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.
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.
- Clinicians of Color
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Therapy for Black Men
- Melanin and Mental Health
- Latinx Therapy
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network
- South Asian Therapists
- Seema Muslim Therapists Directory
- Inclusive Therapists
- Free Black Therapy
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Open Path Collective
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.”