18.3% of the total U.S. population is Hispanic/Latinx, and 16% of them reported mental health concerns—that’s over ten million people.1 Talking about your emotional or mental struggles and seeking help may be challenging, but finding a Latinx therapist who you can trust and relate to can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Why Finding a Latinx Therapist Is Important
Finding a Latinx therapist that meshes well with you is crucial as you embark in your therapeutic journey. Ideally, you want to work with a practitioner you feel comfortable sharing your intimate details with. A professional who can relate to your cultural background, values, and beliefs. A therapist must be someone you deem as competent and sensitive to your specific needs.2,3
First, you may want to explore your own views regarding therapy and mental health. It’s not uncommon to feel a general cultural stigmatization around these topics. After all, expressing thoughts, emotions and feelings is not typically encouraged in the Latinx culture.2,3 According to the statistics, 20% of Latinx individuals with mental health issues discuss it with their doctor but only 10% seek psychological help.3
When mental and emotional issues are not openly discussed, seeking treatment may feel like a daunting task. Having a better understanding about therapy and mental health and identifying the reasons bringing you to therapy can make the process smoother and more defined.1 In addition, viewing therapy as something positive and beneficial to your personal growth can feel empowering.
Barriers to Treatment in the Latinx Population
According to Deborah Son, Executive Director for the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers:8
“The Latinx community not only experience barriers in finding culturally appropriate clinicians, but also experience barriers in linguistic access. For many bilingual or multilingual individuals, their preferred language for therapeutic services may not be English but many therapists are not comfortable with delivering equitable services in alternate languages—nor do private and Medicaid payers allow for reimbursement leniency in the instance that interpreters are utilized.
Adequate and inclusive mental health services means that service delivery reflects the needs of the client, and when we don’t center Latinx clients and other clients of color in the design of our delivery models we are further marginalizing them and their experiences.”
Where to Find a List of Possible Latinx Therapists
Once you are determined to go into therapy, you are ready to conduct your preliminary search for potential therapists. This may require some dedicated time but the benefits of taking charge of your mental and emotional well-being makes it worth your effort.
Here are some sources that can help you find a Latinx therapist:
Referrals Sources & Recommendations4
Chances are, there is someone in your life who can help you find a therapist who will be a good fit. Here are some ideas for finding a referral:
- Primary Care Practitioner/Doctor: Talking to your doctor about what you are feeling can be a good place to start. He can assess you and refer you to a mental health professional.
- Health Insurance Provider: If you have health insurance coverage that includes behavioral health services, search through their provider directory to find an in-network therapist in your area. (Note: Some health insurance companies may require a referral from your primary doctor)
- Word of Mouth: Ask a close friend or coworker, a relative, or anyone you feel comfortable talking about starting therapy.
- Mental Health Organizations: Non-profit organizations or faith-based establishments may provide you with mental health resources or a list of local mental health professionals.
Online directories can be a great place to find a therapist, because you can use specific filters to find your best fit:
- Online Therapist Directory: Where you can search for mental health professionals in your area who can meet your unique needs (you can filter by ethnicity).
- Open Path Collective: A nationwide network of mental health professionals that provide affordable counseling (you can filter by ethnicity).
Specific Website for Finding Local Latinx therapists
There are also several websites that are specific to finding a Latinx therapist:
Deciding What’s Important to You
Exploring and identifying the things that matter to you are vital when choosing a therapist. Bear in mind, that you will be working with this professional for a length of time. Carefully selecting the right fit will make the most out of your therapeutic experience. Some things to account for are the therapist’s level of competency, personality, accessibility, locality, and the cost for their services.
Consider if language is of relevance to you. Do you only speak Spanish or feel more comfortable speaking in your native language? Is a Spanish speaking therapist or a therapist who has an interpreter important to you? If so, it’s important to consider the language barrier when choosing a Latinx therapist.5 While bilingual or linguistically trained mental health practitioners may be scarce, you can still attempt to find one.
Licensing, Certifications, & Education
Mental health professionals come from a variety of backgrounds. Although their functions seem to intertwine, understanding the differences will make it easier to find the appropriate clinician.
Types of licensed mental health professionals include:6
- Psychologists: Trained in evaluating and diagnosing an individual’s mental health utilizing clinical interviews, psychological testing, and evaluations.
- Counselors: Including Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LCADAC), who can facilitate assessments, diagnose, and provide therapy to individuals, groups, and families.
- Licensed clinical social workers: You can see a LCSWs or LISWs to be evaluated, assessed, receive therapy and/or if you need case management and/or advocacy services.
- Psychiatrists: They can diagnose mental health disorders, provide therapy, and prescribe and monitor medications.
