Cultural competence is a pretty big deal in social work. Ideally every client has a therapist who’s well-versed in their culture. If you see a Cambodian child with red marks on her skin, does it mean she’s being abused or that her family is practicing traditional Khmer medicine? It makes a big difference when you’re deciding whether to call child protective services. Even if clients just have to spend a long time explaining that what they do is normal in their culture – that’s a waste of time that could be better spent on actual therapy. And sometimes you just want someone who gets it without you having to explain it.
And so there are practices that specialize in subcultures. I know of several Afrocentric therapy centers in Boston and one center for Latinos. My father-in-law says a lot of Jewish clients pick him because he has a Jewish last name.
But culture isn’t just about ethnicity. You can find listings of therapists that specialize in transgender clients, or in BDSM.
I was talking to a friend recently about the intersection of depression and Asperger’s syndrome. And I was thinking about how hard it might be to find a social worker who was competent in geek culture. Psychiatrists, probably easier. I don’t know any psychologists, so I couldn’t tell you. But I was far and away the geekiest person in my social work program, and I’m not even that serious a geek anymore.
I remembered reading a good article (which I can’t find, but here’s a similar one) by a social worker who specialized in gamer culture. She found her clients who were in to video and computer games had a hard time finding therapists who didn’t consider their hobbies pathological. Most therapists wouldn’t feel the need to “fix” the fact that a client played golf every weekend – so why should they treat World of Warcraft so differently?
Geek competence isn’t just about culture, either. It’s about how you use information: do you Google “Asperger’s and depression” to see what’s out there? Did you read the Cochrane reviews on how well antidepressants work for his age range?
And of course it was Google that answered my question: are there therapists that specialize in geeks?
Why, yes! In Seattle. (“Also treating nerds, dweebs, dorks, gamers, and bronies.”)
There’s an enjoyable series of web clips about a fictional therapist who helps her clients “find their inner geek”: Geek therapy
There’s also an unrelated Geek therapy podcast.
I’m excited that this exists. This seems like a niche I would really enjoy working in.