Therapy Note: People of Color

Too often, myths and misconceptions about mental health services prevent people from seeking support.  My goal is to provide a space where these myths and misconceptions may be examined.  The blogs titled “Therapy Note” dispel or provide clarification to some of the more common myths for the population/topic listed in the title of the note. 

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.   The joys and challenges of mind and emotion do not discriminate based on race and ethnicity.  Mental health is a part of being human. 


Myth 1:  Only White people have mental health issues. 

Reality:  All humans have both physical and mental health. Thus, there are conditions that may develop or stressors that impact mental health in a way that causes distress and impairs functioning.  As we all have mental health, we all may experience varying degrees of health in our mental well-being.

Myth 2:  People of color do not die from suicide. 

Reality:  Although, rates are lower than that of Whites, suicide is a cause of death within communities of color. 

QuickStats: Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates,*,† by Race/Ethnicity — National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2015–2016

Suicide Among Asian Americans

Myth 3:  People of color are “guarded” or “difficult” clients. 

Reality: There are varying levels of stigma that exist within communities of color that clients may have to navigate in order to reach out for support.  A person may also be reserved and need time to get used to the therapeutic setting.  Each client is unique and it is important to not assume a client is guarded or difficult because of their race or ethnicity.  

Myth 4:  People of color can only work with therapists who match their racial and/or ethnic background. 

Reality:  Cross cultural counseling (An aspect or aspects of culture differ between the therapist and client.  In many circumstances this may include race and/or ethnicity) can be effective.   In some instances, it may serve as a corrective experience.  The important factor is having a culturally conscious therapist.  A culturally conscious therapist has knowledge and skills in  working with the population and is open to learning without putting the client in a position to feel obligated to teach or take care of the therapist. 

NAMI provides a helpful guide: Finding Mental Health Care That Fits Your Cultural Background

#ReclaimOurStrengthis a national digital campaign by Henry Health in partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to raise awareness of the emotional and mental health of Black men as a public health priority.

Other Reading:

Physiological and Psychological Impact of Racism and Discrimination for African Americans

Ethnicity and Health in America Series: Mental Health Among Latina/o Populations

Great Expectations: Exploring Family Dynamics and Stress Among Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders