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Explaining Racial Trauma To A White Therapist Isn’t Always Easy, Here’s Why Seeing A Therapist Of Color Might Be Better

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness month, a time of year the U.S. Government designated to “bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States”. And with good reason.

Chilling statistics tell us that while 41.5% of children aged 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, the percentage of minority children that received treatment is much lower, with 35.1% of black children and only 32.7% of Latino kids receiving care. The reasons behind this are varied. Not only are minorities more likely to be misdiagnosed and less likely to receive appropriate care due to clinician bias, but according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, minorities are also “less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care”, due to a variety of socioeconomic factors. We know that mental illness is a cultural issue that permeates every aspect of society, so the problem, then, lies in awareness, diagnosis, and treatment. 

The idea of consulting a therapist for professional help seems like overkill, a little foreign, and definitely a little scary. We’ve all head the common refrain: “Isn’t therapy for crazy people?”. Not at all. Therapy is simply a way of practicing self-care and should have no greater stigma surrounding it than going to the doctor for a check-up. In 2017, a study showed that 18.9% of adults in the U.S. had a mental illness. That’s 46.6 million people! Statistics like this simply prove how much therapy could benefit the population. 

Luckily, we live in a time where millennials are no longer as afraid of talking about their struggles with mental health or afraid of getting outside help to deal with them. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, five times as many college students went to therapy in 2017 as compared to the years between 2011 and 2016. According to Peter Economou, a professor of Applied Psychology at Rutgers: “treatment has become de-stigmatized so people are more open to it”. But, we still have a long way to go. 

The Latino community, like many marginalized communities, is notoriously conservative when it comes to views on mental illness. As Twitter user @itsk80prince put it so perfectly: “talking about mental health in Latino families be like: “eres un emo?”. Many Latino families believe that problems should be discussed with a priest or maybe with your girlfriends during a round of chisme.

Before you start your search for a therapist, keep the following points in mind:

1. Do your research about their ethnic background and background in treating certain demographics.

There’s no shame in wanting a therapist who either looks like you or might come from a similar upbringing as you do. Often times, these are the therapists who can make us feel the most understood, related to and comforted. Having to explain racial trauma to a therapist who might not be able to relate or validate your feelings will undoubtedly bring you way more frustration in the end. “I’m a Latina who identifies as queer and started to see a white female therapist after I found myself going through a lot of depression while trying to get a job at a new company,” one woman explained to FIERCE in an interview. “All was well at first but after a while, I realized that talking about the frustrations I was experiencing were not being registered her accepted by her. For example, speaking to her about the frustrations of being interviewed by white men over and over again was okay but speaking about the racist microaggressions I would experience under my white female boss was always met with questions about why I thought my boss’s behavior was racist even at all. Ultimately I left her and started seeing a black female therapist who gets my situation so much more and I feel so much more validated.” 

2. Know the difference between a Counselor vs. a Therapist vs. a Psychologist

Counselors don’t require an advanced degree and, in fact, the term “counselor” kind of works as an umbrella term for therapists, social workers, and psychologists. Therapists, on the other hand, usually need a minimum of a Master’s degree in Psychology, Social Work, or Marriage and Family Therapy in order to call themselves a therapist. Psychologists are required to hold at least a Masters degree in psychology, with many opting for a doctorate.

3. Okay, so you want the Ph.D. Will you be needing a psychologist or psychiatrist? 

Newbies to therapy might not be aware of the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, so it’s good to keep in mind the difference before starting your search. While a psychologist assesses, analyzes and observes your behavior in order to alleviate mental stress, a psychiatrist does all of the above and is also a licensed physician, meaning they can also prescribe medication, such as antidepressants. 

If you’re really struggling with depression, anxiety and/or psychosis and your mood makes it hard for you to function in day-to-day life, then your problems may be caused by a chemical imbalance. Medication might give you the extra help you need to get your mood back on track.

4. Do you want this time to be solo?

It may not come as a shock to you to know that many people consider relationships to be one of the most stressful aspects of life. Consider couples or family therapy as an option if you feel like you need help mediating inter-relational problems, or even if you’d just like an outside opinion on your relationships. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) specialize in familial interactions and work on improving communication between family members. 

5. Identity matters.

Don’t feel guilty about preferring a therapist who understands first-hand the struggle that you go through on a daily basis. That means that if you prefer a therapist who identifies the same way as you do (gender, sexual orientation, race and/or ethnicity), it is completely within your rights to pick that therapist. If you’re more comfortable with therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues or identifies as Latino, then that’s completely your choice.  

6. Utilize all of your resources. 

Remember, there have been so many people that have come before you that have been in your shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from open-minded friends and family members. Also, know that there are tons of resources available to you online. The internet is chock-full of lists, databases, directories, and networks, all created with the express purpose of providing mental health care to Latino and marginalized communities. Databases like this can point you in the right director. Or even ask your healthcare provider to connect you with therapists who identify the same way as you do.

