My Story: Feeling More Comfortable With the Counselor Who Has the Same Cultural Background as Me

By Saniya Ghanoui —

IK explains how her treatment was positively impacted after finding a mental health professional that has the same cultural background as her.


OBOS Today: Now that you’ve seen, you’ve been seeing someone with a South-Asian heritage, how has your treatment changed, particularly what you talk about in terms of judgement? 

IK: I think I’m able to, I don’t feel like I need to over-explain myself and go out of my way to, you know, put those pieces together for the professional that I’m seeing where, you know, for example I think, because a lot of, obviously um, I’m living in the U.S. right now, and I think that a lot of that, what’s normalized here is, you know, the typical stable white family, what is normal, what is standard is white, right? So, anything that kind of, um that isn’t that, is kind of othered, so little things like I think, so maybe things that are normal in my family would be, you know, seen as like a red flag for a mental health professional that isn’t familiar with anything other than, you know, the status quo, I guess.

And so oftentimes, I would have to go out of my way to explain those things and, you know, really identify or distinguish between this is just normal in my culture and this is not, do with that what you will, and then, you know, I don’t have to do that with my current psychiatrist because they’re able to make those, you know, they’re able to distinguish between those things on their own and, you know, it’s a lot less effort on my side so it’s easier for me to talk to them and, and they’ll, I feel they’re treating me more like a person, rather than someone they need to save or someone they need to feel bad for, and obviously it is uncomfortable talking about, you know, things that are so personal with someone that’s a stranger, right.

And whenever I’d be talking to certain counselors that I felt couldn’t relate to me or approach my issues or whatever from, you know, a distance, I guess, is the only way I can describe it right now, um, [pause] I feel like, it would be a very uncomfortable environment where I didn’t feel like I could open up and everything I said was made to feel, was kind of either, you judged, or made to feel, you know, that something I should feel bad about and I don’t feel that way with my current, you know, counselor and psychiatrist where they very much treat me like a person and I can, you know, talk about things openly without feeling kind of attacked or feeling vulnerable, if that makes sense.