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Addressing race in therapy is no longer a matter of choice for therapists

Updated: Nov 2, 2021


Humans differ and, as humans, we notice difference. Some of us consider race to be a defining characteristic - we see it as part of our identity and our experience informs us that others see this, too.


Some, in their effort to unite humanity, 'see' only the 'human race'. Then there are those who, perhaps, though not intentionally avoidant, do not 'see' race or colour due to their denial, or privilege. And there are some, who do not wish to describe themselves or others in racial terms. For such thinking can be limiting, it can divide us, it can bleed into the hierarchical system of patriarchy where race, skin tone, ethnicity, culture, class, gender and sexuality are all skewed to create an elite whilst denigrating all others.


It may indeed be argued that race is fake. It is indeed a construct - a counterfeit theory rooted in the idea that skin tone, features, ethnicity, culture and beliefs are grounds for denying certain individuals, groups, communities, nations, the right to respect and autonomy. For has it not been forged from a despotic desire to divide, conquer and rule.


But if race is not real, how come it has such impact? How come it divides us? And why do so many of us identify with it?


When you choose to 'see' race, inevitably, you see racism. Racism hurts and such pain is real and particular.

There is meaning in both the denial and acceptance of race. It's understandable that so many of us make a conscious choice, or a less conscious choice, to not 'see' race or colour. For when we choose to 'see' race, inevitably, we see racism. Racism hurts and such pain is real and particular.



The therapy profession is being made increasingly aware of the need to address the hurt caused by racism.

In the era of so-called 'wokeness', the therapy profession is being made increasingly aware of the need to address the hurt caused by racism. There

is currently a call for therapists

inexperienced in working with issues of race, to undergo relevant training, to ensure that they can meet the needs of clients whose racial and cultural identities differ from their own. It's no longer a matter of choice for therapists.



If you're experiencing difficulty around race...

Whether you're experiencing difficulties around racial identity, interracial relationship or discrimination, it's okay to seek support. Talking with the right therapist can help. When looking for a therapist, you may find it useful to consider the following:

  • Is there a clear indication that the therapist includes working with race in their practice? Does this information appear on their website, blog or profile?

  • Does the therapist have any experience or training in working with race issues?

  • During your enquiry, let the therapist know that you wish to explore issues of race. How does the therapist respond? Can they be explicit?

  • Is the therapist a member of a relevant organisation that supports the availability of therapy for those wanting to address issues of race?


If you're a therapist or other helping professional...

You may be interested in a programme I have developed for helping professionals wishing to explore the significance of race, culture and heritage in the context of their work. For more information, see the workshops page on my website. https://www.marypascallcounselling.com/creativespaces



Other useful links:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/may/28/finding-good-therapist-gender-race-cultural-competency


https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/racism-and-mental-health/


https://www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/therapy-today/2018/october-2018/why-we-need-to-talk-about-race/


https://www.baatn.org.uk/about/



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