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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jess

Therapist Shopping While Black

It's a new year, but for many of us not a whole lot has changed. Many people are trying to figure out how to cope with pandemic long-term, working from home, teaching kids from home, functioning long-term as a hospital first-responder, exploring racial trauma, perhaps thinking about graduation and preparing for college, or managing grief and loss. Many people are ready to take the leap and begin investing in themselves through starting therapy but don't always know where to begin. I will offer some tips to hopefully help get you started.

  1. What do I look for? Well, what is important to you? Think about your gender preference; it matters to consider who you will more likely be comfortable opening up to and sharing intimate details of your life. Many people also use race as a determining factor. Many of the emails and requests that I get are based on my being a Black woman. For many communities representation matters as so much time is spent in a world where they may not feel seen, understood, or validated. Therapy is a space where you want to show up with your whole self and feel seen by someone who and perhaps relate to your overall lens through which you view the world.

  2. Where do I look? This is a popular question. There are several websites which I will offer at the end of this post to help you search. If you have health insurance that is also a great place to start. Check your insurance website for behavioral health or mental health providers.

  3. How much does it cost? Many providers will list their fees on their directories or websites. Some mental health therapists take insurance. If you are unsure of your coverage, call your health insurance company and ask them what the coverage is for the billing codes 90791, 90834, and 90837; there are several other codes but those are the most common ones that are used. When you have your consultation, ask how the provider the length of their sessions and discuss their fees/insurance billing codes.

  4. What should I ask or share during a consultation? Ask yourself what you want to know. If you have been in therapy before, you may want to reflect on what worked in the past and what did not work. Share that. If you have never been to therapy, ask what you should expect. Tell the therapist what your overall goals and symptoms are and if they are comfortable treating your presenting issues. Ask about their scheduling and cadence. Some therapists see folks weekly and others manage a bimonthly schedule. Ask them if they are comfortable with someone who presents with your religious beliefs, gender identity, or political views. All of those topics will come into sessions and therapists are human too. As a psychologist, I have found it so meaningful and helpful when I am able to turn someone away and offer referrals because I know that I will not be a good fit for what the person may bring into the therapeutic space.

  5. Virtual Sessions. Many of us are still providing telehealth due to the pandemic. That will vary by provider and insurance coverage. Ask how they are holding sessions currently and be clear if it will be for you, for you and your partner, or for your child. They will explain to you what the expectations are based on your needs and ability to have a private space for sessions, if virtual. And remember, just because it is virtual doesn't mean that you can multitask. Come prepared to focus, which means keeping your phone on silent, not checking work emails, and especially not while driving.

Those are some of the common themes that I find are most commonly asked when people are seeking therapy. Just remember that you are giving yourself one of the best gifts that you can and that is the gift of healing! Who you invite to bring on that journey matters and you want to know that they can handle your mind, heart and spirit with the utmost honor, respect, and integrity. It is so important to be truly, deeply seen and to take that experience and feeling with you beyond the therapy experience.

Blessings on your search and journey to healing!

~Dr. Jess

Therapist Directories for Black and Brown Folx:

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