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  • What is Culturally Responsive Care

    If you’re hesitant about going to therapy, you may think, “There’s no point in going if my therapist doesn’t really get me.” 

    For marginalized groups interested in starting therapy, look out for signs that the practice embraces culturally responsive therapy. These therapists are unafraid and actively willing to bring conversations about what’s happening in the real world into their sessions—from city-wide protests to everyday prejudice. 

    After all, if that’s what’s affecting your mental health, then we must address it with confidence, care, and a wealth of cultural knowledge.

    Building a Genuine Connection with Your Therapist is Key

    You can expect better treatment outcomes when you genuinely trust your therapist. We get it—it requires much more than simply being a nice person.

    Therapists must explicitly understand and tap into the feelings of those who walk a different life than them. To better serve LGBTQ+ clients, therapists must reflect intentionally on their own sexual, romantic, and gender identities. To better serve clients of color, therapists must be sensitive to and curious about ancestral traumas and current events that can unknowingly or knowingly affect their clients.

    As America faces more robust conversations around racism, sexism, and homophobia, as well as the systems that allow them to persist, these conversations will inevitably enter therapy sessions. (If they haven’t already!) 

    The Building Blocks for Culturally Responsive Therapy

    Cultural Humility

    Cultural humility requires therapists to have an accurate perspective of themselves, from the things they unlearned from childhood, to the biases that still affect them. It also means accepting that you won’t always know everything. Therapists should, however, always recognize the societal, structural, and institutional powers and systems that lift up some and hold down others.

    Culturally responsive therapy looks like welcoming in and making room for your culture during sessions. They accept you for who you are: clothing, mannerisms, beliefs, language, sexuality, race, class, and all. This is how we learn to express ourselves and communicate our needs and stressors. Your therapist should use these things to build a relationship with you based on unconditional love and understanding, not differentiate themselves from you.

    Adjusting (or Omitting) One-Size-Fits-All Tools

    It’s important that therapists reexamine the tools that worked for one client before trying them on another. Plus, there’s always a chance that the creator’s internal bias will influence the effectiveness of these tools. A good culturally responsive therapist will outline the room for error and adjust their strategy with you specifically in mind. 

    For example, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the only authoritative guide therapists use to diagnose mental disorders—finally removed “homosexuality” from the sociopathic personality disorder list in 1973. Therapists must work harder to build trust with these populations, as they are a part of the same industry that betrayed them.

    Differentiating Tolerance, Inclusivity, and Integration

    Tolerance looks like your therapist neutrally acknowledging the differences between you and them. 

    Inclusivity looks like your therapist being curious about your identities and background, researching them behind the scenes to prepare for your next session, and heavily considering them in your treatment plan. 

    Integration includes both tolerance and inclusivity, showing up at every step along the way. 

    Signs to Look Out For Before Starting Therapy

    When responding to advertising, scheduling your first session, and meeting your first therapist, ask yourself, “How do I know this is a place that makes me feel safe?”

    Seeing literature written by BIPOC authors in the lobby, decorations with inclusive and educational posters like The Genderbread Person, or being offered screening paperwork in multiple languages, are all good signs that the practice is culturally responsive. 

    Our practice is a safe and resourceful space for anyone looking to improve themselves mentally and live a more authentic life. Whether you’re a first-generation American looking for a sense of belonging, or someone who’s just begun unpacking their gender identity, we want to help you on your journey.

    Open to getting started? Contact our office today.