During my time as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen my white counterparts catch a lot of hell. Hearing that clients don’t feel comfortable and assume they will be misunderstood by their white therapists is something that happens throughout mental health clinics in communities of color. Though it is true in some cases, not all white therapists are out of touch.
In honor of Social Work Month, I want to not only show my own [white] therapist appreciation but also challenge thoughts about white therapists. They actually aren’t so bad.
Is it important for the black and Latino community to be represented in the field to help promote cultural competency? Absolutely. Having a therapist that looks like you can be therapeutic in itself because you feel more understood, not judged and more connected, which helps with building a strong therapeutic alliance. As a black therapist, I understand all of these things. However, the idea that all black people should have black therapists needs to be challenged.
I am a black therapist and I can say that my white therapist doesn’t do anything differently than I would do during a therapy session. She’s a great therapist and has helped me get through some of the darkest points in my life. She has also helped me discover a lot about myself and my own behaviors. Yes we come from different cultures but that cultural difference doesn’t create a barrier to where she is unable to help me or unable to understand me.
Her white privilege doesn’t make her unfit to help black people, it just means it is her responsibility to make sure she remains as culturally competent as possible to understand the population she works with.
Of course, I understand the struggles of people of color way more because I am living it and have witnessed it my entire life, however that doesn’t mean that she can’t do something that I can do when it comes to helping people of color through depression, anxiety and other mental health diagnoses. Honestly, we make people feel different because of the way we look. When my clients look at me, they feel a sense of relief because they know there are things that won’t have to he explicitly stated or explained in order for us to have a genuine connection. We can relate as people of color through our experiences as minorities.
White therapists can’t do that, but they are trained psychotherapists just like I am. Just because they are white it doesn’t mean they are the enemy. They can actually be our allies. Don’t assume a therapist can’t help you because that are white. Honestly, if you are pay more attention to their whiteness, you’re hindering the healing process more than their whiteness ever could.