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How to find the right therapist if you have a disability

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Two women speaking in ASL

This post is part of a series offering tips for finding culturally sensitive and accessible care for your identity or background. In the mental health field, we know that having the right therapist is essential for therapy to be helpful. 

So how do you find the right therapist? One thing to look for is a therapist who you feel comfortable talking to–someone who “gets” you. This probably means they understand the things that are unique about you and your life experiences. This also means that they make sure therapy is accessible to you.

Most importantly, the right therapist tailors their therapy to better fit your identity, culture, and values. This is called culturally sensitive care.

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See below for some general guidance on finding culturally sensitive and accessible care and resources for finding the right therapist if you or a loved one have a disability. Culturally sensitive and accessible care can look different depending on your type of disability (e.g., physical or mobility-related, developmental, sensory).

We’ll update this post as we get more information and find new resources, so bookmark this page!

Some stats

Sometimes finding a therapist with your same background is hard just because there aren’t enough of them. Check out these stats:

  • 29% of all families in the United States have at least one member with a disability
  • Approximately 20% of Americans have one or more diagnosed psychological or physical disability
  • Licensed psychologists who have a disability: 5%

Remember: even when a therapist has the same background as you, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll like working with them. Know your rights as a therapy client! Try out different therapists to see who you click with best and whose style you like.

Interview your therapist

One way to tell whether a therapist provides culturally sensitive and accessible care for your disability is to ask them a few questions before starting therapy. Think of this as a therapist “interview.” It’s normal to have some anxiety or worry about asking these questions. 

You can ask these questions over the phone, by email, or in person. If they charge for the first visit, this could also save you money if it turns out they weren’t a good match.

Some sample questions you could ask your therapist:

  • How would you describe your experience treating clients who share my disability? 
  • What is your position on the mental health impact of navigating ableism?
  • How do you ensure that clients with my disability are treated with care and dignity?
  • Is the location for therapy accessible for people with a mobility condition?
  • Are you able to make adjustments (e.g., lower lightening, minimize noise) to your office that allow me to participate in therapy?
  • Will you let me use an iPad or laptop if my words don’t work?

These questions can be changed to fit what you need to make therapy accessible.

Where to find the right therapist

Here’s a list of places where you can find a therapist who has a disability, or at least provides therapy that is accessible to individuals with a disability. 

  1. American Network of Community Options and Resources
  2. Deaf LEAD
  3. Gigi’s Playhouse
  4. Psychology Today–Find an ASL Therapist
  5. Psychology Today–Find an Autism Therapist
  6. Psychology Today–Find an Intellectual Disability Therapist
  7. The Arc
  8. The Autism Society
  9. Your Local Center for Independent Living Center
  10. Your State Developmental Disabilities Council Office
  11. Volunteers of America

Therapy4thePeople’s directory of free and low cost mental health supports allows you to search for services that are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

This post was a collaboration between Therapy4thePeople and the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities. For a step-by-step guide on finding a therapist as a person with an intellectual or developmental disability, check out their Help! I Need a Therapist Guide.

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