When looking for a therapist, many people are interested in finding a mental health practitioner who shares one or more aspects of their identity — such as gender, religious background, or LGBTQ identity. BIPOC clients face a challenge when looking for therapists of the same identity, as practitioners of color are underrepresented in the workforce. For example, as of 2021 approximately 19% of psychologists in the US identified as people of color whereas an estimated 41% of the country’s population is nonwhite.
Is it worth it for you as a person of color to find a BIPOC therapist? Here are four questions that can help guide your decision.
1. Would having a BIPOC therapist help you with feeling safe and heard?
Connecting with a BIPOC therapist can help you feel seen and understood, particularly if you are hoping to discuss experiences with racism and discrimination in therapy. It can be difficult to build trust with a therapist who does not understand your culture or background, and you may feel especially reluctant to do this with a white therapist if you’ve frequently been in the position of having to “teach” about racism or your identity in predominantly white spaces.
A BIPOC therapist can help you to feel empowered and confident in your racial identity, and also help you to develop coping skills for coping with racism and discrimination.
2. Are you looking for a therapist with the expertise of lived experience?
If you connect with a practitioner of your same racial background, they may be able to provide a level of cultural understanding and support that can only be gained on that personal level of lived experience.
Even if your therapist is a person of color but is not of your same racial identity, they will likely share the commonality of knowing what it’s like to be a minority that experiences discrimination and misunderstanding. This will just add to their commitment to ensuring the therapy room is a place where you are known and accepted for who you are.
3. Are you taking into consideration that BIPOC experiences are not a monolith?
Although having a BIPOC therapist can be great, beware of over-assuming how similar your therapist will be to you. Not only are there many racial identities that fall under the BIPOC umbrella, even someone who identifies with your same racial background may have had a very different set of life experiences.
Also, remember that there is no way to guarantee a therapist is going to be able to immediately “get” you 100% of the time. If part of you thinks a BIPOC therapist will be able to read your mind and automatically know all the things that you feel, you will be disappointed.
4. Are there important factors beyond racial identity to consider?
If a complex challenge unrelated to your specific racial or cultural background or your experiences of racism is the main factor bringing you to therapy, it’s worth considering connecting with a therapist with specific training in that issue.
For example, psychiatric diagnoses such as Bipolar disorder, PTSD, or psychosis are best treated with specially designed advanced clinical techniques. You might find that you’re best served by a therapist qualified in those approaches, regardless of their racial identity.
If having a BIPOC therapist is important to you, we’d love to discuss with you more if one of our BIPOC therapists might be the right fit. Click the button below to book a free phone consultation, and let’s talk about what you’re looking for in therapy.