Access to Mental Health Treatment

by Elisa Friedlander, LMFT

Similar to disparities in medical care, disparities in mental health access and treatment are far-reaching. Negative experiences with health care providers—whether the result of sexism, racism, homophobia, or other prejudices—can lead to mistrust and deter people from reaching out for much-needed psychological support. The result is a vicious cycle: already marginalized and vulnerable communities may be made to feel they have nowhere to turn for adequate mental health care.

Below is a brief overview of suggestions for finding high-quality and inclusive support.

Attributes of inclusive providers and agencies

Here are some important things to look for in a provider or treatment center:

  • Cultural competency, including open discussion about cultural differences between you and your therapist. Does the agency or treatment center offer multiple therapists of diverse backgrounds?
  • Statements (or symbols) of inclusion. For example, a rainbow flag in a window or on a website immediately fosters a feeling of welcome and respect for LGBTQ+ patients.
  • Accessibility. Does the office or provider make an effort to be inclusive of different abilities? Do they have a wheelchair ramp at their physical location, closed-captioning on their website videos, or offer telehealth for those who have mobility issues?
  • Macro-level focus. The therapist should see you in the context of your identity and value system, not just as an individual with chronic pain or mental health issues. Are the questions on the intake forms culturally sensitive? Does the therapist make an effort to understand your identity beyond your mental and physical health?

Where to find professional mental health services

Start by determining if you want individual and/or group psychotherapy, a support group (support and education related to coping with pain), and/or a social network. Here are some resources to look into finding licensed mental health professionals:

  •  Nonprofit counseling centers. These are centers that offer low- or no-cost counseling. Ask if they offer a sliding scale.
  • Psychology Today. allows you to search for licensed therapists, psychotherapy (individual and group), psychiatrists, and treatment centers based on your location.

Other types of support

The following options can be helpful adjuncts (not alternatives) to psychotherapy with a licensed professional:

  •  Support groups. Try searching for support groups in your area. has listings for local and national groups that are offered online and (outside of COVID-19) in-person.
  • Facebook Groups. Try searching by a specific condition or identity to find a group that meets your unique needs.
  • Spiritual/religious, cultural or recreational communities.

By finding creative ways to integrate a network of support into our lives, we can learn to accept ourselves in a world where we’re not always accepted by others. For more resources, please visit