Other organizations go a step further and help patients set up therapy appointments. The nonprofit Black Men Heal, for example, offers up to eight free online counseling sessions. About 70 percent of clients choose to pay for additional sessions, said the executive director, Tasnim Sulaiman, a psychotherapist in private practice in the Philadelphia area who founded the organization in 2018.
It can be difficult for people of color to locate a therapist with a shared cultural background. According to the Census Bureau, about 18 percent of people in the United States identify as Hispanic and 13 percent as Black, but an American Psychological Association report found that only 5 percent of psychologists are Hispanic and 4 percent are Black — 86 percent are white. A similar disparity exists among the country’s social workers and psychiatrists.
Eric Coly, who formerly worked in finance, founded Ayana Therapy in 2020, about eight years after hitting “rock bottom” while facing anxiety and depression.
Back then, he struggled to find a therapist who could understand the intersection of his different identities as a Black man and an immigrant from Senegal who has lived in different parts of the world.
“This product was almost meant to heal my former self,” he said.
Ayana, which means “mirror” in Bengali, asks users to fill out a questionnaire that is meant to capture “your many nuances,” Mr. Coly said, and then matches you with a culturally competent therapist. The cost of each online session is currently $60.
Providers are vetted through a process that includes two interviews and reference checks.
While Ayana was created for a multitude of races and cultures, as well as those who identify as L.G.B.T.Q., some websites cater to a more niche set of users like LatinxTherapy, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, the Asian Mental Health Collective and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network. Melanin and Mental Health features a directory of therapists of color, many of whom are in Houston. The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, a wellness nonprofit that trains people to respond to mental health crises, has an online directory with a variety of Black practitioners including therapists, yoga instructors, doulas and mediators.
Employers are also starting to recognize the need for culturally competent providers. The companies Indeed, Thumbtack and Critical Mass, which is part of Omnicom Group, have recently partnered with Therify, which uses artificial intelligence technology to match employees with providers in their state. Half of Therify’s nearly 300 online therapists are people of color and 20 percent specialize in serving clients who identify as L.G.B.T.Q., said the company’s chief executive, James Edward Murray, who interviews each provider.
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