As a SonderMind clinician, understanding clients’ unique needs is key to providing care that drives better outcomes. That’s why we’re sharing insights from Alicia Richardson, LPC, Arizona, a SonderMind therapist and member of the BIPOC community. In the following Q&A with Alicia, she shares her experiences and observations regarding the unique needs of BIPOC clients, and how clinicians can best support this community as a whole.
Throughout my life I have identified with the cultural trope “strong, Black woman”. That was the only way I knew, as growing up showing emotion or any sign of weakness was not accepted. Sure, I can be a strong Black woman, however, there were many days/nights where I did not feel strong, yet I felt obligated to keep up the act. That was a whole lot of pressure! Eventually, that pressure became too much to bear. I decided maybe I would give this “therapy thing” a shot. I wanted a Black, woman therapist, however, I had a challenging time finding one. Eventually I found a non-BIPOC therapist who was wonderful, but I must admit I would hold back sometimes during sessions as I didn’t believe she would understand where I was coming from. This experience made me think if I am feeling this way I wonder if others might feel this same way which led to my decision to become a therapist.
Some challenges I have faced being a Black woman in this field are microaggressions and not having the autonomy to provide therapy the way I would like to when working for agencies. It is important for me to remain true to myself when working with my clients and these situations/environments did not always allow me the opportunity to do so, which persuaded me to start my own private practice.
Two of the most common things I hear from my Black clients related to reservations they have about therapy are 1) the stigma associated with mental health in the Black community and 2) the lack of Black providers in the mental health field.
While mental health and wellness is being more widely promoted in the Black community today there are still misconceptions about therapy that hinder Black clients from seeking the care they need.
Black clients may often seek a Black therapist or POC therapist because they feel more comfortable that their therapist will have a better cultural understanding and the appropriate skill set to address their specific needs.
My Black clients have expressed a need for a provider who they can culturally identify with and who will be mindful of how culture and ethnicity impact mental health. These clients want to be given a safe and welcoming environment where they can show up as their authentic selves without being judged for doing so.
First and foremost, clinicians can better support Black clients by being culturally aware and competent. It is imperative that clinicians have a keen sense of their own personal culture and can acknowledge and respect the cultural differences of their clients. Clinicians must understand how culture can dictate values and norms which define and shape what constitutes mental illness for their client.
Clinicians should be multiculturally competent and aware of how different cultures may present their symptoms and how this affects their responsiveness to treatment. The client’s culture should be taken into consideration when determining which method of treatment would be the most appropriate for the client. The lack of multicultural competency can be harmful to the client and have a negative impact on the outcome of therapy.
Finally ask your client for feedback. Ask the client what works well for them and what does not. Therapy is collaborative. Including your client in the treatment planning process of therapy builds rapport and cultivates a successful therapeutic experience for your client.
At SonderMind, we’re here to support clinicians in providing high-quality, evidence-based care that meets the mental health needs of the BIPOC community and all clients. That’s why, as a SonderMind clinician, you get access to resources to ensure you’re supported in delivering high-quality care, every step of the way. Check out these articles to further your knowledge and enhance your skills to best serve clients and their unique needs:
SonderMind invests in our clinicians’ success and continued development, including access to career-building opportunities, ongoing training, peer consultations, continuing education (CE), and resources for delivering effective measurement-based care. If you’re seeking to improve your knowledge, awareness, and skills when conducting clinical work with the BIPOC community and want to drive effective care through evidence-based practices, consider joining SonderMind to get the support you need to reach these goals, and more.