What Minorities Can Expect from a Culturally Competent Therapist

Do you believe your therapist understands you well enough to provide quality treatment? Does your therapist understand what makes you you?

A good psychotherapist respects the differences in how each person in therapy sees and functions in the world. Everyone has a unique identity and set of needs, thoughts, beliefs, values, rituals, and influences.

Understanding and appreciating this is part of what comprises cultural competence. Appearances alone cannot account for culture, as culture may or may not be readily apparent. This is why the first stages of contact between a therapist and a person in therapy are so important. Gathering pertinent information about a person in therapy helps to foster a trusting alliance and makes the therapist aware of factors—such as cultural expression, experiences, background, diction, concerns, and goals—that may be important to be aware of or that might be fertile ground for exploration.

Here are seven areas your psychotherapist should (and likely will) consider in an effort to provide quality treatment:

  1. Have you been in therapy previously? If so, the therapist may be interested in knowing what your experience was like. What did you expect from your therapist? When searching for a therapist, what do you look for or require (referrals, race, gender, experience, credentials, location, fees, etc.)? If you tried psychotherapy in the past, what worked? What didn’t? What made you comfortable or uncomfortable? How do you expect to know when it is time to end your therapy?
  2. How do you identify in the world? What is your race, gender, sexual orientation, and financial status, if relevant? What aspects of your identity or culture do you believe are important to consider in therapy to ensure you feel heard, understood, and responded to appropriately?
  3. In times of need, where does your help come from…

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