Should I speak to a therapist of my gender and race

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When you finally take the leap to seek the help of a therapist, you have high expectations. You hope they don’t judge you. You want them to be comforting. And you want them to be understanding. But above all you want them to help you handle the situation that you are going through. So would it be better if you seek counseling from a therapist that has the same background as you to get the best result?

The short answer is if it makes you more comfortable then yes.

The other short answer is that you should first focus on the issue that brought you to your counselor’s door.

A person that has over 20-years of experience in postpartum depression might be more suited to help new mothers than someone from her same ethnicity but only started practicing 2 years ago. At the same time, if someone is dealing with discrimination at work, they might be more comfortable speaking with a person with similar background.

This isn’t to say that a cisgender white man cannot help a transgender person of color. The therapist is a trained professional. But there has been multiple cases of dismissal.

[The therapist] was hostile, combative, and blaming. She spun circular arguments around straightforward issues and aggressively offered contrarian viewpoints to events I recounted—essentially picking a fight. She followed that by asking if I’d noticed “things were getting adversarial,” and found ways to imply that a lot of what I was dealing with that week were my own projections—an abrupt shift from our consistent work of pushing me to trust my own perceptions and emotions. [TONIC]

Having never been subjected to the minority experience, it may not have occurred to [White therapists] that racism could be traumatic.These are typically therapists who ascribe to a colorblind approach as their method of choice for working with people who are culturally different. However, colorblind ideology is actually a form of racism (Terwilliger et al., 2013), as it provides an excuse for therapists to remain ignorant of the cultures and customs of their non-White fellow human beings. [PT]

Even when our issues, such as developing self-esteem or learning to trust our intuitions, is not directly a racial matter. It often intertwines with the culture that we grew up in. Which if it differs from a White Christian American, needs special handling. A South Asian woman is likely to be more sensitive to another South Asian woman who needs help dealing with a relationship issues while living with parents that do not allow dating.

However, since we make all the excuses in the world to not go to a therapist in the first place, and since it’s not the easiest thing to find a therapist that matches every one of your criteria, it is still encouraged to go to a therapist that you at least feel comfortable with. You most likely will be pleasantly surprised to have a non-judgemental person listen to you.

Besides, the option to go a different counselor if the first one does not feel right is always there. Just make sure to continue the process of healing with someone else.

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