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How to find the right therapist if you’re Asian American or Pacific Islander

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AAPI man smiling and writing in notepad

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.

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Below is some general guidance on finding culturally sensitive care and specific information and resources for finding the right therapist if you’re Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI). These resources are more important than ever because hate speech and violence against AAPI communities, and especially the elderly, have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’ve been directly subjected to discrimination and violence or have learned about widespread xenophobia on the news, these incidents can impact your mental health.

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:

 

  • US Population that is AAPI: 6.1%  
  • Licensed psychologists  who are AAPI: 4%
  • Master’s level social workers who are AAPI: 3.3%
  • Use of mental health services among AAPIs: 4.9% (lower than any other racial or ethnic group in the US)

 

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 AAPI identity?”
  • “Describe your knowledge of safety risks related to my identity as an AAPI 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?”

 

(Thanks to our friends at Human Rights Campaign and Mental Health America for developing these questions!)

 

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 Asian American or Pacific Islander, or at least respects and values that part of your identity. 

  1. Asian Mental Health Collective
  2. Ayana Therapy
  3. Bengali Mental Health Movement
  4. Open Path Collective
  5. Inclusive Therapists
  6. Mann Mukti
  7. National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
  8. National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
  9. Psychology Today–Find an Asian Therapist
  10. South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network

 

You can also search our directory for affordable mental health services that specifically serve AAPI communities.

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