I work with many first time therapy clients who waited a long time before deciding to ask for support. This can be for a variety of reasons but is frequently due to a fear that engaging in therapy means they have somehow failed. A lot of this comes from living in a society that values productivity over wellbeing, cultural beliefs that mental health issues are frivolous, and family beliefs that certain topics should not be discussed outside the home. My clients often report feeling a push and pull between their family's culture of origin and the culture they grew up in in the U.S.
As a white therapist, I want to balance my approach to such complicated and delicate experiences. On the one hand, I want to understand and respect my client's cultural background that may cause them to feel discomfort when discussing their mental health, and, on the other hand, I want to offer them the safety to see if the unique support that therapy provides has been somewhat of a "missing piece."
Therapy can help us integrate pieces of ourselves that feel at odds - wanting support vs. feeling ashamed, wanting to honor our culture of origin vs. recognizing we have different needs than our family and wider cultural group. Rather than choosing one or the other, how can we integrate these pieces and achieve a sense of wholeness? By using self-exploration, need recognition, communication, and boundary-setting we can work together towards creating a state of balance.
About the author:
Savannah Betancourt, PsyD, highly values diversity and strives to provide culturally-informed care to all clients.