Some thoughts on whiteness and psychotherapy

Psychotherapeutic models give us useful tools and frameworks for understanding how suffering manifests and how to address it, but the majority of the ones widely taught and available grow out of and reproduce dominant white supremacy culture. Unless we are actively practicing something else every day, this will be the default for white therapists and it will be perpetuated through everything we do and say, as well as the (conscious and unconscious) goals we set for ourselves and our patients and how we approach pain and define health.

White people need to approach whiteness as something that is making us unwell, and we need to be able to see and sustain our awareness of the truth of this with less panic and activation. That takes daily practice, and it takes community.

Whiteness, and the privileges and comforts — as well as the conceptual bubble or echo-chamber – that come with it, insulate us from what is happening in our individual bodies and in the collective body of which we are a part. They pull us to instant gratification and consumption, the quick cycles of impulse and reward, instead of the steady repetition of practice. we can’t heal this way, and we can’t show up for other people’s healing or to concrete a just and healthy world this way.

The belief that the state of the world is not our business or directly relevant to our health and life is another product of this system and the individualism that only deepens separation within and between society, ecosystem, and psyche. We know from systems theory and from models of healing that the wellbeing and evolution of any complex system is correlated to integration. White supremacy culture, capitalism, and trauma all further its opposite: segregation. The idea that an individual can seek out and accomplish individual health and wellbeing in a deeply unwell world is a fiction of the health and wellness industries and is founded in the individualism that underpins all western psychotherapeutic models.

What do my words provoke in you? Do you find yourself nodding in agreement, puzzled, shut down, aggravated? The work we are called to do as therapists and humans in this world now is to get into the present moment and what is happening in our bodies as we face difficult truths. I am interested in building community with people who feel this call also as well as the need to face what we are carrying and perpetuating in our own bodies with bravery and vulnerability, together.