Sharing similar cultural roots with a therapist doesn't always guarantee a connection with them, but feeling safe, heard, and seen within therapy sessions helps me open up more. For me, working with a Latina mental health expert who understands my multicultural background and the layers of my identity is vital.
I was 9 when I first began seeing a therapist, and I didn't understand the importance of being culturally connected to them. The shift began when I hit my teenage years and started making excuses for rescheduling or canceling my sessions with my non-POC mental health professional. I remember spending more time explaining my Dominican and Puerto Rican family dynamics and 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 — no one was going to "get me." I haven't always been the greatest at communicating my negative emotions with others, and instead of speaking my truth, I gave up.
Today, I honor that teenage girl with each session. I realized that healing isn't linear, and my 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 — my purest and most radical act of self-love. Over the years, I have witnessed myself transform as I have 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 has experienced "being the only Latina in the room" and the heaviness that can bring. She understands the stigma around the "y el novio?" question I confront constantly — not just on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but all year round. She holds space 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 trauma, and exploring native 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.
In my experience, working with psychology professionals who do not understand my cultural references sets back my progress. Being seen and heard has been 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 that allows me to be my authentic self. We joke at times about our Latina moms complaining about us not eating enough and then body-shaming us for indulging. I no longer worry about being too "urban" or too loud when letting loose or expressing my passion for an experience or a topic. Having a Latinx mental health professional has been a game changer. As I continue to nourish myself, engage in self-discovery, and honor the fact that I am my ancestors' wildest dreams, therapy is my weekly practice of radical recovery.