Why do I need a woman of colour therapist?
The world of psychology has historically been white and male, and has reinforced sexist troupes and language, such as hysterical. As women were given space to enter the field of psychology, and do research, some of those sexist naming and framing of mental health started to be challenged. In more recent history, there is more of a presence of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour therapists writing their own books, doing their own research, and discussing the importance of cultural relevance in evidence based practice. People of colour, in particular, Black women have used anti-racist and Black feminism theory to discuss the impact of race, gender, and class on one’s well-being.
The therapeutic relationship is a deeply personal and political experience, and it’s important for the person to feel reflected in the interaction. Reflection in the therapeutic experience can increase safety and a sense of well-being. Choosing a therapist who shares your cultural background can limit over-explaining your situation because the therapist may understand cultural nuance and nonverbal communication. This can create a sense of comfort and make it easier for you to open up during therapy.
Belonging to multiple marginalized groups (for example, being a Black trans woman), finding a therapist who understands intersectionality can be crucial care. They can better grasp the complexities of your experiences, and not engage in black and white boundaries or solutions.
Feeling understood and validated by your therapist is essential for building therapeutic alliance and reducing shame. Some individuals experience shame if they come from a colonized community, and the impact of colonializtion has resulted in high rates of substance use and/or abuse. A therapist from the same colonized community is less likely to pathologize family and community members, and understands separation from community is not the solution to healing. Instead a woman therapist of colour of a similar background is more likely going to focus on alternative ways to increase safety and reduce harm in the person’s healing journey.
It is important to note that the effectiveness of therapy cannot be limited by race or ethnicity of the therapist. As you are looking for a therapist, it’s important to assess their expertise, experience, therapeutic approach, and your personal connection with them.
Ultimately, the choice of a therapist is a personal & political decision.Your sense of safety and not feeling judged is the most critical choice. Coming from a community who has not relied on therapy as a form of healing requires a therapist who is flexible in their approach, and understands the impact of systems on people’s mental health.