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Be Your Own Advocate

If anything was brought to light during this current pandemic, it is most certainly the need for more focus on mental health and the importance of this service among the Black, Indigenous, People Of Color (BIPOC) community. But what type of mental health services are we talking about? If you are BIPOC and looking at getting into therapy, I would encourage you to shop around and ask questions that can help you make a more informed decision as to if this therapist would be a good fit for you. There is no doubt that it can be challenging to find a BIPOC therapist and one that is accepting new patients.

Know that there is nothing wrong with seeking out a therapist from your own ethnic background. Representation matters and if you have the opportunity to seek out someone with a similar ethnic background and you feel it will make a difference then by all means seek out what you prefer. You will be working with this service provider and sharing your most intimate details and feelings so please think about what will make you feel the most comfortable.

Itʻs no secret that BIPOC communities suffer many disparities. Proper and culturally competent mental health services are absolutely one of the disparities. According to a past (pre-pandemic) article written by the General Office of the Surgeon General (US); Center for Mental Health Services (US); National Institute of Mental Health (US) titled “ Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity”,

“The foremost barriers include the cost of care, societal stigma, and the fragmented organization of services. Additional barriers include clinicians' lack of awareness of cultural issues, bias, or inability to speak the client's language, and the client's fear and mistrust of treatment. More broadly, disparities also stem from minorities' historical and present day struggles with racism and discrimination, which affect their mental health and contribute to their lower economic, social, and political status.”

Another article from Counseling Today titled, “The historical roots of racial disparities in the mental health system” by Tahmi Perzichilli (May 7, 2020), reports that people who are black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to seek out services and more likely to receive poor quality of care. There are also huge challenges once they engage in services such as being over diagnosed with certain mental health conditions while being underdiagnosed for others. And with the vast majority of mental health treatment providers in the United States being white it could prove quite a challenge for many BIPOC to find a provider they may feel comfortable with.

Now this isnʻt all doom and gloom and please do not let this discourage you from seeking treatment, I put out this information so you can better understand some obstacles when you see them and to encourage you to be your own advocate and ask the correct questions that you feel are important.

So what questions are important to ask, well here are some suggestions and please feel free to come up with your own as well,

  • What experience do you have providing mental health services to BIPOC community members?

  • Have you been trained in cultural competency?

  • Have you worked with patients on intergenerational trauma?

  • My native language is _____ and I feel much more comfortable speaking this language in therapy. Do you speak it, and if not do you know any service providers that do?

  • What insurances do you take and is there a copay and if so how much?

  • Do you offer sliding fee scales for payments?

  • Check their YELP ratings and google their website.

Please feel confident enough to trust your feelings and if at the intintal meeting you do not feel comfortable with this therapist then keep on looking. Make sure you clear with your insurance first so that you do not get stuck with 100% copay. If you are looking for therapeutic services for your child/teen, first and foremost, find a service provider that specializes in this demographic. There is nothing worse than sending your child to someone who has little to no experience working with children or young adults. Most importantly know how brave you are to take the first step in placing your mental health and the mental health needs of your family as a priority. Finding the service provider with the best fit for you and your family is the first action in feeling better.

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