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This #WorldMentalHealthDay, I posted a social media status about how imperative it is for folks from minoritized communities to support therapists from underrepresented backgrounds – counselors and psychologists who identify as people of color; queer, trans or non-Christian folks; and/or as individuals who have mental illness or other disabilities. Suddenly, I received 12 inbox messages from Facebook friends, all of them inquiring about how to find a therapist. If this doesn’t speak to underrepresentation in the field, I don’t know what does.
Unfortunately, little has changed during the 40 or 50 years since the mental health field first opened its doors and ivory towers to folks besides white men – starting with middle and upper-class white women. Today, more than any other demographic, white women still dominate the field, constituting upward of 75 percent of therapists and social workers. Correspondingly, a 2013 study found that White Americans comprised 83.6 percent of psychologists, while the representation of Black Americans stood at 5.3 percent, Latinx at 5 percent, and Asian Americans, a mere 4.3 percent. Native Americans were not even accounted for.
I’ve also found no estimates, to date, of the number of LGBTQ therapists, which means that queer, Black therapists like me are essentially erased and invisible. This poses a huge risk for the millions of queer people of color out there, who desperately want and/or need to know if therapists like me even exist.
Many white therapists push back against this idea that folks have a valid reason to seek out therapists of the same cultural background, a dynamic called cultural match. Yet, research on race-matching suggests that for some clients, sharing a minoritized identity with a therapist may reduce guardedness, mistrust, and self-consciousness. The converse idea – that representation is only surface-deep – isn’t backed by any evidence, and is quite frankly rooted in greed.
People deserve to have their needs met. Simple as that. So, my professional ethics and integrity mean that I never let clients settle for a therapist who isn’t a good fit, including myself, possibly.
Still, I felt compelled to raise awareness about the overlooked issue of minority therapists needing support. Institutionalized bias often drives us into private practice, but we also experience discrimination in the competitive race of the Psychology Today job market. Oftentimes, without any reciprocity from the communities we aim to serve and advocate for, we can’t get our businesses off the ground or claim our stake in the field. Moreover, when our communities don’t know how and where to find us, the potentially mutual benefit that could happen, can’t happen.
Enter: this directory of directories.
Please feel free to share this resource guide with others who may need it. I hope that it answers the many questions that I’ve received. For more culturally relevant information on how to navigate the mental health system and tips on how to find a therapist, you can check out “Therapists for Women of Color and Queer People: How to Find One,” follow me on Twitter @Fight4TheYouth, or visit my website, jeffbaker.org.
Sending light and love,
Jeff Baker, M.Phil.Ed.
Culturally Specific Directories/Search Engines
* In the Psychology Today directory, you’ll see that therapists of diverse backgrounds may appear in search results, even after filtering for specific cultural groups. That’s because the system lists cultural groups as skills, not the identity of therapists. Use discretion, but don’t lose morale. The Psychology Today directory is arguably the most cohesive and robust therapist directory. You’re able to filter by counseling issues, cultural issues, psychological disorders, and even insurance plans and virtual therapy providers; and you’ll also be able to view each therapist’s credentials, and sometimes even their fees.
General Directories/Search Engines
*Be sure to check the psychological association for the state in which you reside (e.g. New Jersey Psychological Association).