It’s no secret that there is a stigma in the mental health field, no matter the demographic. People are afraid to go to therapy because of how it may look to other people (for the record, it looks healthy).
And while this spans across cultures, when it comes to the Hispanic community, “there is a negative perception about mental health care in general,” said Dr. Ruby Castilla-Puentes, the president of the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry. Because of this, “there are misunderstandings about mental health.”
This can make it hard for people in the Latine community to realize they need help, talk to loved ones about mental health and ultimately seek treatment. But, there are many experts who focus on creating safe spaces where people can explore their identity, their emotions, their problems and more.
Here, experts share how to find a therapist who focuses on Latine mental health.
Find an expert who understands your unique culture.
“Hispanic folks are looking for mental health providers that are culturally competent,” Castilla-Puentes said, adding that this can mean a therapist who speaks Spanish or someone with a deep knowledge of Hispanic-Latino culture.
Castilla-Puentes noted that miscommunication, either because of language barriers or cultural misunderstandings, causes many people in the Latine community to feel misunderstood by people in the mental health field. This can cause a “lack of confidence in the ability to receive the service that they need,” she added.
That being said, Brandie Carlos, the founder of Therapy for Latinx, noted that as a community, there is a large spectrum of cultures and beliefs. “We’re not a monolith,” she said. So, what’s right for one person may not be right for another. “What is most important is to get clear on what is important to you when you’re looking for a therapist,” she noted.
Make a list of the things you want your therapist to understand about you, your family or your culture, or make a list of the languages you want them to speak. Carlos noted that some people don’t want to go through the trouble of translating certain phrases from Spanish to English in therapy, while other people purely want someone who will speak English. It’s a totally personal preference.
Additionally, you should decide what goals you want to achieve in therapy and what subject areas you want to focus on. From there, ask questions when you meet with therapists to see if they are a fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to talk to a few different mental health experts.
“[Finding a therapist] is a lot like dating,” Carlos said. And like dating, it’s perfectly OK to go on a few introductory therapy meetings before finding a therapist you click with.
There is nothing wrong with looking around for a therapist, and all mental health professionals have come to expect this — not everyone can be a match for every patient.
And don’t discount your own symptoms.
Because of the stigma associated with mental health, it can be hard to admit that you need support. This is challenging across many cultures, but can have particular difficulties in the Latine community where people are afraid of being labeled as “loco,” according to Castilla-Puentes.
Additionally, she noted that research has shown many people in the community don’t recognize the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Instead, “they believe that depression is not a disease, it’s a part of life they need to pass through without any treatment.”
If you feel unmotivated, sad or tired, or notice that you no longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy, it may be worth finding a mental health provider to talk to. Also, if you’re going through a hard time — like dealing with the loss of a loved one or going through a breakup — it could be helpful to address any mental health concerns head-on by starting therapy.
If you’re feeling off, know you don’t have to go through a hard time without any support. Depression is not something you need to “get through” on your own.
If you have fears about deportation, use word-of-mouth to find a provider.
The American healthcare field can be a challenge for people who are undocumented, who often worry about being detained or separated from their families. This also rings true in the mental health field, Carlos noted.
She added that it’s not unheard of for these individuals or their loved ones to avoid care because of these fears. Fears like “what could happen if the mental health provider reports an incident to the police?” come front of mind.
In this case, it’s best to use word-of-mouth to find who in your area provides safe mental health care. You can talk to friends, family members or people who are undocumented, or have loved ones who are undocumented. Beyond word-of-mouth, the Latinx Therapists Action Network is also a good resource for mental health care for the migrant community, Carlos said.
Additionally, ask how your therapist handles emergency situations, she said. Find out if they call the police when someone is having suicidal ideation or if they’ll call friends and family first. Also, find out if they are under any requirements to report those who are undocumented to government agencies.
Try out databases that focus on finding mental health care for the Latine community.
You can turn to specific websites and databases to help you understand your mental health and find a mental health provider who provides culturally competent care. Castilla-Puentes noted that the American Psychiatric Association recently launched a Spanish language section of its website, and the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry has a listing of providers broken up by state.
She also pointed to Open Path Collective as another good resource that is particularly valuable because it provides affordable mental health services to people.
Try language filtering settings when looking at online databases.
Even if you are not a Spanish speaker or don’t want to speak Spanish in your therapy appointments, Carlos recommended that you use the language filter on online databases to find someone who speaks Spanish (just make sure they also speak English if you are not fluent in the language).
This way, “you might find someone who shares the same culture even if you don’t speak Spanish,” she said.