Most mental health professionals are equipped to treat a variety of psychological struggles. Nevertheless, some therapists specialize in certain areas like anxiety, depression, addiction, family or relational challenges, specific age groups, trauma, etc. If you feel there is a specific problem area that must be addressed, finding a provider with a specialty may be most suitable.4
Furthermore, some therapists have specialized approaches to therapy and are trained/certified in a variety of modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has shown to be effective in treating depression and anxiety in the Latinx population.3 As you progress in your selection process, decide which type of professional you would like to work with, investigate their therapeutic methodology and determine if this resonates with you.
Cultural & Personality Fit
The U.S. Latinx/Hispanic community is diverse as it encompasses people from various countries, races, and backgrounds. Nevertheless, individuals in the Latinx population may encounter similar struggles related to immigration, acculturation, and generational issues. Exploring these challenges and how they affect your mental health will also be useful when finding the appropriate professional.1,2,3,4
Some things to explore are:
- Do the reasons for me and/or my family of origin arrival to this country affect me?
- Is my Immigrant status a source of stress?
- Am I having difficulty adjusting to the new culture?
- Do I recognize any generational conflicts?
Understanding where you fit within this cultural context and how it affects your personality is vital for establishing a positive collaborative and trustful relationship with your therapist.
What to Ask Yourself When Deciding on a Therapist
To determine if a Latinx therapist will be a good personality fit for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would this therapist judge me or my family on how we chose to immigrate to the U.S.?
- Can this therapist help me regardless of my immigration status and would he/she understand the pressures encountered when seeking asylum or legal residency?
- Can this therapist relate to the pressures of assimilating to a new culture and conflicting cultural beliefs?
- Does this therapist understand the differences between first generation vs second generation immigrants?
- Does he/she have knowledge about trauma (violence, political, poverty) experienced by immigrants in their countries of origin?
- Does this therapist align with the different dimensions of my culture?
- Can he/she relate to the Latinx’s idiosyncrasies?
- Does it matter what country he/she is from as long as he/she is from the Latinx community?
Many therapists may be well versed in different areas of psychology and possess great skills, but their work with you can be more effective if you feel culturally at ease.1,2,3,4
Other general things to contemplate about your therapist are: Are gender and age important to me? Do I feel at ease disclosing my emotions and life with a therapist that is of a different gender, age, or sexual orientation than me? These factors can influence how you view and feel throughout the course of treatment.
Cost & Insurance Coverage
Using health insurance for mental health can be confusing. The cost of therapy is an average of $130 per session. However, prices can fluctuate depending on the practitioner’s level of training, experience, the area where you are seeking therapy, the length of the session, and whether you have health insurance coverage, among others.
If you have health insurance, most policies cover mental and behavioral health (60-80% of the cost of therapy sessions). Depending on your insurance plan the copay (the portion of the cost you pay) can be approximately $25 to $50 per session. Also, you may want to look into group therapy as this may be a more affordable option.
The cost of therapy can be a barrier for anyone seeking treatment but more so for Latinx/Hispanics individuals. The Latinx community in the U.S. is diverse, and economic conditions can fluctuate between group origin. Nevertheless, 15.7% of Latinx individuals live in poverty and 19% are uninsured.2
Low-Cost Therapy Options When You Don’t Have Insurance
If you are uninsured or cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket, explore the following options:
- Sliding Scale: Some therapists make their services more affordable by determining the fees based on a person’s income. Ask your therapist if this is something they offer.
- Health Savings Account (HSA): A healthcare plan in which tax-free interest can cover medical services. Ask your employer to determine if you are eligible.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): An account where money is deposited to pay for certain out-of-network costs, deductibles, and other healthcare services. Inquire with your employer to see if you qualify.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP): A work-based intervention program that provides wellness services to employees and their families at no cost. Find out if your employer is enrolled in this program.
- Open Path Psychotherapy Collective: A directory of mental health professionals who offer affordable in-office and online psychotherapy sessions, ranging from $30 to $60.
- University Counseling Centers: Some academic institutions offer free of charge counseling services. You could also investigate counseling/mental health master’s level programs in counseling and therapy as an option.
Before scheduling a session with a therapist, consider the following logistical questions related to scheduling:
- Is the therapist’s office too far from my home or work?
- How much time will it take me to get there?
- Can he/she see me soon enough?
- Are his/her working hours convenient for me?
- Will this work for me on a regular basis?
You may want to schedule an initial consultation with more than one therapist to gauge for your level of comfort with them.
How to Review a Therapist’s Profile or Website
Reviewing a mental health professional’s profile is another important aspect to finding a good fit that aligns with your specific needs and personality. Going through a therapist’s profile will help you learn more about their background including their licensing, specialties/populations served, insurances accepted/session rates, and contact information.
More in-depth profiles may include a bio with some personal details, their cultural background, languages spoken, years of experience, training/certifications, expertise, treatment modalities, personal viewpoint regarding their approach to therapy. Examining a counselor’s profile can also clarify if this professional can address your personal treatment needs and goals.
