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Cultural Clashes in Mental Health

Cultural clashes can occur in mental health and most often present themselves when seeking services. Oftentimes, people of color are resistant to seeking out conventional therapy because it contradicts some of their cultural beliefs. Whether it is the belief that you do not share personal business with strangers, or that the dominant culture is not to be trusted due to historical oppression, or it can even be the cultural belief that mental health challenges are a made up notion for the elite and educated class. Many of these beliefs can hinder people from seeking out professional help that they can or may benefit from. With these challenges, it is important for the field of mental health to expand itʻs modalities and to tie in indigenous cultural practices with properly trained therapists. Therapists that incorporate cultural competency will be the most successful with patients from marginalized populations and those that are hesitant to engage in service due to belief systems that run in their familles.


If you have found yourself saying that “therapy is NOT for me” or “I will not subscribe to western modalites,” I challenge you to address this with some suggestions. First and foremost, understand that you are free to incorporate traditional and cultural practices if you feel it will work for you. There is no one size fits all and there is no point in engaging in therapy if you are already convinced it will NOT help you. Secondly, understand that there are therapists from all cultures and belief systems and there may be one that may align with what you may need. Search within your community and those you feel comfortable with and seek out references from those you trust. There are licensed clinicians for most religions denominations as well as therapists that can speak many different languages and specialized in many different cultures.


For many indigenous populations where Western modalites have not been as successful, culturally-based programs have proven their success. Find an organization that comes from a rooted cultural practice and see if you can find success there. Many programs emphasize more traditional practices such as storytelling, rituals, caring for the land and animals, and native language incorporation. These supportive cultural practices may be your answer.