Written by Kelly Couture, MEd, LPC-S
Clients come to therapy from diverse backgrounds, including diversity of race, spirituality, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, social class, etc.. As mental health and substance use treatment becomes more acceptable and less stigmatized by the majority of our society, counselors still need to view counseling and psychiatric medication management through the lens of minority populations. What can clients of various minority groups look for in therapy and how can therapists provide individualized care to diverse clients? Below are important things to consider.
1) In many multicultural groups, mental health therapy, and most notably psychiatric medication management, continues to go under utilized. There is still a significant stigma, especially in multicultural populations, that therapy or psychiatric medication can mean weakness, a lack of belief in god, etc. It is valuable to have conversations with your therapist about your thoughts on psychiatric medications, process your feelings, and ask for resources to learn more.
2) A client’s religion may not align with the idea of mental health and/or medication management. During your sessions, if it feels emotionally safe, talk with your therapist about your cultural background and beliefs. If they are not familiar with your religion or spirituality, please know that counselors may ask questions in order to understand more.
3) Many individuals of lower socioeconomic status are not able to afford psychiatric (or medical) medications. Ask your therapist if he or she is aware of local resources that you can use so that you may have access to the care that you need (examples are: Good Rx, community mental health centers, etc).
4) Sometimes, mistrust of physicians may lead to a lack of accessing psychiatric services. For example, there have been many unethical and deadly “experiments” performed on African Americans throughout history which could contribute to distrust of providers. It is completely understandable to have a lack of trust and to question if your provider is “doing right” by you. Trust is the cornerstone of therapy and a good therapist should not be offended if you voice these concerns.
Remember that the best care is the right care given at the right time. If you need time, education or assistance in obtaining medications, therapists are in a position to help with this, within the scope of their practice. Since your therapist may see you more than a prescriber does, your therapist can be more in tune with the nuances of how to best help you, and can collaboratively create emotional safety with a multicultural lens.