The early stages of finding mental health assistance can be overwhelming for survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA). Mental health providers who are culturally competent are an integral part of quality mental healthcare delivery.
Many individuals are unsure of what to look for when seeking out a mental health professional. Below are some helpful ways of finding a culturally-competent therapist:
1. Make a list. The best way to develop your list of non-negotiables is to consider what type of support you are seeking. For example: Are you struggling to process your identity? Are your experiences making it hard to foster connections with others? Use these struggles as a guide to connect with providers who understand, or at least affirm, your experiences.
2. Do an internet search. The internet has dozens of resources to help get you started. Websites like Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists) and Healthline’s FindCare Tool (https://www.healthline.com/find-care/) allow users to search for therapists by zip code, and insurance accepted. This can be a good place to start without having to speak with anyone directly. Users can filter through these lists by language, faith, and communities served to identify mental health professionals that might be a good fit for you.
3. Request a consultation. Consultations are a great way to get a feel for the provider. When you first meet with a provider, look for the same qualities in a mental health professional that you look for in a good friend. For example: Are they a good listener?, Do they ask relevant questions?, Do they understand the language you use?, etc. It may seem obvious, but not all therapists will do these things.
4. Ask questions. After you make your list of needs, ask prospective therapists about their experience working with clients with similar needs to your own. If a mental health provider has experience with clients whose needs are similar to yours, you may need to spend less time educating the provider about your worldview, and more time receiving appropriate assistance.
5. Use your network. Sometimes the best place to start is reaching out to a trusted friend or colleague. Members of your community have likely been through the process of finding therapy, too. Ask someone to refer you to a competent, empathetic therapist who can serve your specific needs.
For CSA survivors struggling with racial trauma or race-based traumatic stress, your physical and mental health could be suffering. It’s understandable to want to discuss one’s grief and anger with therapists who look like you. For many survivors of sexual violence, finding mental health support is a crucial part of the healing journey, so it’s important to find a provider who can validate the impact of racism on mental health.