The Mental Health Industry Fails Women of Color
Medical insurance is disadvantageous for those who want a culturally sensitive professional
When Zahra, an Iranian American woman, told her family she wanted to go to therapy, they questioned why she would “throw [her] money away” when she could talk to friends or family for free. This is a common sentiment among immigrants to the United States. She says family members “feel shame in admitting family or personal issues to any outsider,” and so they take issue with her being in therapy. When she began seeking treatment, discussing with her White therapist cultural norms and taboos, she was faced with microaggressions. Her therapist told her to “stop living like you’re in the Middle East.” In Zahra’s words, her therapist “wanted [her] to Westernize her values to make her job easier.”
When a woman of color decides — in spite of cultural barriers — to seek mental health care, other issues (like those shared by Zahra) can arise. It’s been proven that culturally responsive therapy is integral for people of color and care that is provided by White practitioners can actually be harmful to BIPOC patients. Diagnostic tests were created and tested on White people, meaning Black (and Brown) folks are less likely to even have their mental illnesses recognized and diagnosed by a professional. In situations like this, it’s so important to have a non-White specialist read between the lines and understand how a POC may express their depression or anxiety in ways that are culturally appropriate to them.
It doesn’t help that only around 16% of therapists in the U.S. are people of color. But it’s not just finding the right practitioner that is the problem — it’s the whole system. It is this system which makes diagnosis difficult and the path to securing an affordable therapist of color nearly impossible to navigate.
We All Have the Same Therapist
Six degrees of separation doesn’t always exist for women of color searching for a mental health professional
In 2008, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, forcing insurance companies to treat mental illness in the same way they…