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What Keeps Minorities Out of the Therapy Room?

(Image: Stephanie Deangelis at 

In the Fall of 2019, a colleague and I sent out an anonymous survey to our network and received sixty-six responses. To our surprise, 75% of respondents said that they had thought about going to therapy, and 51.5% had sought therapy. What was alarming about this was not the need for therapy, but that nearly 70% of them were not currently receiving support for their mental health. 

Why aren't these individuals getting the care they need? 

Larry Shushansky, a Licensed Social Worker, wrote a 2017 article called ‘Disparities Within Minority Mental Health Care’ for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that lists the following as some of the reasons why minorities are not receiving proper care when it comes to their mental health: 

- A lack of availability

- Transportation issues, difficulty finding childcare/taking time off work

- The belief that mental health treatment “doesn’t work”

- The high level of mental health stigma in minority populations

- A mental health system weighted heavily towards non-minority values and culture norms

- Racism, bias, and discrimination in treatment settings

- Language barriers and an insufficient number of providers who speak languages other than English

- A lack of adequate health insurance coverage (and even for people with insurance, high deductibles and co-pays make it difficult to afford)

In 2011, Dr. Monnica Williams wrote said in a Psychology Today article entitled ‘Why African Americans Avoid Psychotherapy’,  “...concerns about treatment effectiveness, which may be due to both lack of education and cultural misgivings. Apprehension about clashing with the values or worldview of the clinician can cause ambivalence about seeking help, and this may be especially true for the many who believe that mental health treatment was designed by white people for white people.”  Dr. Williams also notes stigma and judgement from social circles; the lack of knowledge as to what to expect from therapy; as well as the cost of treatment and lack of insurance coverage. 

In our survey, cost is the primary factor our respondents identified as a barrier to seeking therapy. In the top five barriers that were identified the belief that therapy is not culturally appropriate, and the fear of what others would say. 

In Allure magazine's 'Let's Talk Therapy' series of articles published at the end of 2019, one writer named Vanessa Willoughby wrote, "Reluctance to enlist the aid of a mental health professional can also include a lack of affordable and accessible health care and a lack of representation.

According to the American Psychology Association, the demographics for active psychologists working within the United States from 2005 to 2013 were overwhelmingly white. The APA found that in 2013, white people made up 83.6 percent of active psychologists. On the other hand, only 5.3 percent of psychologists were black/African-American, while racial/ethnic minority groups overall were 16.4 percent of the active workforce." 

What are the reasons you have not sought therapy?

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