The course leader for our Foundation Course, Patsy, reflects on how she, as a Black therapist, feels about events of this summer and addressing the issus of race and difference in therapeutic work.
The psychotherapeutic profession has found it difficult to think and talk about the topic of race.
A situation like the tragic death of George Floyd in the United States forces us back to that place. During the ongoing pandemic, Tavistock Relationships was one of a number of psychotherapeutic organisations that issued a statement to show how horrified we were to witness those events and to comment on our position concerning race.
Some of us were caught up in a maelstrom this summer. Concerned colleagues contacted me, to let me know that I was in their thoughts. One organisation felt compelled to run a racial awareness workshop, which then stirred up difficult feelings for the white and black and other minority ethnic
therapists and supervisors alike.
As we know, panic and paralysis affects our thinking capacity, and I had to resist the pressure from colleagues to have a thought/idea on the subject, as this reinforces the idea that only people of colour need to think about race. We have now had a little distance from this summer’s events linked to ‘Black Lives Matter’.
A recurring theme is the fear, mainly from white therapists, of getting things wrong, which causes the frozen state.
A white colleague shared with me that some guidance is needed on how we explore this uncomfortable topic. We do this boldly in our clinical practice, but many of us struggle to engage with this in supervision, which feeds into the institutional racism that is felt by people from ethnic minorities.
The pendulum swings between the polarities, with either black and other minority ethnic or white therapists being able to speak/be silencedand hence feeling in turn empowered and disempowered.
The result is that this leaves no space to think or enable a dialogue to take place.
A recent session with a couple evoked very strong negative feelings, which made me think of my own internal racist that Fakhry Davids describes. I had to think hard under stress, and as a result something softened, which helped me to make contact on a deeper level with this couple, and strengthen our connections.
As my colleague reminded me, it is the ability to survive the rupture and recover the relationship which is important in our work as clinicians and colleagues.
Once again, we have been given the opportunity to think and engage more openly with each other and hopefully detoxify the charge of discussions concerning race and enhance our client work in the process.
- Patsy Faure -