Since the field of Psychology has been historically dominated by white men, many of its early perspectives and approaches did not take into account how race, gender, disability, or other demographic factors played a part in someone’s mental health and relationships. Early theories, techniques, and methods were designed to understand and treat White Americans, without taking into consideration that ethnic and racial differences could play a role in mental health. Although there is a lack of representation for minority groups in the field, more and more counselors are realizing that therapy is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, since people’s culture, identity, and lived experiences impact their psycho-social development differently. From this perspective came the development of multicultural therapy.

Multicultural Therapy is a form of counseling that seeks to address and understand how an individual’s culture and identity contribute to or impact their mental health. Essentially, this form of therapy is designed for members who fall outside of the dominant social group in terms of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. At its core, multicultural therapy is about acknowledging and appreciating the things that make us who we are, while also exploring how our differences play a role in our mental struggles.

Many people look at mental health and therapy through the lens of their culture, and members from minority groups are far less likely to attend therapy due to mistrust of the medical industry and negative past experiences. When you are a marginalized community, it is easy to feel like other people will not understand your lived experiences, and therefore will not understand how to help you. Multicultural therapists acknowledge and explore the different ways in which your experiences as a marginalized group affect your mental health.

It is important to acknowledge that not all multicultural therapists will belong to a minority group. Their expertise stems from their training in cultural competency, sensitivity, and empathy. Therefore, although they may not share the same background, they are trained to carefully reflect on their own biases and lack of understanding of other cultures in order to address the issues facing another community. However, many marginalized groups do feel more comfortable working with a therapist from their same culture, which is completely okay. Ultimately, it is the quality of the relationship between the client and therapist that dictates the success of treatment. (This article was contributed by UCF Clinical Psychology student, Mileydy Morales)

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