How to find a therapist if you are queer, person of color

This article is part of an on-going health series to offer useful news and tools that will help empower LGBTQ+ readers to make informed choices about their health. In this first of a two-part series, “Functional” creator-writer Daniel Luna explains why he focused on mental health and finding a therapist on his web series.

These past few years have been such a wake-up call to all of us. And I don’t think we need to retell the effects that the Pan-Demi Lovato had on us, but I feel we can all agree that the topic of mental health came up as a talking point at one time or another.

In May 2020, I was doing nothing and drinking at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday to stay “busy.”

I knew that my mental health was suffering, but didn’t really know what to call it, and since I was raised to not complain about a situation when others have it worse, I continued to ignore it. 

It took one year for me to finally admit that I needed to talk to someone. I realized that the hustle I would constantly chase was a distraction to avoid checking in on myself.

We were in the middle of producing season two of my web series “Functional,” and I knew I wanted the journey of one of my main characters to involve going to therapy.

But as I soon found out, there wasn’t any way I could talk-the-talk through my series if I personally didn’t walk-the-walk.

How to Find a gay friendly therapist

Jazmyne (Lys Perez), consults with her therapist Vanessa (Stacey Patino) on an episode of the web series “Functional.” Series creator and writer Daniel Luna spent several episodes of season two focusing on mental health, therapy and how to find a therapist. Photo: Provided by Daniel Luna

Being Honest

Spoiler alert: A therapist isn’t going to tell you what to do if that is what you are looking for. They will guide your thoughts so you can better understand them, but it only works if you CHOOSE to listen and be honest. Being a little candid here, for the longest time I chose not to tell my therapist a lot about me in fear of being judged. I know, but there was just a part of me that didn’t want to fully lift the curtain, and that’s OK if you’re not comfortable with that. It did unfortunately take a few low moments for me to finally come to a realization that there were topics I needed to discuss to better understand why I reacted the way I do in certain scenarios. And let me tell you, once I ripped off that Bandaid, it did help me feel better and have a sense of trust in myself and in my therapist.

Getting There

Mental health and therapy wasn’t a foreign subject to me.  I would constantly hear the importance of taking care of one’s mental health, taking “me days,” going to therapy, and the “it’s OK to not be OK” discussions. I was all for it, but it was something that I felt only happened to people on TV or those who could afford these luxuries. Us plain folk must get by with the knowledge that we will be OK even if we don’t feel OK. But, knowing that we are not OK is good enough (laughs in Spanish).

This stems from a background where we were taught if we can’t see it or hear it, then it doesn’t exist, and Catholic guilt…a lot of that.

But to be honest, the main barrier was because I didn’t know where to start. Most of the time when you see your favorite character in the media come to the realization they need to go to therapy, they are suddenly transported there the very next day.

We don’t see the pre-journey it took to book the first appointment.

‘Functional’ webseries spotlights queer Latinx experiences

Therapy as a concept sounds great, but in normal land the first thing many of us will think of is the cost, and the time we will need to put aside if we are lucky to even find someone. I decided to write that journey through the arch of the character Jazymne (Lys Perez) in season two of “Functional.”

Finding a therapist

I went online and searched for “therapists in my area.” I was overwhelmed and disappointed. Not to say there weren’t options because there were, but seeing the up front costs and booking options did not seem like something I wanted to go through. 

Finding a therapist is like dating. You need to know what kind of therapist you want.

This is crucial, especially if you are POC and queer.

Therapists do have qualifications and training to handle an array of subjects, but you can’t really train anyone about a community without living it first hand.

And that’s something I have seen with friends who took the first plunge in seeking a therapist. They went in for a couple of sessions and decided it wasn’t for them. They didn’t feel comfortable being open with their therapist, not because the therapist was unskilled, but because they didn’t feel the therapist would understand our  background 

That said, I still didn’t know where to start. Where could my character, and eventually myself, go to find someone?

Then, straight from the skies, came PsychoSocial, a mental health multimedia platform that provides resources focusing on BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Latinx, WOC, and other stigmatized communities.

It became a huge outlet for me, a space where I can have my questions answered.

It  also provided a huge consultation help in the series as they helped facilitate the conversations Jazmyne had during her  journey (see season two, episode three).

On top of that, it  also introduced me to Latinx Therapy, a national directory to find Latinx therapists and specific services. I finally had a direct outlet to search for my therapist! 

Having these two networks are a game changer in our community, and I am beyond grateful for them. Not only did it relieve me of stress and questions, but also made me feel comfortable. It helped reassure me that my search for a therapist was a valid one, something we often don’t get in an immigrant household.

About the author

Daniel Luna

Daniel Luna is a first generation Mexican-American writer and actor from Denver. He is the creator and writer of the award-winning web series “Functional.” Both seasons stream on YouTube.

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