7. Take your therapist for a test drive. 

If you’re worried about committing to a therapist straight of the bat, ask for a trial session first so you know if you have chemistry (or have the possibility of building a rapport) with your mental healthcare provider. Sometimes, everything about your potential therapist can look great on paper, but once you meet in person, the connection just isn’t there. 

Once you arrive, ask yourself a few questions: Do you like the environment? Does this person feel easy to talk to? Do you feel comfortable around this person? Can you imagine revealing some of your most painful feelings to this person? All of these questions can help bring clarity to what you’re feeling.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It can be a little daunting the first time you step into a therapist’s office, especially when you expect your therapist to be the one asking you all of the thought-provoking questions. But, remember: this is your health, and you get to call the shots. Make sure you ask questions–what is the therapist’s approach? Psychotherapy? Cognitive behavioral therapy? Does your therapist use faith-based methods to supplement her practice? No question is too trivial, silly, or small to ask your potential therapist.

9. Make sure your therapist is licensed.

Last but not least, make sure your therapist is licensed by the state you live in. Becoming a licensed therapist is a strenuous process that involves a lot of schooling, clinical hours, and exams. So, although that man on the corner of the sidewalk giving out advice may have some interesting stuff to say, he’s probably not the best option for helping you get to your best self.

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Study Says 95% Of Women Don’t Regret Having Abortions

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Study Says 95% Of Women Don’t Regret Having Abortions

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Across the country, many states require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo waiting periods and counseling. The assumption behind the regulation is that ultimately women looking to have an abortion will regret their decision in the long term. A study published this past January in Social Science & Medicine, however, found that over 95 percent of the women who took place in a UC San Francisco study revealed that they had no regrets about their decision five years later.

The finding not only completely debunks the notion that most women who have abortions suffer from regret and guilt over their decision even if the decision was a hard one to make.

Out of interest, we researched online forums like Reddit to see what women had to say about their decision to terminate their pregnancies.

“I’ve had… more than one abortion. It was never a thought. Immediately after finding out I was pregnant, I bee-lined to the clinic. BEST decision I have ever made. No regrets at ALL! I’ve been called names, “baby killer”, etc. but I laugh at these people. I’m open about it, not that I had the choice because my ex SIL went around town telling everyone (thanks, stupid fuckhead ex-husband). The people that give me a hard time about it are parents themselves and are probably just bitter and jealous, anyways.” – Reddit user

“I had one when I was 21 (almost 39 now). Not once, for a single second, have I ever regretted that decision. I was dating a complete shitshow of an excuse for a human being (a heroin dealer, which I didn’t find out until later) who was abusive and promiscuous, and I knew the second I found out I was pregnant that I wasn’t keeping it. In addition to already knowing I was childfree for life, there was no way would I have brought an unwanted child into that kind of situation. So my very supportive mom took me to the PP appointment, where the staff was wonderful and only gave me a brief counseling session in which they made sure I was making the right decision for myself. The rest was pretty cloudy for me, because they gave me a Valium beforehand, but I do remember that when they did the ultrasound, they couldn’t find a heartbeat but still wanted to do the procedure because the pregnancy test was positive. After that, mom drove me back home, and the guy I was dating didn’t even seem to care about much of anything. We broke up just over a year later, and I heard through the grapevine that he was in jail for grand theft auto a few months after that. Today, I’m super well-adjusted and in a happy relationship with a really awesome guy who is as childfree as I am!” –Shanashy

“I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation.”

“I had an abortion recently. Mid-20s, stable relationship and good income. IUD failure. I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation. We don’t want children so we won’t have one. No regrets here.” –meinkampfyjumper

“When I was 17, I had an abortion. I’m 30, and have never once regretted it, nor ever felt guilty either. I knew, even after telling my parents and grandma about it I was certain. The guy was a nice guy, we talked about keeping it (because he was almost aborted himself when his mom got pregnant with him), but in the end he was already in the process of joining the Army. I would have been alone, a senior in high school, with my family’s help. That was not how i wanted it to happen, if at all, amd neither did he. He helped pay for half the procedure and when he took me home, my mom was supportive. I was scared yes, but relieved. She was amazing (still is). My grandma called me cold hearted for not thinking of the baby, when in my head(and heart), thats all I was doing. I learned later that my mom, grandma and great grandma had all had an abortion, but still had kids later. And its been great for them. Im on my second IUD now and have no plans for kids. Every so often I would get back in contact with the guy, and every time he brings up the kid we could have had (I was the one that got away). I would have had a 12 year old by now. And I breath a sigh of releif every time that I dont. I can barely take care of myself, hanging on by a thread and know I’m happier and better off. To some it may be cold, but I did the best thing for me, and made sure it never happened again, but also know i have the option and support in whatever i decide. And when i go for a check up or any Drs visit and its asked, i have no shame, no guilt, no regret in my decision. (Bracing myself each time for backlash, tho it never comes, true pros). Im happy other women have the same relief. There should be no negativity for our choices, but when it comes, bottom line, we know we did the right thing. And its not up to them for shaming us. Edit: my dad even told my brother and I years later ‘thank you for not making me a grandpa before I was 45.’ And gave me a pointed look. It was a small weight lifted I didnt know I carried. Especially after his reaction after i told him I was pregnant. (Explosive).” –bubblymayden

