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Why don't black people go to therapy?

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


As a therapist, my journey into the profession was driven by a strong desire to help my community. However, I've encountered a surprising and sobering reality—most of my clients are not African American. And, the few African American clients I have had often express reservations about therapy with a professional from a different racial background. They've shared concerns like, "You know people I know!" or "I don't want people knowing my business." These sentiments highlight the hesitation that many in the African American community feel when seeking therapy from professionals of different races.

In this blog post, we'll explore some of the reasons why individuals, especially those from marginalized communities, might be apprehensive about therapy with therapists from different racial backgrounds. This discussion is essential to address the issue of underrepresentation and to promote more inclusive and effective mental health care.

  1. Cultural Understanding: Many clients are concerned that therapists from different backgrounds may not fully grasp the cultural nuances, experiences, and challenges they face. They fear that their unique perspective might be overlooked.

  2. Trust and Relatability: Building trust with a therapist is a cornerstone of successful therapy. Clients often find it easier to open up to a therapist who they believe can relate to their experiences. A shared cultural background can enhance this connection.

  3. Fear of Judgment: The fear of being judged or misunderstood by a therapist from a different racial or cultural background is a valid concern. Clients want to feel safe and accepted during their therapy sessions.

  4. Extra Emotional Labor: Some clients worry that they will need to educate their therapist about their culture, adding an extra emotional burden to the therapy process. They seek a space where they can focus on their well-being rather than being educators.

To bridge this gap, mental health professionals must commit to cultural competence and sensitivity. While it's impossible for therapists to fully understand every client's unique background, they can strive to be culturally humble and attentive, engage in continuous education, and create a welcoming, inclusive therapeutic environment.

Open and honest communication between clients and therapists is key. Clients should feel comfortable discussing their preferences, concerns, and any reservations they may have. The aim is to ensure that therapy is tailored to the individual's needs and experiences.

Furthermore, increasing diversity and representation within the mental health profession is a positive step forward. When clients see therapists who share their background, it can help break down barriers and encourage more individuals to seek the help they need.

In conclusion, initiating a discussion on these important issues is a crucial step in making therapy more inclusive and effective for everyone. By addressing the concerns that clients from different racial backgrounds may have, we can work towards a future where mental health care is accessible and relatable to all, irrespective of their cultural and racial identity.


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