***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
If you’ve been searching for a therapist for awhile, one of the factors you may be looking into is finding a therapist of a similar cultural background.
A similar cultural background could mean the therapist:
was born in the same country as you
has a similar immigration history
speaks the same language as you
shares your heritage or ethnicity
has other identifying factors that resonate with you
Of course, the therapist may not share too much about themselves to protect the therapist-client relationship but they may choose to mention a couple of important points in their consult with you or on their therapist directory profile if they feel it could be relevant and helps you decide if they are a good fit for you.
Accessing culturally sensitive therapy can give you a great sense of comfort in knowing that your therapist can hold space for you in a powerful way where you feel truly seen and heard.
Receiving culturally sensitive therapy can be valuable for many reasons – a few of these benefits are described below.
1. There is a deep understanding of the issues you are bringing to counselling
Some of the challenges that you may need support with could be issues that your therapist is well versed in themselves.
For example, if you want support with developing assertiveness, building healthy boundaries, and improving communication with your family, this may be something that your therapist has experience with based on their upbringing in their own family and community.
And, even if your therapist may not have the exact same experience, they will likely have a strong knowledge of it given their understanding of cultural and societal norms based on a shared or similar heritage or background.
2. Your thoughts, feelings, and experiences will be validated
In culturally sensitive therapy, you can be rest assured that the important details that you share in sessions will be respected, valued, and appreciated by your therapist.
You don’t have to fear judgment, criticism, ridicule, or being dismissed.
Your therapist will be there for you during your hardest momentst to give support. They will be right alongside you as you move along your journey in your own time.
3. The context underneath your issues – systemic oppression, intergenerational trauma, racism, inequality, and other types of injustices and stressors – is recognized
All around the world, people of various ethnicities, cultures, religions, genders, orientations, and identities face traumatic experiences – either directly or indirectly – through their loved ones, social networks, communities, and their lineage or heritage.
These factors can form the foundation of many difficulties that you may be dealing with in your everyday life. You and your therapist can take time in therapy to dive deeper into how your history – your personal history and that of generations before you - could be impacting your beliefs, actions, and how you view the world.
You may also want to explore what ideas, perspectives, views, and feelings you want to hold on to, let go of, or think about differently as you continue learning, growing, and healing throughout counselling.
4. You can be confident that you will build a strong therapeutic relationship
The level of understanding, validation, and empathy that naturally comes with culturally sensitive therapy can lend itself to the development of a strong and lasting therapeutic relationship.
You may notice that, once you find a therapist who is good fit for you, the conversation will flow more easily, you won’t be afraid to share your innermost thoughts and feelings, and you can continue to receive guidance from your therapist through various life stages and experiences in your life.
Your therapist will continue to support you through these major transitions for the length of time that you choose to work together.
5. Your therapist knows when to support and when to gently challenge you
As you continue to build a connection throughout the counselling process, your therapist will be able to figure out the key moments when it makes sense to sit with you as you experience your emotions and when it may be helpful to encourage you to consider a new perspective or belief that could possibly serve you better or be more aligned with your goals and needs.
When a therapist offers culturally sensitive therapy, they will have a good understanding of how to pace the therapy journey. They will check in with you regarding the need to slow things down and stay in the present while also having a radar for your readiness and willingness for change in different areas of your life as you move toward your future goals.
Having open conversations, building trust, and co-creating a meaningful therapy journey is all part of the process.
Finding a therapist can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. But it doesn’t have to be.
When you book a free phone consult with a therapist, try to decide how important a similar cultural background is to you and what factors you want to be aligned on if that helps you feel more comfortable and at ease in therapy.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
Read more blog posts about South Asian Mental Health.
If you are an adult in Ontario or Alberta seeking online therapy and would like to request a free 15 minute phone consultation, please Book An Appointment.