What Being a BIPOC Therapist Has Taught Me

Being a BIPOC therapist has given me the opportunity to see just how valuable therapy can be for BIPOC clients. For some, therapy validates the impact of race across their lived experiences, as well as allowing for the healing of racial trauma. Others find therapy as a means to process unexplored parts of their identity.

Regardless of the motivation for the journey, our current climate has made it astonishingly clear that continued efforts to meet the varied mental health needs of the BIPOC community is essential.

Finding the right care can be an arduous task for BIPOC individuals. The process often requires trial and error in assessing how culturally competent a potential therapist is, and how they practice cultural humility. It often takes time to understand what one’s needs are and how to find a therapist that will be the most helpful in addressing and validating those needs. And time is not something we have to waste in meeting these needs.

When someone decides to take the important step of seeking therapy, having a therapist who reflects their identity can be an invaluable part of helping their experiences be understood. Although each person experiences things uniquely, many of my BIPOC clients shared that they find it more validating to have support from someone who represents an element of their identity.

I have had clients tell me they feel a sense of relief working with a BIPOC therapist because there is less of a burden of educating their therapist about BIPOC experiences. Others comment on the sense of trust they feel that can be more easily built with a BIPOC therapist.

My BIPOC clients frequently share the long-standing struggles they have had in being heard and seen. Working as a therapist, I find myself practicing gratitude daily for my clients who have made the decision to share their story with me. It shows they are willing to trust the therapeutic process and myself. I appreciate their vulnerability, as well as strength, to allow me to hear and see challenges and their joy.

Doing this work also helps to remind me that we all need to take physical, emotional, and mental rest. The BIPOC community is constantly under stress and receives continuous pressure to improve their lives. My work as a therapist has reinforced my choice to not educate every person about how racism has impacted me, because I recognize that the emotional toll can be too much. Instead, I am intentional in how I respond so I do not have constantly engaged.  I choose to rest my mind and my soul to perceive my self-worth and confidence.

Finally, working with the BIPOC community, I am constantly reminded of the tenuousness of life. Things can shift from stable and predictable to chaotic and unexpected so quickly. I’ve found that therapy can be an experience that helps us learn to ride the waves of change.

As mental health care evolves to better meet the needs of the BIPOC community, I’m humbled to do this work.

Dr. Zavras specializes in helping clients coping with impactful life changes, cultural and identity concerns, shame, and relationship issues. She is also passionate about maternal mental health including navigating pregnancy, motherhood, and career.

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