By Vanessa Williams
As conversations regarding mental health have seen a rise in recent years, more women of color realize the importance of focusing on our mental well-being. Contrary to what people believe, therapy is not just for people looking to treat mental health conditions. Counseling can help enhance areas of life that need improvement. Just as we visit the gym to maintain our physical health, therapy can act as a psychological equivalent to assist in managing our mental health.
If you have never attended a therapy session, then you can be unsure of where to begin. There are plenty determining factors to consider when selecting a therapist. Here are four influential aspects to consider.
To start with, the gender of a therapist can either be a crucial factor or an insignificant one to a patient. Some women find they are only comfortable talking to a counselor of the same sex, while others may be content with both male and female therapists. Selecting a therapist based on gender is a personal preference and you should not feel any shame for your decision. In your session, you will be revealing genuine thoughts and feelings, so you should feel comfortable with the counselor you pick. If you are unsure if you prefer a therapist of a certain gender, maybe try a few male and female therapists to figure out if there is any uneasiness when sharing.
Similarly, the ethnicity of a therapist can be comparable to the aspect of gender; it can either be critical or insignificant. If you are using an online database to select your therapist, such as Psychology Today, profiles contain pictures and list the ethnicity of the therapists for patients. Some people of color find it easier to talk to a therapist familiar with or who share common ethnicity and/or culture. Again, this is a personal preference.
The religious affiliation of a therapist is a factor that is not as evident as gender and ethnicity. Religious backgrounds are not usually listed, as some therapists find it is not relevant to their counseling. However, some therapists share their religious affiliations on their profile, and this is something to pay attention to when searching for a therapist. If the therapist lists a religion, there is a chance that the counseling methods may have some connection to that religion. If you are open to this possibility, you could find that a therapist that shares the same religious beliefs may be fitting.
Areas of Specialization
When searching for the right therapist, using their specialization areas may be irrelevant, as people are usually unaware of their mental health issues beforehand. However, if you are aware of the issues you are facing, you should consider the therapist’s specializations. If you know you deal with anxiety, then you shouldn’t pick a counselor that does not list anxiety as an area of specialization. Select a counselor that is familiar with your issue to optimize proper diagnosis.
In the end, there may be a few therapists that meet your needs. Schedule a couple of sessions with a few different therapists. It will not always be apparent whether a counselor is the right one in the first meeting. It may require a few sessions for you to become comfortable with sharing. This process will require some effort and patience. But when you find the right therapist, it will all be worth it.