“I would have an 8 year old son right now if I hadn’t gotten an abortion. The thought of having a kid, a son, creeps me out. I have 0 regrets.” –Jens0485

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How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

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How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

Growing up in a Guatemalan-African American home in Woodbridge, Virginia, Evelynn Escobar-Thomas didn’t feel like outdoor activities were always accessible to her. After a few summer trips to Los Angeles, where she hiked regularly with her aunt, she realized that she enjoyed nature.

However, with little representation of women of color on trails in mainstream media or in the real world, she often felt excluded from the outdoor recreations she took so much pleasure in.

Evelynn Escobar-Thomas

Hoping to create a safe, fun space that could encourage more women like her to bask in the natural environments around them, she created Hike Clerb.

Founded in 2017, Hike Clerb is an intersectional women’s hiking club and nonprofit aimed at creating experiences in the outdoors that are accessible, empowering and inclusive. While primarily located in Los Angeles, where Escobar-Thomas relocated partly because of its biodiversity, the collective is international, with members as far as South Africa and the United Kingdom. Although predominantly consisting of women of color, the collective is open to anyone who shares the group’s vision and mission.

“There’s a huge sense of community and empowerment because we are out there as a collective of women of different shapes, sizes and colors,” the 29-year-old social activist tells FIERCE. “Women of all walks of life come together to honor ourselves, our bodies and our own individual healing journeys through this radical community.”

In Los Angeles, Hike Clerb hosts monthly treks in areas that are easy to commute to and are capable of being completed by veteran and newbie hikers alike. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these regular in-person trudges, which could include crowds of 10 to 100 people, have mostly been put on pause. However, the group did link up once in June for a protest hike in support of Assembly Bill 345, legislation that would have created environmental protections for communities living near oil and gas operations in California that failed to pass.

“We met up for a hike protest in support of this bill and had signs and information on how others can get involved,” Escobar-Thomas says.


With social distancing mandates in place, the group has focused on new ways to create community. For instance, Hike Clerb posts monthly challenges that encourage followers to hike on specific days and photograph themselves in an effort to establish a sense of togetherness even though they are all physically apart. Additionally, Escobar-Thomas has been using social media to educate users on hiking etiquette, safety tips as well as on the racist history of public spaces like U.S. parks, trails and beaches.

“Let’s be real here: these spaces, although outdoors, which you would think by default are open to anyone, were made for white people. And to take it back a step even further, they exist on stolen land,” Escobar-Thomas says. 

On Instagram, Hike Clerb has posted educational materials that inform followers about this history. There’s the Yosemite National Park, which was founded on the displacement of the Ahwahneechee people who were later used as entertainment for white visitors, as well as the Grandstaff Canyon, which up until 2017 was called “Negro Bill Canyon” after the mixed-race Black rancher who once resided near the area, among many other examples. Even more, Hike Clerb also shares how beaches were once segregated, with Black communities often limited to remote shores that were polluted and in hazardous locations.

“The way that these idyllic structures and spaces have formed were already on a foundation of violence and exclusion, so it’s not hard to see the connection from the way that these places were formed to the way that we participate and consume them now,” Escobar-Thomas adds.

Among their group treks, it’s not uncommon for the women behind Hike Clerb to hear racial microaggressions. “Hiking Helens,” what Escobar-Thomas calls the disgruntled white women who take issue with large groups of Black and brown people taking up space outdoors, have confronted members about their so-called “urban group.” Other times, these women have accused the collective of obstructing their communities after wrongfully assuming members parked in their neighborhoods.

“You hear these little microaggressions, and it’s like no, we deserve to take up space out here just as much as anyone else, and this is why we are doing what we are doing,” she says. “The outdoors are not just this playground for white people. We should all feel equally entitled to it.”

Despite these occurrences, Escobar-Thomas says that creating hiking experiences has overall been healing and empowering for the women who participate in them. For some, it has even been a catalyst for them to start their own individual journeys with the outdoors, with many taking solo road trips and hiking at larger parks across the Southwest.

For Escobar-Thomas, that’s exactly what Hike Clerb is about: giving women, especially those of color, the resources, education, safety tips and confidence to claim space in environments they had previously felt fearful of or excluded from and to help facilitate those experiences.

“I just really want Hike Clerb to become this destination and resource for women of color, and anyone else who is aligned in our mission, to make the outdoors more representative of the world that we live in,” she says.

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