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  • hmika6

The Personal is Political. Therefore Therapy is Political.

I'm far from the first to argue this. But given the predominantly White, male, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy/middle-class frameworks embedded in psychology, this is slooooow progress. I did not receive training on how to critically interrogate the systems in which we all live, how they differentially impact us, and how and why this is relevant to the field and practice of psychology. And my program is considered to be one of the programs most focused on diversity in both student body and in training. Sure, we do learn to theorize about systems influencing the people we work with, and can recite it in a case conceptualization. But the complex nitty gritty of how this shows up in our lives as therapists, in our clients lives, and in the therapeutic space? I have and continue to learn from clients themselves, and from seeking resources on my own.

I will shortly post a piece providing my perspective as a (multi-racial Asian female) psychologist, on anti-Asian hate crimes. Some well-meaning individuals have inquired whether my professional website is the "appropriate" place for the piece given its "political" nature. I struggled with this myself. Well, to start with, I was hoping it would be accepted as an op-ed somewhere to give my practice more distance from it, and, of course, with the hopes of reaching a broader audience. Perhaps fortunately it was not accepted anywhere, because it created a new opportunity to align myself and my practice.

Although therapy is fundamentally political, we as a field are in the neophyte stages of truly grasping this. Working with the political is still considered by many in the field "risky" and even not relevant at times (read: some clinicians with the privilege to not take risks or not recognize the centrality of politics to therapy). I believe that we as a field (and as a country), especially those of us with varying privileges, myself included, need to redirect our focus from the risks of putting ourselves out there to the risks of not doing so.

As many have said, being apolitical is a political stance. In therapy, to deny the political is to deny social, environmental, and systemic realities. Denying the political can consequently render the clinician and the therapy blind at best and deeply damaging and/or re-traumatizating at worst, reenacting oppressive invalidating systems within the therapeutic relationship and its interventions. This idea reminds me of one of Kendi's arguments in his book, How to Be an Antiracist, that there are not race-neutral/not-racist policies and ideas, only anti-racist or racist ones. Because of existing power structures, a so-called neutral/not-racist policy will only uphold and perpetuate existing oppressive forces, thus by default, being racist in impact. Being apolitical is a harmful stance. If we are not consciously considering the political in our work and using it to inform our words and actions, we risk doing great harm to others and keeping ourselves and our field in a state of destructive stagnation.

So here's to a political therapeutic blog space, that I hope will be a source of refuge, validation, learning, support, and healing.

If you like this topic and want to learn more, below are two resources I highly recommend!

Podcast: Therapy as a Political Act. By Travis Heath, PhD on Therapy Reimagined.

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