This post is part of a series offering tips for finding culturally sensitive 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.
Most importantly, the right therapist tailors their therapy to better fit your identity, culture, and values. This is called culturally sensitive care.
See below for some general guidance on finding culturally sensitive care and specific information and resources for finding the right therapist if you’re American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN).
We’ll update this post as we get more information and find new resources, so bookmark this page!
Sometimes finding a therapist with your same background is hard just because there aren’t enough of them. Check out these stats:
- US Population that is AI/AN: 1.3%
- Licensed psychologists who are AI/AN: .3%
- Master’s level social workers who are AI/AN: .8%
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 is culturally sensitive 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.
We recommend trying to interview a potential therapist over the phone so you can hear their voice. 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 include:
- “How would you describe your experience treating clients who share my AI/AN identity?”
- “Describe your knowledge of safety risks related to my identity as an AI/AN person.”
- “What is your practice’s position on the mental health impact of navigating oppression, racism, and racial violence?”
- “What is your practice’s position on the mental health impact of navigating multiple systems of oppression?”
Can I get therapy in another language?
If you’re looking for therapy in a language other than English, things get a little trickier. You’ll have to make sure that you find a therapist that you can communicate with. Most therapists in the US only speak English.
Some mental health clinics and therapists use a professional interpreter when they don’t speak their client’s language. The interpreter will likely be over the phone, translating what you and your therapist say to each other. It’s up to you if you are comfortable with having an interpreter in the room with you and your therapist.
Where to find the right therapist
Here’s a list of places where you can find a therapist who is AI/AN or at least respects and values that part of your identity.
- Ayana Therapy
- Center for Native American Youth
- Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health Services
- Clinicians for People of Color
- Inclusive Therapists
- Indian Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color (QTOC)
- Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network
- National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
- One Sky Center–“Find a Therapist” locator
- Open Path Collective
- Psychology Today–Find a Native American Therapis
- Therapy for Queer People of Color
Many local organizations serving AI/AN individuals can help you find a culturally sensitive therapist or provide referrals in your community. Below are some examples, but many more exist!
- American Indian Health and Family Services–Michigan
- American Indian Health Service of Chicago–Chicago
- Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health–Oklahoma
- Denver Indian Health and Family Services–Denver
- Native American Connections–Phoenix
- Native American Health Center–California
- Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest–Oregon
- Native Health–Arizona
- Northern Valley Indian Health–California
- Sacramento Native American Health Center Inc. (SNAHC)–Sacramento
- San Diego American Indian Health Center–San Diego
- Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake–Utah
You can also search our directory for affordable mental health services that specifically serve AI/AN individuals.