The Trauma of Oppression

December 29th, 2009

oppression and therapyBeing a Person of Color or a member of any marginalized group in America has it’s challenges.  You already know that.  You don’t need a therapist to tell you about how -isms affect you and your life.  What I would like to tell you about, however, is how therapy can help relieve trauma-based symptoms which are caused by social conditions, like racism, sexism, and the like.

As you know, living everyday in a dominant culture that marginalizes and diminishes can be a catalyst to boldly be who you are, proudly, without any excuses.  At the same time, the daily stress can be wearing.  Some clients have told me about their experiences feeling judged or out-of-place in the office, being misunderstood or even stigmatized by others, or just being aware – consciously and subconsciously – of the stereotypes and judgements that exist.

When folks tell me these stories, they feel some release.  I know one woman, African American, single mother, and student in a predominately white college, who felt judged and typecast as an underachiever in her school.  While she came from a prosperous family, she found herself taking on the stereotype as truth and performing below her abilities.  She then wondered if the things people were saying about her were true.  By exploring these experiences, beliefs, and thoughts, she was able to put those comments into a perspective which allowed her to experience her authentic self.  She began to live into that truth.

Perhaps not everyone has such experiences – but some folk do, sometimes inflicted by people you know and trust.  And whether it’s with me, another therapist, or a trusted friend or family member, speaking of it, while difficult, can provide relief and strength.

For a therapist or counselor in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, email me at or call me at 202/460-6384.

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