Given the increasing demand for mental health services, there’s a corresponding need for culturally-competent therapists, especially Asian American therapists. According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2022), there are 3.28% psychologists, who identify as Asian, compared to their white counterparts of 80.85%. During the pandemic and in today’s society, mental health concerns became more pronounced alongside anti-Asian hate.
Why Do We Need Asian American Therapists?
It can be helpful to see our identities reflected in our therapist(s). Asian American therapists are more likely to understand/relate to Asian and American cultural beliefs/values while also normalizing mental health concerns prevalent in the Asian American community. The coexistence of both Asian and American identities is intricate and complex, so someone, not of these identities, will not fully understand. While there may still be differences in lived experiences between clients and therapists, a similar cultural background provides a solid foundation of mutual understanding. Less explaining needs to be done, so the core of therapeutic work can begin more quickly and go more in-depth.
Therapists, who do not have direct lived experiences, can still be empathic and good therapists, but they may not be as knowledgeable about cultural nuances (e.g., a word in your native language that doesn’t have an English equivalent, specific gender role expectations, family hierarchy, growing up as a child of immigrants, mental health stigma, etc.) and can misunderstand certain cultural traditions/customs when looking through a more western lens. As a part of the Asian American community, we get an inside look on how mental health presents in fellow Asian Americans and are not restricted by the diagnostic manual created based on the dominant culture. For example, certain symptoms may appear differently in Asians or Asian Americans as discussed in the previous blog.
How to Choose an Asian American Therapist?
Below are suggestions on how to get started in finding an Asian American therapist. If you are new to therapy, we got you covered in this blog.
Consider the primary concerns you want to work on in therapy (e.g., cultural identity concerns, relationship issues, trauma, burnout, etc.)
You can review our blog for reasons clients have reached out to us for therapy by clicking here
Research therapists online/through directories, who specialize in the areas you want to work on
You can use advanced search filters (e.g., specialties, gender, race/ethnicity, language fluency, sexual orientation, service area, etc.)
Reach out to therapist(s) you think are a good fit and schedule a consultation appointment
During the consultation appointment or through email, check in with your potential therapist(s) to see if they are knowledgeable or have worked with folks of similar cultural background to you
Their approaches/beliefs about issues, such as discrimination, racism, homophobia, etc., especially if it’s important to you
Type of therapy they offer and how they take culture into consideration
You can decide during or after the consultation appointment if the therapist you met with is a good fit
You may decide to ‘interview’ multiple therapists
In this process, trust your gut when it comes to interviewing your potential therapist(s) since it is a working relationship
Generally, you are more likely to make progress and grow in therapy when you feel safe to be open/vulnerable; the therapist is nonjudgmental and collaborative
You have made a huge step towards your wellness by reading this blog. It is hard to admit we need help, especially as Asian Americans. We are raised to power through our hardships; in doing so, we neglect ourselves. Making the decision to seek help can be life-changing. Having a culturally responsive and sensitive Asian American therapist, who knows and understands your lived experiences, can make seeking therapy a bit less daunting/scary.
If you are interested in connecting with our Asian American therapists, feel free to contact us here for our mental health services.
Stay tuned for our next blog on how we can help you on your mental health journey.
Written and Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D. and Susanna La, Ph.D.
American Psychological Association. (2022). Demographics of U.S. Psychology Workforce [Interactive data tool]. Retrieved [6/1/23], from https://www.apa.org/workforce/data-tools/demographics