5 Things To Look for In A Culturally Competent Mental Health Therapist

BIPOC Therapy

By Leslie Holley, MA, LCPC, NCC


Therapy is becoming more normalized in 2023 and even more accepted by people of color.

In my practice, 80% of our clients are BIPOC. Many people of color are looking for support, acceptance, and a space where they can be vulnerable. Counseling allows a space of reflection, vulnerability, and, most importantly, safety for people to express their truth. It's very important when looking for a therapist that they are culturally competent. A culturally competent therapist will respect the beliefs, perspectives, and values of a diverse population of clients. A culturally competent therapist is confident in their knowledge and skills and is able to address topics such as white privilege and oppression. It’s essential to find a therapist that will identify with you and makes it a priority to be culturally sensitive.


While doing presentations in the community, I often get asked what to look for in a therapist and where to find a therapist.  Many people are not aware that many psychotherapists take insurance and offer sliding scale options if needed.  Additionally, some practices provide support groups. 


When looking for a therapist, here are 5 things to consider:


1. Someone who listens and can admit when they don’t get it

If a therapist tells you that you know who you are and you just met, this is a red flag. Additionally, if they come off as never wrong about how you feel or perceive things, this is very problematic. Therapists who are never wrong aren’t able to help you figure things out in a supportive environment and make difficult connections. Avoid these therapists.  Therapists should offer feedback and recommendations but also check in consistently, asking if what they are observing fits you. 


2. It feels collaborative

A Working Alliance with your therapist is essential.  You should feel like the work is collaborative, not happening to you.  Your therapist should consistently check in with how you feel and challenge your thoughts while helping you to reframe negative distortions. This can only be done in a trusting environment. So, if you aren’t finding that over time you can trust your therapist, the collaboration may not be successful. 


3. Someone with a sense of humor

Problems shouldn’t be taken lightly, however, to be able to laugh sometimes adds to the therapeutic experience.  A therapist with a strength-based approach usually exhibits a sense of humor. Therapists who are too dramatic can add to the intensity of traumatic feelings.  Your therapist should be curious and empathic, with a capacity for patience and warm kindness. There is a time to be serious and measured, but balance is key. 


4. Impartiality

It is important that you don’t feel judged in your counseling relationship. You should feel connected to your therapist and that the environment is a safe space to unload. In order to grow in therapy and for it to feel productive, you must feel accepted by your therapist. 


5. Your Therapist Challenges You When Appropriate

In the 12 years I’ve been practicing, during the initial consultation, prospective clients often mention they want to feel challenged, They don’t want someone to just nod their head and reflect on what they hear.  Once trust is developed in the counseling relationship, a therapist should challenge their client’s way of thinking when appropriate. If the client feels accepted in seen, they will be able to receive this interaction as healthy, and it can foster positive change. 


Evan W. Smith Funeral Services offers grief counseling and other mental health services to the Delaware community in collaboration with Leslie Holley, a Nationally Certified Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. If you need assistance or have questions, please contact us.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.

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