Here’s how some therapists tackle racial structure in their practice ( News Iowa )

Cambodian American Eden Teng was born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Cambodia a few years after the Cambodian genocide. She moved to the US with her mom and aunt when she was 6.

Teng credits much of her resilience in her transition to the US to her exuberant mom, who wore whatever she wanted and wasn’t afraid to defy social norms — even when Teng was uncomfortable as a teenager.

But growing up, Teng also witnessed the negative impact of historical, racial and intergenerational trauma on her mom’s well-being. Teng often felt troubled by the way his mom’s emotions could spiral out of control, seemingly for no reason, or why she had so many health problems.

When Teng first encountered psychology in college, she realized that her mother’s past was directly connected to her emotional and physical health. (Scientists are learning that stress and trauma are sometimes linked to chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease).

This is what drove Teng to the therapist; In 2018, he began his graduate studies in Seattle.

But when COVID-19 hit and the Black Lives Matter movement came into full force, with communities of color holding public conversations about their struggles in the US, Teng says she felt differently about her education and entering that profession. . He began to notice how certain issues, including race and immigration, were not prioritized in his clinical training, even though he knew how important they were in shaping life.

“I didn’t feel represented, and I felt like I didn’t feel like I was seen in my family’s history,” she said, adding that she studied under teachers who were predominantly white. “I just kept quiet in my story” [and] I experienced the work I was doing.

Teng’s graduate program is not the only one like it. Therapy is a predominantly white field in the US – 80% of psychologists, 63% of counselors and 59% of social workers are white, according to Data USA, a website that compiles visualizations of federal government data.

Many of the foundational ideas, skills, and training of therapy schools were developed by white scholars or physicians. As a result, the field segregated the experiences of people of color, say therapists and patients. Microaggressions are also pervasive in psychological practice, the researchers note, and many immigrants report not attending therapy because of language barriers, lack of insurance, and costs.

That’s why Teng wanted to take a new approach. For her, that meant expanding the movement of other counselors, hoping to transform the practice of therapy to make it more relevant to people of color and — ultimately — to help them find healing.

Embracing the practice of de-cluttering treatment.

Teng initially from those like Dr. He was inspired by Jennifer Mullan, who called this work “decontextualizing therapy,” an approach to addressing racial structures and other oppressions that keep healthcare from serving many marginalized communities.

“I think the best way to describe decolonized therapy is as a space to really explore the external pressures, stressors, and layers of oppression that my clients have endured and survived,” Teng says.

An example of microaggressions in the workplace, or job interviews. “There are opportunities that aren’t given to you because of your identity,” he says, “But if you look at it through the lens of self-esteem, it’s like, ‘There’s something wrong with you.’ You should think better of yourself right? I Love you we need to be more positive. ”

But for people of color, that framework of just being “more positive” doesn’t always work. It does not account for racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination directed at them. “The challenge,” Teng explains, “is knowing how you feel about yourself that it can also become an internal oppression.”

Teng’s practice in conducting therapy digs into family history, helping her clients of color better understand how the historical trauma of their ancestors affects them. He says this is true for people from his own community who experienced genocide when the Khmer Rouge regime killed about 2.2 million people. “When we talk about Cambodian refugees and immigrants, there is a history here that is so horrific, rich, and devastating.”

Teng finds the children of Cambodian refugees who can struggle with guilt during the genocide. “For first-generation or second-generation Cambodian Americans, this is an experience that your parents have sacrificed so much or done,” he said. “They have experienced a huge devastation. But the sense of sacrifices we feel hurt and pain and suffering.”

Retaining a parent’s pain leads to treacherous ends, says Teng. “We also feel that we are transcending what we are perfecting or trying to be, so successful that we are actually facing the money… with the gentleness of pain, and emotions that are held back and down.”

Through the teaching skills of culture

To answer these questions, Teng developed a few approaches that differed from the way he was taught. First, Teng often brings his family to practice.

