The concept of race is based on assigning social meaning to different groups of people, usually determined by physical characteristics. For example, a person’s facial features or skin color. Ethnicity, however, is based on the culture of a particular region, including language, heritage, religion, and customs.
For instance, if completing paperwork that asks to note your race, you may put down that you identity as Asian. However, if asked for your ethnicity, you may put down that you identify as Filipino, Thai, Japanese, or a combination of a few ethnicities.
Race and ethnicity are ideas created by society to distinguish and classify different populations.
Research has shown that people tend to build quicker rapport with those who they perceive to be similar to themselves. Since the effectiveness of therapy is heavily reliant on the strength of the therapeutic relationship, anything that can help to strengthen this bond is beneficial.
Although a therapist may not have gone through the same experiences as their client, they can still empathize with and care for them on a human and emotional level. Therapists are professionally trained with the knowledge and skills to assist clients without having to experience the challenge themselves.
However, it’s important to note that our cultural background, beliefs, and values can play a significant role in our mental health and overall well-being. Therefore, working with a provider of a similar race can be helpful as the person may feel more comfortable opening up since their provider may have had similar lived experiences.
If one of the areas you’re looking for support around is race-related stress, it may be helpful to work with a therapist of a similar race. You may find that you are more comfortable opening up to an individual that looks similar to you and has similar life experiences related to race.
Discussing topics such as stress or trauma around racism, immigration, cultural traditions, family conflict, or other related experiences can be very difficult to process. Many people may find it easier to open up to a therapist that can understand those experiences because they may have gone through something similar.
At most, therapists should recognize the diversity among their clients and the varied cultural perspectives that shape each individual's worldview. It is essential for them to approach each client with respect and an appreciation for the unique experiences that each group of people share.
In order to provide the best possible care, therapists need to be willing to ask difficult questions and remain open-minded and humble when they are outside of their own realm of understanding. They should strive to learn from their clients in order to gain a better understanding of their experiences.
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Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.