Find A Therapist

Find A Therapist

Truthfully, it can be challenging to find a POC therapist. 
Even in a place as diverse as NYC.

Finding a BIPOC therapist in reality is a matter of numbers. The mental health field of course is a reflection of our larger society. Unfortunately, there are simply far fewer therapists of color overall. 

“Broadly speaking, both psychoanalytic theorists and clinicians have been slow to examine how histories of race and colonial modernity implicitly frame their field’s evolution—its dominant paradigms and theoretical assumptions…”
—David L. Eng, PhD and Shinhee Han, PhD, Racial Melancolia, Racial Dissociation

Psychotherapy as a tradition and set of practices indeed has been shaped by individualism, Western European philosophies and educational systems. Such theories and lenses left unexamined as a result contribute to many descendants of collectivist cultures—including many immigrants and refugees—feeling misunderstood. Worse, unfortunately, over-pathologized.

However, the mental health field is slowly learning from mistakes. With educational institutions trying to interrogate systemic biases and blind spots, it will take time, commitment and much effort. For now, this is a work-in-progress, and needless to say shall remain so.

Largely, cultural stigmas and familial beliefs often restrict people of interdependent cultures from seeking professional support. At times, economic factors, not understanding how to navigate the healthcare system and difficulties with insurance are also common obstacles for many, especially first-time therapy seekers of non dominant backgrounds. 

Quite often somatic symptoms in the form of shortness of breath, digestive issues, headaches, joint pain, and more, are only addressed through seeing a doctor. But, if symptoms do not meet medical criteria to warrant a diagnosis, unfortunately, symptoms get ignored, disregarded and often remain untreated.

What’s more, the word psychosomatic has a bad rap.

Psyche, meaning mind or soul, fused with soma, meaning body, suggests some kind of connection between the two. Certainly for much of the history of Western medicine, the term psychosomatic has been used dismissively as imaginary or unreal, since bringing the mind or soul too close to the body has threatened legitimacy, as if unscientific. 

Generally speaking, in many collectivist cultures somatic descriptions are often a way to express feelings. Understandably, sometimes unresolved trauma—or simply not feeling heard or understood in prior treatment—also contributes to distrust and avoidance of help-seeking for both medical and mental health.

While therapists of color are growing in number, unfortunately, there are still too few BIPOC therapists to see all of the diverse clients seeking support. Because of demand, you may find a practitioner of color and then learn that their practice is full. 

The pandemic simultaneously increased access to treatment and demand for mental health services skyrocketed. As a result, there have been some mental health practitioners—also navigating ongoing collective stressors—who reduced their hours due to burnout, and others who have their own health or family crises to prioritize preventing them from effectively supporting others, even if temporarily.  

Meanwhile, new clinicians are getting trained to join the field. Hopefully, educational institutions are actively dismantling systems of oppression and investing in greater inclusivity, equity and diversity. 

Find A BIPOC Therapist

Find a therapist who you connect with…

Therapists are trained to work with people overall  from many walks of life, backgrounds and life experiences. Some clients understandably seek a match by race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, other folks purposefully don’t, preferring a therapist of a different racial/cultural background than their own.  Each may have distinct reasons and rationales. Either way, there can be both benefits and drawbacks. What’s most important is to feel enough of a common world view, or shared values.

Common ground between you and your therapist can be a solid starting point. However, how you feel responded to by your therapist is crucial. What gives you the sense that you are understood? Or not? If you do not feel understood, are you honest with your therapist about that? Does your therapist get defensive, or rather course-correct?

Is your therapist willing to not know and hear you out fully? 

So as a person with an entirely different set of life experiences, maybe your therapist can’t completely understand what you’ve gone through. How do they convey their humility and openness to learning from your unique experiences? Moreover, do you feel affirmed? Do you find that your therapist displays compassion towards you? Do they express emotional responses to what you’re sharing that feel supportive? How does your therapist convey warmth and care for you?

Finding a therapist, your therapist, can offer transformative experiences of feeling heard, understood, seen and known deeply. A trusting relationship with a therapist can offer corrective experiences, perspectives and insights. May the therapist who you choose, be an important guide to you through several chapters of your life as you grow and evolve.

Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD speaks to finding a therapist who uses an anti-racist stance.

Find Your Therapist

Therapists are trained in many different ways, and psychotherapy approaches are wide ranging. With so many options, how do you find a therapist who is right for you?

Sometimes you might hear that a friend really likes their therapist. Would your friend mind sharing their contact information? Of course, a word of mouth recommendation is strong. However, you’ll also want to feel comfortable enough to speak candidly with your therapist about any issue. Asking your friend for referrals to a trusted colleague of their therapist eliminates any potential conflicts of interest.

You may be considering factors like cost, location, schedules etc… all important practical considerations. Because you will likely entrust your therapist with thoughts and issues that you may, or may not, discuss with anyone else in your life…

Most important, who do you want to confide in?

In addition to training and background, therapists have different personalities, life experiences and more, which inform how they practice. Some therapists remain quiet and rarely make comments, attempting to provide a “blank slate.” If you need a space simply to hear your own thoughts out loud, you might like such a therapist. 

Many clients report such prior experiences in therapy rather unsuccessful, and unclear about benefits. For many who identify as BIPOC, as well as descendants of collectivist cultures, a therapist who is active, engages in dialogue and inquiry—who also offers thought-provoking feedback—often feels more productive. 

Find A POC Therapist

Do you have a sense of the style you’d like your therapist to have? 

With so many considerations, it may take talking with a few potential therapists before you settle on working with one. Rather than putting a lot of pressure on a first meeting, I like to recommend at least 3-5 sessions to get a feel for one another. This way, both client and practitioner have a chance to see how the relationship is developing. 

As the relationship with your therapist evolves, you may find that you address your initial goals. In time, you may feel greater trust, as well as seen and understood more fully. The process will likely reveal new areas that need your attention. This is to be expected with engaging a process of growth and change. Therapy can be a potent, entirely life-altering experience where you have a witness and supportive ally through different seasons and stages of your life.

With a deep commitment to seeing more therapists of color in the mental health field, Michele L. Kong, CPC, SEP, LP contributes a percentage of net profits, energy and time to volunteer supporting the professional development of other BIPOC practitioners learning trauma-informed, somatic approaches. In so doing, the aim is to create more sensitivity to the diverse needs of mental health seekers, provide refuge and solace, as well as to heal our communities at large.


“We need to call out our power inequality and oppression wherever it’s hiding to create sustainable change in society… compassion is rooted in the motivation to alleviate the suffering caused by all injustice… Fierce self-compassion will enable us to take responsibility and commit to doing things differently.”
—Kristen Neff, PhD, author of Fierce Self-Compassion


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