“This means we involve the parents in the sessions so we can hear from them,” she said. “When we’re in that space, there’s a lot of opportunities to highlight the impact that it has on the children of immigrants. And through that lens — of being like a first-generation immigrant — we can discuss the loss that’s very much connected to the loss that parents navigated.”

Teng supports children and parents in openly discussing experiences such as racism and genocide in a safe and supportive environment. He says that many of those who survived the genocide suppress their feelings. “And so, when you have the experience of checking them” [painful] Affection, you are also suppressed joy and connection, looking.

Allowing her clients and their parents to experience the full range of emotions can be healing, she says. “[They] it can allow for positive emotions and relationships that feel meaningful.’

Teng also works against the therapist-as-specialist stereotype. He is clear to his clients that he may not have all the answers, and prefers to be transparent with his clients about their own intergenerational trauma. “When we can really be there when something hurts, we know it’s in this,” he says. “I am not part of this common healing with my clients.”

Increasing acceptance of the role of historical trauma

Like Teng, Ramona Beltran was worried about taking off just because of the problems she saw in her community of origin. She identifies as Xicana of Yaqui and Mexican descent and is a professor of social work at the University of Denver.

As she entered the beginning of her life, several of her family members passed away before they reached the age of 60 and she found herself wondering what the connections were between her history of community trauma and their survival.

When Beltran entered a doctoral program devoted to historical trauma twenty years ago, he was not terribly disappointed at first, he says, as he gave several presentations on the theoretical framework of historical trauma and healing. “I remember this one [presentation] where they put their opinions before me, and there were many such as this is political. It is educational. Research does not count. There is nothing empirical about this. This is not like real academic work.”

Now, Beltran says things have changed, “I teach a whole class on historical trauma and healing, and it’s always one of the classes that fills up right away,” she says. “And that’s how it went for me.”

While working on her master’s degree in social work, she says she realized that all the topics she had learned in graduate school weren’t enough for practice.

“They were like this kind of mainstream access to people who were born, primarily white, primarily middle-class families,” Beltran recalls. “And so perhaps they would be transferred to Spain, but it seemed to me that those practices did not generate much healing.”

Now that he teaches, Beltran emphasizes that color can take different forms, depending on the therapist’s experience and the community experiences of the community the therapist is trying to reach.

It emphasizes three key aspects of culturally responsive theater: building authentic relationships, ensuring community representation, and connecting with the cultural environment. Like Teng, Beltran is most interested in helping clients see their culture as a form of intergenerational strength, rather than pain.

The growing need for a responsive customer culture

While therapists like Beltran and Teng are committed to making therapy more inclusive, communities of color continue to struggle with access to therapists. Teng gets a lot of people contacting her that she simply can’t help. “I’m just not licensed to see people in my area, and there are so many who are interested. And it breaks my heart every time I’m not able to provide support.”

He notes that this is especially common for clients in areas with few clinics available. “I had one from Kansas recently that was like, ‘We don’t have Khmer therapists anywhere in the state.'” But, unfortunately, I can’t provide that service.

Teng knows what it’s like to lack access to therapy. “I personally didn’t have my own clinic doing this until very recently,” he said.

But there have been some recent trends in the right direction, Teng says. Organizations like Inclusive Therapists have created the BIPOC Therapy Fund to provide financial assistance for at least four initial sessions to people of color seeking therapy. The Asian Mental Health Collective has also created the Lotus Therapy Fund to provide financial support to Asian therapy seekers for eight sessions.

And the largest professional organization of psychologists in the US is also promising to make changes. Last year, the American Psychological Association issued a formal apology for its role in “promoting, perpetuating and not challenging racism, racial discrimination and human hierarchy in the US.”

The APA has promised to support greater research in non-Western perspectives, provide greater access to competent cultural institutions, and more opportunities for people of color to enter the field of psychology. This August, the organization committed $1.1 million to a new Racial Equity Fund to accomplish these three goals.

Teng hopes to see more money dedicated to helping people of color access therapy that recognizes their history and experiences.

“There’s no way we can just say we’re looking at this from a cultural lens without really looking at it through a historical, intergenerational lens.” “And so it must be grasped and united, in order to truly honor the man who is before you.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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