Finding Culturally Competent, Affordable AAPI Mental Health Care
By Michelle Yang
As a young Asian American student, realizing I wanted to work with a therapist was a really big step. Learning that a therapist could help me manage my severe depression and anxiety to get on the path to healing changed my life. My survival depended on breaking away from the pressure of feeling like I always needed to be perfect. If you’re going through the same process of accepting that you need help, I hope you acknowledge how difficult and healthy it can be.
After acknowledging you need help, the next step is finding a therapist who gets you and where you’re coming from culturally. There are many things I wish I knew when I started looking for culturally competent, affordable mental health care, and I’d like to share them with you.
What Does Cultural Competency Mean in Mental Health Care?
A culturally competent therapist is a mental health provider who has a strong understanding of your culture—often because they share it. There are many benefits of having a therapist who understands your cultural background, including that you won’t have to spend time defending your upbringing or getting them to understand the challenges related to it. There may also be a deeper sense of trust that can be built up sooner, which helps you open up faster. They may better understand what is realistic within your family’s cultural dynamic.
Can You Get Culturally Competent Care From Someone Outside Your Race or Background?
The simple answer is yes. An effective therapist who is trained in cultural competency is supposed to be able to listen, understand, and talk to you about cultural issues, including racism, regardless of their background. When deciding on a therapist, don’t be afraid to ask questions such as:
- What specific training do you have in working with people from my background or community?
- Can you tell me how you continue to develop cultural competency as a therapist?
Where to Start the Search
There are many free directories and resources for people looking for culturally competent therapists. Most of them allow users to filter by cultural background, sliding-scale fees, insurance type, specialty, and more. Pick one, enter your preferences, and start your search.
- Asians for Mental Health
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- South Asian Therapists (the largest South Asian mental health specialist community, with hundreds of therapists based all over the world)
- Inclusive Therapists (a directory of therapists who focus on the needs of BIPOC and the LGBTQIA+ community)
- Unmute (a startup by two AAPI women, founded to help match AAPI clients to AAPI therapists based on specialty and insurance. You fill out a questionnaire on the website and they match you according to your answers.)
- Psychology Today
Join a Support Group While You Search
There is no substitute for one-on-one therapy with a licensed provider, but if you’re not in crisis and you’re struggling to find a therapist, joining a support community while you wait can be helpful.
- The Lotus Fund offers financial support for up to eight therapy sessions.
- Group practices such as the Yellow Chair Collective and nonprofit coalitions such as Asian Mental Health Collective are great places to find AAPI support groups, which often focus on issues relevant to AAPI communities.
- Even social media support groups, such as Subtle Asian Mental Health (which has over 61,000 members) and Brown Girl Therapy (almost 3,000 followers), can help you feel like you’re not alone.