Some profiles include the therapist’s picture. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” What feeling do you get? Does he/she seem approachable? Do you see yourself working with this counselor? For more reassurance, make a phone call, as their tone of voice and the way he/she speaks to you can bring reassurance when making your final decision.
What Questions to Ask During a First Call
Most mental health providers offer free phone consultations which can last up to 15 minutes. During this first contact you and the provider have an opportunity to familiarize yourselves with one another.
Here are some questions to ask on a first call with a therapist:4
- Are you accepting new clients? This will help you determine if they have the availability to see you. If they do not, ask him/her if they can refer you to or recommend other therapists who are open to new clients.
- Do you speak Spanish or have someone who can translate? You may ask if you only speak Spanish or feel more comfortable speaking in your native language.
- Have you worked with someone like me before?It is important to know if the professional has experience in the specific issue(s) bringing you to therapy and if they have worked with Latinx individuals before.
- What expectation should I have in working with you? This will clarify the therapist’s and your role within the therapeutic context.
- How often will we meet? This allows you to be aware of how many sessions to expect as well as the frequency of such.
- What does a usual therapy session look like? This will help you learn how sessions are structured, the length and if there are things you need to do between sessions.
- How can I express if something is not working for me? This can help you know what is appropriate to express as well as how flexible the therapist is in receiving feedback. Remember that you are involved in your treatment plan as much as your therapist so it is crucial that you can express your needs freely.
- What is your cancellation policy? Cancellation policies vary between therapists. You will want to be aware of cancellation fees as and how far in advance do you need to cancel before incurring any fees.
- Do you need any additional information from me that will assist you in my treatment? This allows you to provide more information to the therapist. It will also inform you if you need to gather information or records from other sources like past mental health providers.
What to Consider During Your First Appointment
During this initial session, your counselor will be focused on getting to know you, learning about the reasons that led you to seek treatment and understanding your personal background. Be prepared to be fully assessed with inquiry into your medical, mental, work, sexual, family history among other areas. You may spend more time on that than usual, as all this information needs to be gathered.
Things to explore after a first season with a therapist include:7
- Did I feel safe, at ease and respected while sharing my personal information?
- Did the therapist listen and convey a genuine understanding of my concerns?
- Did The therapist’s verbal and non-verbal communication feel reassuring?
- How well did he/she relate to me? Were my values, belief system, identity and cultural background taken into consideration and acknowledged?
- Was I given enough time to share without feeling rushed?
Self-assessment after this first encounter can help you determine if you felt a connection with the clinician. Keep in mind that the first session alone may not be sufficient to determine if this professional is the right fit. However, you will at least assess if you felt trust, not judged and safe.
What to Consider After 3-4 Sessions
If after three or four sessions you feel that you are not able to connect with your therapist, feel uncomfortable, lack guidance/support, your input into your goals is not being considered, your boundaries are not respected, or you are not allowed opportunities to ask questions or clarify information, then you may want to reconsider if this provider is adequate for you. Remember, you are free to leave therapy at any time and it is perfectly valid to terminate sessions with this counselor and find help with a professional who can meet your needs.
You can also expect that in the beginning stages of treatment, your therapist will be concentrating on building a bond with you and continuing to learn more about what interventions will be most suitable in your case. During this time, you will also discuss the areas you would like to focus on and establish short-term and long-term goals. It is helpful to be aware that progress is seen throughout the course of treatment and it takes time for changes to occur.
Keep in mind that therapy is a collaboration between you and your therapist. Their role is to guide and support you through your therapeutic journey as well as provide you with the tools and strategies to help you cope more effectively. A favorable outcome of your therapy is not only rooted in the time spent in sessions but also in the effort you put forth in your daily life between sessions.
What to Do if You Can’t Find a Latinx Therapist
If you cannot find a Latinx therapist, consider working with a non-Latinx therapist who exhibits cultural competency. Another option in the case you cannot find a Latinx therapist in your area, or do not have transportation, is online therapy. You can expect to work with a mental health provider who may not live close in proximity but lives in the same state or can provide out-of-state mental health services.
You can evaluate if a non-Latinx therapist is suitable for you by asking the following questions:1,2,3
- Do you have experience with working/treating Latinx individuals?
- Do you have formal training in cultural competence or Latinx mental health?
- How do you intend to integrate my beliefs/values and practices when recommending treatment options?
- Do you see any barriers in our cultural backgrounds that could influence therapy?
- Do you speak Spanish or have someone who can translate? (If Spanish is your preferred language)
For Further Reading
For further information on mental health in Latinx communities, the resources below may be useful:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): Latinx Community Resources
- National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI): Latinx Community Resources
- The American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry (ASHP)
- Mental Health America’s Resources for Latinx Communities
- National Alliance for Hispanic Health