Making Mental Health an Open Conversation In Your Latiné Family
By Priscilla Blossom
Going to therapy is a great decision if you’re struggling with your mental health, but that doesn’t mean your parents will immediately get on board. It can be a hard thing to bring up, especially in Latiné families. You may feel like it’s just another burden for them. After all, you probably grew up hearing stories about how much harder it was for your parents and grandparents, and all the sacrifices they’ve made.
It’s understandable if you’re too nervous to bring it up. When young people—Latiné or not—bring up the idea of therapy to their families, it can get dismissed, ignored, or even shut down. But that doesn’t mean it has to go that way. With a little help, you may be able to help your family understand why therapy can be a great thing.
Help Your Parents Understand That Therapy Is Confidential
Your family may be concerned about chisme (gossip) of any kind. When you tell them you would like to, essentially, discuss your problems with a complete stranger, their first reaction may be to say no.
Thanks to HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), however, you can be confident that what happens during your sessions will not be shared with others—including any nosy neighbors your parents may be worried about. Let them know that each session is confidential. You can even pull up the HIPAA privacy agreement in Spanish or Portuguese if it would make it easier for your family to understand.
Learn How Therapy Works, Then Break It Down for Your Folks
It’s a good idea to get familiar with what therapy is and how sessions work before you start. It can also be helpful when you’re trying to explain to your parents why it can be beneficial.
The process isn’t too complicated. You’ll look for a therapist (or a few), and make an introductory appointment. It might be just a short 15-minute call or video session. You’ll talk about why you’re looking for a therapist, which may include school stress, relationship troubles, mood swings, or depression. (You don’t have to get too detailed, but no matter what it is, they’ve probably heard it!) They may also ask how you plan to pay. Some options include using your parents’ insurance or paying out of pocket, but we’ll cover that more below. You can also ask them what type of therapy they provide. (Read more about some different styles of therapy here.)
Sessions are generally a little under an hour. You can decide what topics to discuss, and your therapist will listen and offer insight into what may be causing your feelings or behaviors. They should also offer feedback on how to better manage the issues. They may recommend videos, books, or exercises, or even give you homework to complete before your next session.
Once your session is over, you’ll likely be asked for payment. If you’re using insurance, you’ll probably pay a copay, which can range from $20 to $50 per session. If you’re paying out of pocket, it will probably be more expensive. Some therapists, however, offer sliding-scale rates, and there are options available for finding low-cost and affordable mental health help.
Sit down with your family to explain that therapy isn’t just lying on a couch while someone with a clipboard says, “And how does that make you feel?” It’s not like in the movies. It may help them understand that it’s worth the investment if it will help you feel better.
Let Them Know Therapy Isn’t a Replacement for Spirituality
One of the biggest hurdles you may face when asking for your family’s support on your therapy journey is the idea that everything can be solved with faith. You’ve probably heard from a parent or other adult in the family that the best way to deal with your problems is through prayer. The thing about prayer, though, is that there’s no back-and-forth discussion. Prayer may help soothe your worries in the moment, but it won’t offer tangible advice.
Therapy, however, can help you process your worries. It can also help you figure out a path forward when you’re feeling lost, confused, scared, or in crisis. Many therapists work in conjunction with psychiatrists to help patients who require a diagnosis and medication in addition to therapy. Make sure your family understands that therapists and psychiatrists aren’t necessarily the same person though.
More importantly, let your family know that getting help for your mental health isn’t a competition. If your faith is important to you, you can share that with your therapist. Some therapists even specialize in treating patients of certain faiths, and they can combine your spiritual beliefs with evidence-based counseling. Going to a therapist does not mean you have to stop going to church.
Explain That Therapy Isn’t “Just for White People”
Your family may believe therapy is a “white people thing,” and not for their community. That’s an understandable response, since psychology and psychiatry were created as—and continue to be, in large part—white-dominant spaces. But that is changing. More and more Latinés and other people of color are becoming therapists, counselors, and psychologists.
You can explain to your caregivers that one option is to work with a therapist who shares your cultural background. Resources like Latinx Therapy, Therapy for Latinx, and Open Path Collective can help you connect with a therapist who understands your culture, which may help get your family on board with your desire to go to therapy.
Starting your therapy journey can be difficult at first, but it’s worth it. If your family is on the fence, see if these steps help ease them into the idea. If they’re still against it, you can find other ways to get help.