Therapy isn’t a word you hear often in Latinx and Hispanic households—but that doesn’t mean that our communities don’t sometimes need it. In fact, according to the National Alliance of Mental Ilness (NAMI), while our community is similarly vulnerable to mental illness as other communities, only 34% of Hispanic/Latinx adults with mental illness ever seek out and obtain treatment (the U.S. average, meanwhile, is 45%). Stigma and other barriers keep many Latinx people from getting support.
Finding a professional in the Latinx therapy field can feel like an obstacle in and of itself. So whether you’re looking for a Hispanic mental health professional or are on the fence about starting therapy, our experts share everything you need to know about the process, and the steps to take to get started.
First, push past mental health stigmas
According to one study, older Latinx generations express greater embarrassment and shame in having a mental illness, often due to fear of burdening their family members. Many also see depression as a weakness, versus an illness, and fear disappointing their families—which may in turn lead to not seeking help or to hide their condition.
Recognizing the stigmas associated with asking for help is the first step in overcoming them.
“Many Latinx folks I speak with in the community or as clients do not know that ‘mental health’ exists until they are young adults and/or experiencing a mental health crisis,” says Adriana Alejandre, L.M.F.T and founder of Latinx Therapy. Most commonly, the crises are experienced in college and/or young adulthood, so this is the time many people realize they need help.
This reflects my own experience: While I grew up struggling with anxiety from a young age, I didn’t obtain help via therapy until I was in college, at the suggestion of a campus nurse practitioner. But while I sought out treatment, many others are unable or unwilling to.
“There is a stigma that if you talk to someone outside your family, family secrets will be revealed,” says Stefanie Flores, a licensed mental health and addictions therapist based in Las Vegas. Some family members may also downplay a person’s mental health struggles. They may express ideas like, “I’ve been through worse than you. What do you have to be depressed or anxious about?” explains Flores.
These views don’t solely belong to our parents and grandparents, of course. Younger Latinxs also struggle to wriggle free from negative associations with seeking therapy, explains Alejandre. She also points to the ways in which therapy has often been portrayed as an intervention for white or wealthy people, leaving Latinx folks feeling as though therapy isn’t for them.
Another potential barrier? Religion. “Some [Latinx people] believe that a person just needs to ‘pray more’ or ‘go to church more,’” says Flores. But Alejandre says that despite the idea that faith should suffice for mental health wellness, “both religion and therapy can coexist and be included as coping strategies together.”
For Latinx members of the LGBTQ community, the barriers to mental health care can seem even more vast because of other stigmas and prejudices.
How and where to look for a Latinx therapist
The vast majority of psychologists in the U.S. are white, according to American Psychological Association numbers from 2015. Only 5% were Hispanic. “Latinx folks have difficulty finding therapists from their cultural background and who speak the same language,” says Flores. It’s important for patients to feel understood by their practitioners, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find a culturally competent therapist or counselor.
Fortunately, there are some ways to seek out the right therapist for you and your needs.
Try websites dedicated to Latinx therapy. Alejandre’s LatinxTherapy and Brandie Carlos’ Therapy for Latinx feature robust directories of Latinx therapists around the U.S. Similarly, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s Therapy for Black Girls is a helpful resource for Afro-Latinx individuals who would prefer to see a Black mental health practitioner.
Look at general therapy websites, too. Sites like GoodTherapy and PsychologyToday don’t necessarily categorize their therapists in this manner, but can be helpful in terms of figuring out an individual’s specialties, languages, co-pay rates, and more.
Consider support groups. NAMI is another great resource and helpful for finding support groups (if it’s not financially feasible to see an individual therapist).
Ask friends and family for recommendations. People in your community may be very helpful. “I have amazing [colleagues] like Luis Cornejo of Psychosocial Media, Dariela Vazquez, L.C.S.W in New York, Leslie Arreola-Hillenbrand of Latinx Parenting who have beautiful offerings for the community,” says Alejandre.
Ask questions to find the right fit for you
Never be afraid to ask your potential therapist questions. After all, you’ll need to be perfectly comfortable sharing intimate details with this individual. It might take a few tries before you find a therapist that’s the right fit, and that’s all right—it can be a part of the process.
“If a Latinx person seeking treatment needs to address racial traumas, issues surrounding sexuality, or anything related to current events, they should ask their potential therapist about their comfort level with these issues,” says Flores. “Most therapists have a laundry list of broad issues they cover like anxiety, trauma, or family issues, but not all of them are trained or competent in culturally specific topics.”
Language barriers are another special consideration for many Latinx and Hispanic individuals. Whether you prefer to speak Spanish, English, Brazilian Portuguese, or a mixture (like “Spanglish”), ask early to know what languages your therapist can effectively communicate in.
“Latinx folks should be able to speak comfortably and not feel like they have to hold back in therapy,” says Flores.
Alejandre recommends starting off with a consultation call (which should typically be free) in order to figure out if the therapist is a good fit “personality-wise, specialty-wise, and values-wise.”
She also has a list of questions to bring to your initial consultation call or meeting with a potential therapist. Some of these include:
When are you available for sessions?
Have you worked with someone that has lived experiences such as mine? Or with someone that has my identities?
What is your process for the first session?
What kind of therapy treatment/modality do you practice with your clients (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, etc.)
Do you take insurance?
Additionally, you’ll want to inquire about payment options. Figure out if they take your insurance, how much co-pays might be, and if they offer sliding scale options for those without insurance.
Red flags to watch out for
You may discover in your initial session, or even in one of your first few sessions, that the therapist is not a good fit for you.
“Some of the initial [red flags] would include if the therapist isn’t answering your questions, sounds distracted when speaking with you, isn’t clear about the cost during the consultation call, or confirms the identity of a client of theirs when asked,” says Alejandre.
Once treatment has begun, she also warns of practitioners who are quick to diagnose without proper assessments or who won’t incorporate your feedback or listen to your concerns regarding your treatment.
Flores says to also be aware of therapists who disclose too much personal information in treatment, too. “Therapists should also refrain from passing judgmental statements, especially related to your culture or community,” she says. “As a client, you have a right to stop treatment.”
Bottom line: Therapy can be a big help
While finding a therapist or general help with mental health can be challenging initially, the benefits make it worthwhile.
“I frequently point out how family judgments, negative messages about ourselves, and self-doubt can stem from our families,” says Flores. “[But] therapy encourages a sense of individuality. Healthy insight about ourselves can strengthen our coping mechanisms, which we all need during these difficult times.”
“The biggest benefit of engaging in therapy for Latinx individuals is the knowledge they gain and put into practice,” adds Priscila Pender, Ph.D., an Afro-Latinx life coach who specializes in the queer and trans community. “As you begin to shift and the people around you take notice, they ask questions. Learning that someone you know and trust has been successful with their therapy could be the catalyst needed for someone to engage in their own healing.”
You Might Also Like