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On Barbers, Hairdressers, and Choosing a Therapist: A Black Perspective

Whenever I am on livestream, national TV, a podcast, or conducting a webinar, someone always asks, “How do I choose a therapist?” My answer is simple: Black Americans should choose a therapist the same way they choose a hairdresser or barber.

As Black men and women, we would never choose a hair care professional who wasn’t intimately familiar with Black hair. We would look around the shop, see who was occupying the chairs, and if we did not see anyone who looks like us, ask, “Do you do Black hair?”

The same principle applies to choosing a therapist. Many Black clients would like a Black therapist, but there are simply are not enough of us to meet the need. Therefore, a potential Black client may be referred to a non-Black therapist. Black or non-Black, the first question we want to ask the therapist is, “Are you culturally competent?” This is the therapist version of, “Do you do Black hair?”

The second question should be, “How many Black clients have you seen?” If they say, “None, or I am trained to see all clients,” this may not be the therapist for you. Remember what happened the last time a hair care professional told us they were trained to do all types of hair; we never went back. As a rule of thumb, a culturally-competent therapist has seen at least one Black client.

Finally, just as you would never educate your barber or hairdresser on how to do Black hair, it is not your responsibility to “school” your therapist on what it means to be Black. If a therapist is truly culturally-competent, they are continually gaining knowledge and doing the outside work to meet the needs of their Black clients.

Resources to find a culturally-competent therapists

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies:

Association of Black Psychologists:

Psychology Today

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