say they specialize in working with people of color, paying attention to the therapists’ bios will help you get a better idea of your potential provider’s ethnicity.
Many people think it’s not okay to ask about a provider’s background. Still, we encourage you to email or pick up the phone and ask for a black therapist who has experience working with the black community. Finding a mental health professional you’re comfortable with and spelling out your needs is the best way to put yourself in the hands of a competent therapist.
Another great first step in finding the perfect black therapist is to ask a doctor that you trust. If you’re a black person who has a doctor you love, ask them directly who they would recommend. Make sure that your doctor understands that you are looking for a therapist with experience with black clients. By asking for a referral directly, you will be able to stay within a network of professionals who understand your unique needs.
The number of people you know who see therapists might surprise you. With COVID and civil unrest, more organizations are focusing on mental health in the community. Ask the people in your life who they see for therapy. It could be as simple as asking someone you know and trust who helps them with their mental health. With knowledge of who they speak with and how they found their therapist, you’ll be well on your way to working with someone you trust.
In the end, while it’s not to say that a socially justice-focused white therapist can’t help a black person effectively, it’s also understandable why a black person would want treatment from someone who walks in their same shoes. The ultimate decision for whom you choose as a therapy provider is entirely up to you. Advocate for yourself, be open about your preferences, talk to friends and family about whom they trust, and don’t hesitate to get yourself help if you are struggling with your mental health. It matters. You do, too.
If you believe you need help with your mental health, seek out a professional. To locate a therapist who specializes in working with culturally marginalized people, WithTherapy can point you in the right direction. With licensed professionals who specialize in diversity, WithTherapy will be a great resource in helping you locate the right person with the proper diagnostic tools to help you.