Choice, Community & Diversity in Therapy
Did you know that minority groups are more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population? This is due in part to the fact that they often do not have access to therapists of colour which is important in building a therapeutic alliance and trust due to racism and race related trauma.
Only 9.6% of qualified clinical psychologists in England and Wales are non-white, in contrast to 13% of the population. Large amounts of lack in diversity can be extremely harmful to minority groups, who need access to culturally competent care. In this blog post, we will discuss why choice, community, and diversity are so important in therapy and mental health care.
It’s All About Perspective
If you want the best therapy experience possible, it’s important that your chosen therapist can understand how things look from where you stand.
Therapy is often a euro-centric one-size-fits-all approach, but for people from ethnic minority groups, This can be difficult because there aren’t many professionals who understand their specific life experiences which are influenced by culture ,religion, social class and may involve racism, microaggressions and Imposter Syndrome.
Minority communities face barriers when it comes to accessing mental health services as not seeing someone that looks like you can feel like you’re excluded from the service. Additionally Individuals of Colour or from Black, Asian and Minority groups are more likely to have experienced racism, discrimination and socioeconomic barriers . Research highlights that Individuals exposed to Racism are more likely to develop depression and psychosis . Racism can be covert and this can make it more difficult for individuals to find solutions or to gain support due to the nature of it .
Minority groups such as Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than white people, But they can be less likely to be able to help themselves because there’s been little outreach or education about how these treatments work in their communities and benefit the individual.
What Is The Problem?
With a lack of diversity in the field, mental health services are struggling to meet the needs of people from different backgrounds or attract diverse populations/clients. I have observed whilst working in the mental health field for over 20 years . Whilst working in the NHS approximately 90% of my caseload were White and this was working in a culturally diverse location – central Manchester with varying levels of socioeconomic status.
Due to the low number of ethnic minorities in the therapy profession, there are many barriers that hinder starting a career in this profession such as knowing how to successfully navigate the field and leverage your unique lived and professional experiences.
Therapists need to be competent in treating people from all backgrounds because they may have different experiences than those who identify as the majority group. Unfortunately whilst I was training race, culture and diversity wasn’t on the curriculum therefore therapists are required to pursue their own autonomous CPD Training to be skilled in these areas. As a Black British Woman I believe it’s my responsibility to highlight these blindspots in order for change to occur.
To be culturally competent doesn’t mean knowing everything about every culture as that’s impossible; it means recognizing your own implicit biases and limits and being willing to learn about others’ perspectives through taking an authentic curious approach. It’s okay to ask clients about their cultural experiences when having developed a robust therapeutic relationship.
Intimidating Process Breaking The System
Therapy can feel intimidating for people who don’t identify as white british as it may be a treatment modality that is highly stigmatized and misunderstood. Some Individuals from minority groups may view therapy as being for weak people or only for women due to gender biases and misconceptions.
The lack of diversity in the field is concerning because it’s likely that many therapists are not culturally competent enough to be fully competent and confident when working with minority groups – especially those who have experienced racism or discrimination.
Without support, ethnic minorities can start to experience a decline in workplace wellbeing and mental health, which can impact their career progression.
Choosing A Therapist That Understands You?
Choosing a Therapist is a very personal choice and can be difficult at the best of times, I know this when I was looking for a Counsellor. A therapist needs to understand your culture and ethnicity if they want you to trust them with personal and sensitive information about yourself.
Ethnic minorities are less likely than white people to seek out mental health treatment, which means that many therapists have little experience working with their unique issues such as racism, discrimination at work or Imposter Syndrome..
It’s not just race that matters when choosing a therapist, Age , religion,sexuality and gender also play an important part in deciding who you feel comfortable with.
A good therapist will ask questions about your cultural background and ethnicity before and during treatment so they can develop a robust therapeutic alliance whilst also ensuring they are meeting all of your psychological and emotional needs .
Age is an important factor to consider as someone growing up in a completely different time period with different experiences could result in a therapist being unable to understand some of the pertinent issues you are facing.
Gendered therapy is also a thing, many times women go into therapy expecting to talk about relationships and men might discuss work problems. A therapist who is aware of these differences can help both individuals in the relationship. I personally have a preference for working with a female therapist due to my gender and having not been raised by my Father I feel more comfortable and relaxed with Women.
Sometimes talking to someone of the opposite gender can be difficult, which can make it hard for people who identify as LGBTQ+ or gender nonconforming clients to feel comfortable with their therapist.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Cognitive behaviour therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are connected. The therapist will help you identify the negative patterns in your life, so they can be replaced with more positive ones.
Cognitive behaviour therapy has been shown to be effective for a variety of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, disorders, panic attacks, and phobias.
This type of therapy can be helpful for people to increase their well-being at work and at home. It’s a great tool for employees who are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression.
For ethnic minority’s this treatment can be difficult if the therapist is unable to adapt the model or draw upon other approaches to make therapy more meaningful.The therapist should be able to help you understand how your thoughts and feelings are impacting your life and work.
Creating Encouragement To Seek Help
We need more therapists of diverse backgrounds so that people from all walks of life can find a therapist they’re comfortable with. This will help close the gap between equality and diversity within this industry, as well as make it easier on those who are not natively English speakers since many countries don’t have enough professionals available yet!
The effects of racism on the human brain are deeply concerning, with new research showing it can lead to depression and even psychosis. Help should be more accessible to ethnic minorities, who are more likely to suffer from the consequences of discrimination without culturally competent care.
Therapists of colour can help provide that necessary support, and their number needs to grow in order to meet the demand. With an increasingly diverse world, it’s important that mental health services reflect that diversity too.
The lack of access to therapists of colour has led to a mental health crisis in minority communities. However, there are ways we can address this issue. We need more therapists of colour, and we need to provide training for therapists so that they can better serve minority populations. There are now more platforms,organizations and directories that solely specialize in connecting Minority Groups with therapist of Black or Assian Descent as BATAAN, BlackMindsmatter and CultureMinds.
We also need to create safe spaces for people and ethnic minorities of colour where they can share their experiences and find support. These spaces can be used to provide resources and education about mental health issues, and they can help connect people with therapists who share their cultural backgrounds.
We owe it to the next generation to create a world where everyone has access to culturally competent care. The mental health of ethnic minorities is at stake, and we need to take action now and inclusion is important in all aspects of life.
References / Links / further Reading
If you’d like to explore therapy book a call with us today .
BABCP Accredited Cognitive Behaviour Therapist / Health & Wellbeing Consultant