How to Be an Anti Racist Therapist: 5 Impactful Action Steps

How to Be an Anti Racist Therapist: 5 Impactful Action Steps

It’s due time that inclusivity and racial justice for Black folks be on all of our minds. As a Licensed Psychologist and therapist in Austin TX, I’ve been looking for ways to ensure that talk about anti-racism and social justice is backed up by serious, committed action. This applies especially to therapists and other mental health professionals. Because of the power granted to us in the counseling relationship, therapists have an weighty responsibility to inform ourselves, commit to anti-racism, and practice activism in dismantling white supremacy and the structures of power that maintain racial inequality and injustice. You might be wondering how to be an anti racist therapist.

In pursuit of these aims, I compiled some valuable resources on offer from activist educators, counselors, and community leaders that especially speak to anti-racist therapy. My hope is that, with some inspiration, other therapists, mental health professionals, social workers, and counseling practices can grow in their racial awareness and become better-equipped to serve the full panorama of the human experience. While our current collective focus is rightly on Black lives and communities, anti-Blackness underlies racism in all its forms. Change through the avenues below will enhance anti-racism in therapy as it has the potential to impact every member of our society.

Action Step #1 for Becoming an Anti-Racist Therapist: Jump in with a Live Training

Yes, during our pandemic days, “live” how-tos mean Zoom or another teleconferencing platform, but that’s no reason to delay actively engaging in an informative and challenging training that will help you with how to be an anti-racist therapist. Several therapist and educator activists are offering live facilitated trainings or workshops for teams at a cost manageable for a small to medium-sized practice. All too often, colleagues of color are asked to bear the burden of being educators to their privileged, White counterparts. Don’t let this happen in your practice.

How to #2: Engage with a Recorded Training or Webinar

Other great resources meld anti-racist teachings with thought-provoking exercises and activities in a recorded format. If you can’t make a training happen live, educate yourself and your colleagues through an online training or webinar like one of these below.

Some webinars related to how to be an anti-racist therapist are offered as single-instance videos to be watched and rewatched:

Action Step #3 if You’re Gonna Be an Anti-Racist Therapist: Engage in conversation over a book club.

Gather your organization, therapist friends, or chosen family together to deep-dive into a book that encourages awareness and action around racial justice. Hire a facilitator who can structure the discussion around shared exploration, making meaning, and calling in (psst, no, a person of color on your team can’t do this job for you).

Action Step #4: Watch a Documentary/Movie and Be Anti-Racist Together

Sit down for a dedicated viewing and facilitated discussion on a documentary or film that illuminates the history of racial injustice in your country or celebrates activism. Try one of the movies below. Don’t just get angry—have an extended discussion with your team, led by an anti-racist activist you compensate for their time.

A movie poster for When They See Us, relevant to the topic of how to be an anti racist therapist

How to #5: Engage Your Refined Skills to Combat Racism and White Supremacy

As trained mental health professionals, we hold a unique skillset that can be leveraged in powerful ways to uplift Black, Indigenous, and people of color and dismantle the existing systems that have historically pushed them down. Unfortunately, non-Black therapists have historically perpetuated racism and prejudiced practices, for example through racial microaggressions against African American clients. Black, Indigenous, and people of color continue to encounter untenable obstacles in seeking mental health care. This is where you come in! Engaging your therapist skills and anti-racist aims, you can do the following as an anti-racist therapist:

  • Offer to lead a mindfulness workshop for communities of color;
  • Teach activists about self-care and self-compassion through a free course;
  • Join insurance panels or offer more low sliding scale spots;
  • Educate your White peers on the White Racial Identity Model, a continuum of development that may lead to anti-racist action; and
  • Especially if you’re a training site for pre-grads, interns, or post-grads, make sure your workplace is racially inclusive, anti-racist, and doing the work BIPOC therapists need to feel welcome and engaged. When only 4% of psychologists are Black, it is essential to ensure that your colleagues and therapists-in-training are representative of the populations you (rightly) want to access as an anti-racist therapist.

So, anti-racist therapists (or other helpers too!): What action steps are you committing to for your own growth, for your clients, for your therapy practice, and for humanity? What resources on how to be an anti-racist therapist did I leave out here?

Image credit: a katz, Shutterstock.com / Netflix

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