Race Relations in the Therapy Room

November 19th, 2008

I am sitting across from a new client – a person of another race.  I make a statement like “Often times, the fact of our different races can influence the process and outcome of our work together.  I’m going to do my best to pay attention to this.  I’d also encourage you to speak up if you think our cultural differences are getting in the way of our work.”  The client looks at me with a smile, pulls out her/his wallet, and shows me a picture of her/his child – clearly a biracial kid.

Then, the discussion reveals a Caucasian partner and an ability to be comfortable among all types of people.  Assumptions of barriers are dispelled.  An individual’s strengths and skills become apparent.  The foundation of our relationship – therapist and client – is laid.  The client is then ready to do the work s/he came in to do.

That’s one example of how race relations are sometimes addressed in my practice.  Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes not.  But, typically, when we have such discussions, we are then able to speak of even more pressing and poignant matters.  Which ultimately benefits the client.

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