Similar cultural roots don't always promise a connection with a therapist, yet feeling safe, heard, and seen within therapy sessions helps me open up more. For me, working with a therapist who mirrors my multicultural background and understands the layers of my identity is vital.
When I first began seeing a therapist, I'll admit it, I was nine, and I didn't understand the importance of being culturally connected to your therapist. The shift began when I hit my teenage years and started making excuses for rescheduling or canceling my sessions with a non-POC mental health professional. I remember spending more time explaining my Dominican and Puerto Rican family dynamics along with the stresses of being the first in my family to attend an all-girls high school in the Bronx. That's when I decided I would hit pause on therapy because no one was going to "get me." I haven't always been the greatest at communicating my negative emotions with others. Instead of speaking my truth, I gave up. Today, I honor that teenage girl with each session.
Realizing healing is not linear, college years brought me back into therapy as I pushed myself to open up past wounds and work through them. It was and still is the purest act and most radical act of self-love to date. Over the years, I have witnessed myself transform as I intentionally sought out WOC professional therapists.
Today, I have a Dominican therapist with gorgeous curly hair with whom I discuss my childhood, career, relationships, goals, fears, and more. My therapist understands comments such as "Being the only Latina in the room" and the heaviness it brings at times. She completely understands the stigma around the 'y el novio?' question I face constantly. Not just on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but all year round. She holds spaces for moments when I express the conflict I had and still have with Latinos who voted for Trump. We tackle conversations around cultural bias, hair woes that connect to personal experiences, generational traumas, and exploring native roots healing practices. I learned to tap into Afro-Puerto Rican healing modalities with plant medicines and herbs along with powerful Dominican chants that serve as positive affirmations.
Unfortunately, in my experience, speaking with psychology professionals who do not understand my cultural references sets back my progression. Being seen and heard has been such a powerful move for my wellness journey.
I celebrate accomplishments and unload setbacks because I trust her. There's an energetic space that our backgrounds provide, a sacred sanctuary to be authentically myself. We joke at times about our Latina mom complaining about us not eating enough then body-shaming for indulging. I no longer worry about being too urban or too loud when letting loose or passionate about an experience or topic. Having a Latinx mental health professional has been a game changer. As I continue to nourish and discover myself and honor the fact that I am my ancestors' wildest dreams, therapy is my weekly practice of radical recovery.