How to Find a Culturally Competent Therapist

By Tiffany Eve

It can be really helpful to work with a therapist who shares your background, has experience supporting people from your community, or is trained to be open to, respect, and take into account your identity and lived experience.  

Learn more about The Benefits of a Therapist Who Understands Your Cultural Background.

Here’s how to look for one.

Step 1: Think—and maybe talk with a trusted adult—about how therapy can help you.

Some things to think about:

  • What kind of issues do I want to work on with a therapist? Depression, anxiety, childhood trauma, suicidal thoughts, stress, relationship conflict?
  • Do I have preferences for my therapist, such as gender, age, ethnicity, language, cultural background, or being LGBTQ-affirming?
  • Do I prefer someone who shares my ethnic background? 
  • Do I prefer a specific therapy style? (It’s OK if you don’t have any idea of what kind of therapy may help.)

Step 2: Find some therapist options.

Ask—or have a trusted adult ask—friends or family if they have a therapist to recommend. Your primary care provider should also have names to give you. If you have insurance, you can use the company’s website to search for nearby therapists or ask for a list.

If you don’t have coverage, don’t let it block you from beginning your search. Here are some recommended resources to find low-cost therapy specific to different communities.

Step 3: Talk with more than one therapist if you can.

You and/or an adult who is supporting you can call a few therapists and chat on the phone to get a sense of whether they might be a good fit.

Step 4: Ask questions.

Some questions you could ask prospective therapists include: 

  • Have you worked with anyone with my cultural background?
  • Do you have any concerns about working with me given my cultural background and what I want to work on?
  • Have you had training in race-related stress or cultural humility (understanding that identities are complex and that even in sameness there are differences)?
  • Are you comfortable discussing racism, bias, and discrimination, and how they can affect mental health?

Step 5: Reflect on their answers.

  • Did they seem comfortable answering questions or did they give off an uncomfortable vibe? 
  • Do I feel good about their answers?
  • Did I feel safe and supported in the conversation?

Ideally, you will find a therapist you feel a connection with and with whom you feel safe. That’s the goal. If you don’t, it’s OK—and a really good idea—to make a switch. And, yes, sometimes the process of finding a therapist is time-consuming and difficult, but research shows that therapy is most successful when you have a good fit. 

“Go with your gut, says Raquel Martin, a clinical psychologist in Nashville, Tennessee who specializes in racism-based stress and racial identity development.” You will know who works best for you.”

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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