In response to a recent posting on my local list serve, I wrote the following:
As many of us who have worked in clinical practice for the past couple of decades are aware, racism has a very intimate relationship with the lives of those we serve, on multiple levels. Many of us are aware of and working actively around the neurobiology of trauma and self regulation in the day to day functioning of our clients’ lives. To this end, there are a number of writers who have written specifically about the relationship between racism, trauma and clinical practice (Robert Carter 2007, Usha Tummala-Narra 2016, Kenneth Hardy, Thema Bryant-Davis 2006 to name a few) – who all name the relationship between racism and trauma in clinical practice.
At Smith SSW for the past several years I have observed that conversations about racism, by their very nature, are frequently dysregulating (for different reasons) for both white clinicians and clinicians of color.
I think this is such a critical time around race and racism that I personally believe it’s really important for us to find a way as clinicians to bring these issues forward in our conversations – with each other and more importantly with our clients.
I would therefore not ask “whether” but “how” racism is a conversation that needs to be had by clinicians in any and all contexts of practice. Especially given the dysregulating nature of the conversations. There are wonderful models out there which serve as compass bearings on this issue – at Smith SSW we are beginning to work with a “Critical Conversations” model (Kang & O’Neill) that is designed to help us have these difficult conversations with each other in the School. Similarly, there is the fine tradition of the Public Conversations Project (Roth, Becker et al) out of Eastern MA which supports us in finding ways to talk with each other in meaningful collaborative ways when it comes to dysregulating conversations such as race and racism. Narrative therapy has been talking about race and racism since the 90’s. And the time-honored traditions of Feminist Therapy / Feminist Family Therapy have given us solid footing in the concept of the Personal is Political and vice-versa.
So, a couple of starter questions I might ask given this context:
1. How do we talk with each other in a meaningful way about the impact of race and racism in our practice as clinicians?
2. What are the implications of us “not talking” about racism as clinicians?
3. When we talk with each other, how do we observe and name the inevitability of a replication (parallel process) between larger tensions / discourses around these issues and our smaller conversations?
Happy to continue the dialogue here and elsewhere,