Want a therapist or group of color? No Apologies Needed

It is more common these days for African-Americans and other POC (people of color) to make it known that they prefer a therapist whose racial identity is similar to theirs or who is from an oppressed racial group. But I also encounter clients who feel they must apologize for such a desire and/or request.

There is no need to do so.

Desiring a therapist who shares the experience of racial oppression is not racist or anything to feel shame or embarrassment about.  It has nothing to do with asserting that White people are inferior, and everything to do with wanting to talk about experiences of racism and perhaps internalized racism with someone who is likely to relate to this on an experiential level and be more comfortable than many White therapists in hearing about and working with it.  It’s about self-care and getting help as a person or family with a legacy and present of being devalued and structurally subject to constrained opportunities, and at high risk for debilitation and/or death through illnesses, inferior services, and murder.

Of course, there’s no absolute guarantee that a therapist of similar race will have experienced the same degree of racial oppression, because of factors of social class and where the therapist grew up. And the therapist’s particular training and social justice awareness will play a role in how available s/he/they are to recognize and address the influence of racism within an individual and in relationships.  It is also true that some institutions that train therapists incorporate a lens of how racial, gender and sexual orientation oppression, among others, is a source of relational pain and distress that needs to be attended to in therapy.

Nonetheless, the odds of a person of color locating a White therapist with this orientation are not in his/her/they favor. White clients, on the other hand, are not dealing with racial subjugation, unless their family is interracial.  And because there’s no scarcity of White therapists, the issue of shared racial identity with therapists is not an issue or likely a thought, unless presented with a professional of color.  There is no parity here between Black and White clients.

If you are a POC and feel/think that having a therapist of color is not relevant to “a good fit” between you and the therapist or to get your needs met, no problem. You have the world of therapists to choose from.  But if it is important, ask for it.  And feel good that you are showing up for your well-being.




2 thoughts on “Want a therapist or group of color? No Apologies Needed

  1. Thank you, thandiwe, for giving clarity to this. I’ll be referencing this post to fellow therapists and new clients.

  2. Important essay and thank you thandiwe for normalizing POC requesting a therapist of color. I think this essay raises the concern that what are Training Institutes doing to make available training for more therapists of color and how is an anti-racist perspective incorporated into these trainings if at all?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.