Whether you cry it out, write it out or work it out, we all need a way to express the ~feels~. Therapy makes it so you don’t have to do it alone. But, not everyone has the same access to this important resource. Adult ISH co-hosts Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen get selfISH with Adriana Alejandre (of LatinX Therapy) and talk about therapy for people of color.
Merk: I found a stat from 2016 that says minorities make up only 16 percent of the psychological workforce, according to the American Psychological Association. There are resources out there like the Institute for Muslim Mental Health and Therapy for Black Girls. But I think it's pretty clear that we’ve got to do some digging when it comes to finding professional help for communities of color.
Nyge: So we've got Adriana Alejandre, who is also the founder of LatinX Therapy, a therapy resource for Latinx identifying folks. Welcome!
Adriana: Hey! Thank you so much for having me.
N: I can see how some people who might not be of color might be like “Oh my God. Why does it always have to be about race and everything?!” Our first question for you is when seeing a therapist yourself, have you ever heard them say something clueless when it comes to race?
A: Yes, I've been open about this. One thing specifically that comes to mind is when I went to therapy because I was really overwhelmed with graduating from graduate school and also being a single mom.
Basically, the harmful guidance that I received was that I needed to separate myself completely from my family. To me, that really hurts because I could never imagine doing something like that.
M: Did you ever tell them, “It's a cultural thing, you just don't get it”?
A: I didn't. At that time, I was still new to learning the power of my own voice.
M: I was wondering what kind of difference does it make for a young POC to have a therapist who shares their same cultural background?
A: That's very important because there's gonna be things that you're not going to have to explain to your therapist. Like, the therapist can just nod and know.
Personally, when I have people (clients) from another culture, I do ask to be educated.
But sometimes even that in itself can cause some delay in the therapeutic process because there's some over-explanation needing to be done. You skip a lot of steps, in a good way, when you're in front of someone that's already part of your cultural background.
N: [Our coworker] is in the process of trying to find a therapist for the first time in his adult life. As a first-timer, how do you know if the therapist you're seeing is a good fit?
A: Just trust yourself. When you are talking to the therapist on the consultation call, that's your opportunity to be interviewing them, to be asking them the questions that you need. You have to know on a general basis what is it that you're trying to get help for. You'd like to know what is their approach, because absolutely every therapist has a different style and has been trained in different things.
Also the cultural background — I feel like it's completely OK to ask about that. In grad school, they teach us to not disclose any personal things, but when it comes to my cultural background, I don't want to hide that at all.
If it just doesn't match your style or what you feel like you'll need, then that's OK. You can interview another [therapist].
M: How similar to dating would you say therapy is? Right now I'm just imagining [our coworker] being like, “All right, do you like long walks on the beach?”
A: I've honestly contemplated creating a Tinder-like app to find a therapist.
M: I've only gotten therapy once and it was in my sophomore year of college because it was free and accessible to me.
My therapist was mainly just asking me clarifying questions. He would tell me, “Wait, slow down.” Things that I said that I didn't realize were a big deal were actually a big deal.
A: That's really important. Sometimes as humans we're just going and going to avoid.
M: This next question comes from a listener, Tyrone. He asks, “I'm 23 and Filipino American. I've never gone to therapy before because I don't know if my problems are actually big enough to go and get professional help. Plus, the idea of burdening someone else with my problems seems unnatural to me ... So I'm just wondering if you had any advice.”
A: There are no problems that are too small for therapy, and we are definitely trained to handle most things that come our way.
Growing up in a minority culture, we're often taught to prioritize other people. I think that's where that mentality is coming from. It's something that we have to combat.
To learn more about Adriana Alejandre's practice and LatinX Therapy, be sure to head over to LatinXtherapy.com. She's also on IG @LatinXtherapy. If you want to hear the Adult ISH episode featuring this interview, check out our Me Myself and ISH episode.
For affordable resources and therapists for people trying to adult, Adriana recommends Open Path, which will help you find a therapist in your area. You can pay a low lifetime membership fee and find therapists for $30 to $60 per session (which is way cheaper than most places.)