When you first start looking for a therapist, you might find yourself looking for a therapist who shares some of your characteristics. Here at Yellow Chair Collective, many of our clients come to us for a therapist of the same ethnic background, in hopes of finding understanding. While we do our best, we’re not always able to offer an exact match, and sometimes, it’s not even possible. But more than just trying to be of the same background, we try to be culturally sensitive.
What is cultural sensitivity?
Cultural sensitivity is an approach in therapy that emphasizes the importance of learning and understanding the client’s cultural background. While we often think about culture in terms of race and ethnicity, culture can also encompass other elements that make up our identity and the way we perceive the world. For example, other elements include gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, immigration status, generation, etc.
By taking the time to be curious about our own cultures as well as other cultures, our culturally sensitive therapists have developed a consideration for the ways that these different elements might influence one’s relationships and perspectives. This sensitivity allows your therapist to understand you and respond to you in a way that is affirming, even when they are coming from a different background.
A culturally sensitive therapist will get it.
With a culturally sensitive therapist, you can feel free to talk about things that you might not be comfortable discussing with someone else. They may or may not know your exact, individual experience, but they will ask questions to learn more and seriously listen to your answers. For example, while Asian American experiences are unique, there are some features and characteristics that you won’t have to over-explain to our Asian American therapists. For example, we’ll get it when you talk about certain foods or holidays, or even certain parenting practices that aren’t popular or understood in Western cultures. A culturally sensitive therapist will want to hear about your whole experience, and chances are, they might be able to relate to you. Plus, with the many languages represented at YCC, you might have a therapist who understands your language too.
They will respect your differences.
Even with a therapist who is of the exact same ethnic background, they might still have different experiences and perspectives. Being culturally sensitive means that they will keep an open mind and be curious about your viewpoint, and they will not judge, assume, or try to change your beliefs about the world. This is what allows therapists of different backgrounds to see clients of different backgrounds, and to encourage clients to talk about concerns they might get to discuss openly. While your therapist may not know every nuance or tradition of your culture, they will be dedicated to learning more about the unique ways that your individual culture impacts you. For example, you might have a different way of relating to your parents. Your therapist may not be able to imagine that for themselves, but they will want to learn more about what that’s like for you and your family and how that carries you through life. They won’t try to tell you that your family dynamic is inherently wrong just because it’s different.
They will consider your broader environment.
A culturally sensitive therapist will recognize that culture does not only mean the things that have already happened to you and affect you, but also the things that are happening now and impacting you now. They will consider the way that your unique identity impacts the way that you exist in your broader environment. They will empower you to discuss the current socio-political events that are affecting you and the ways that these events intersect with your cultural background. For example, over the course of the pandemic, we have seen and experienced a rise in racism and race-based hate crimes. A sensitive therapist will consider the impact of that rise on your mental health, your daily life, your relationships with coworkers, and your sense of safety as you move through the world. For our Asian American clients specifically, we see and understand how the rise in Asian hate has rocked our community, and we want to process and explore that with you.
They will tailor their approach.
People come to therapy with different hopes, expectations, and goals. That means that people also come to therapy with different ways of engaging with their therapist and their therapy styles. A culturally sensitive therapist will consider your individual perspective and aim to make you comfortable enough to share your deeply personal experiences. They might tailor the way they communicate their thoughts or
suggestions, or they adjust the ways they refer to you and your family members. For example, some clients may prefer to maintain a professional tone with their therapist, whereas others may prefer a more casual or personable conversation. A sensitive therapist will also consider how they might tailor their approach to your specific goals and plans, given that each client faces unique challenges. Research shows that concerns like anxiety and depression can show up differently for people of different cultural backgrounds, and they will be considerate of that in the ways they offer support.
A culturally sensitive therapist means better therapy.
Research shows that therapy works best when you and your therapist have a good relationship with each other. You are more likely to have a good relationship with a therapist who understands and respects you, and who is always curious and nonjudgmental. By working with a therapist who offers you a safe space to be your whole self, you can feel welcomed to bring every part of your cultural background to the room.
Culturally Sensitive Therapy at YCC
Here at YCC, our diverse therapists offer individual, couple, and group support to help you explore the ways that your culture impacts your choices and relationships. We get it, and even if we don’t, we will do our best to understand. Start with one of our therapists by booking an appointment today!
- Fill out our appointment request form.
- Start sessions with one of our competent therapists.
- Explore your identity, reconnect with your roots, process wounds, and learn new skills that can help you be the better you.
Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective
The therapists at our Los Angeles and New York City-based counseling center are skilled in many areas. They work with couples, teens, and individuals. Further, they address issues like anxiety, postpartum therapy, and trauma and PTSD. Additionally, they provide highly sensitive people treatment, burnout treatment, EMDR, and culturally sensitive therapy. And all of these services can be utilized in-person or online anywhere in California or New York.