Psychological and Therapeutic Repair for Racial Trauma
At PCH Treatment Center, we use a culturally sensitive therapeutic model that acknowledges the trauma of systemic racism and the necessity of a dualistic perspective that holds the autonomy of the individual within the framework of the collective.
In their critically lauded book, Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, multicultural psychologists Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., and David Sue, Ph.D., examine how radical healing is achieved through realistic assessment coupled with hope. “For liberation to occur, psychological healing must focus on systemic conditions contributing to the trauma of racism and colonization. Thus, we envision a radical healing process that acknowledges the pain of oppression while fostering hope for justice and psychopolitical freedom.”
In psychoanalyst Ricardo C Ainslie, Ph.D.’s article Intervention strategies for addressing collective trauma: Healing communities ravaged by racial strife, he explains the role of empathy and potency of personal narrative. “When clinicians create empathic spaces in psychotherapy, the potential for healing and transformation can emerge through testimony—personal narratives that give voice to experiences of oppression, provide opportunity to create meaning of their individual and collective experiences of oppression, and empower individuals to envision future possibilities.”
In the article in The Counseling Psychologist, Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color, licensed counselors in multicultural psychology outline an approach to healing that moves beyond the traditional dyadic conceptualization of psychological healing into a community model. “The development of psychological radical healing requires that clinicians expand their conceptualization of what ‘healing’ is and where it can take place. In other words, clinicians are encouraged to move beyond traditional spaces and modalities of treatment and consider how healing can also be experienced within community settings.”
Professor and author Shawn T. Ginwright, Ph.D., notes that radical healing requires a sense of self-definition and cultural authenticity in which Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are not defined by their oppressors. In his book, Black Youth Rising: Activism and Radical Healing in Urban America, Ginwright states, “In a society where African identity is devalued and demeaned, the radical healing process must consider the ways to rebuild and reclaim racial identity among African American youth.” Ginwright explains, “With radical healing, living authentically is an act of resistance, which offers POCI hope for truth and acceptance.”
In his book, Hope and Healing in Urban Education, Ginwright stresses the importance of hope on the path to healing. “Hope is a necessary condition of working to improve human existence—there must be some sense that the struggle is not in vain.” Ginwright stresses the importance of envisioning possibilities as “… radical healing requires radical hope. Hope allows for a sense of agency to change things for the greater good—a belief that an individual can fight for justice and that the fight will not be futile.” Ginwright expresses that the psychological framework of radical healing includes a focus on strength and resistance. “We use the language of strength and resistance as a part of radical healing to reflect POCI’s commitment to living joy-filled lives despite a critical awareness of racial trauma and oppression. A call for resistance acknowledges the strength of oppressed peoples, evidenced by their sacrifice for the common good and a faith in the human capacity for change.”
In the article Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions, scholars outline three components of critical consciousness: critical reflection, political efficacy, and critical action. Critical reflection involves engaging in an analysis of the social situation, including historical and structural factors, and rejecting oppression and inequity. Critical reflection is essential to achieving a sense of political efficacy, which—according to researchers in the article Critical consciousness and career development among urban youth—is confidence in one’s ability to facilitate individual or collective sociopolitical change. Critical action involves moving from commitment to action to reduce oppression.
In the article Challenging racism, sexism, and social injustice: Support for urban adolescents’ critical consciousness development, scholars define critical consciousness as “… an individual’s capacity to critically reflect and act upon their sociopolitical environment.” In developing critical consciousness, “… one must reflect on sociopolitical realities, deeply questioning and discerning for oneself (although often with others) how and why power relations are structured and maintained, in order to begin the process of radical healing.”
In working toward the amelioration of individual and collective trauma, we acknowledge individual histories of trauma and the impact of collective systems of injustice perpetrated.
Ainslie, R. C. (2013). Intervention strategies for addressing collective trauma: Healing communities ravaged by racial strife. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society.
Diemer, M. A., Kauffman, A., Koenig, N., Trahan, E., & Hsieh, C. (2006). Challenging racism, sexism, and social injustice: Support for urban adolescents’ critical consciousness development. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.
Diemer, M. A., & Blustein, D. L. (2006). Critical consciousness and career development among urban youth. Journal of Vocational Behavior.
French, Bryana H., et al. (2019). “Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color.” The Counseling Psychologist, vol. 48.
Ginwright, S. A. (2010). Black youth rising: Activism and radical healing in urban America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Ginwright, S. A. (2016). Hope and healing in urban education: How urban activists and teachers are reclaiming matters of the heart. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2015). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Watts, R. J., Diemer, M. A., & Voight, A. M. (2011). Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions. New Directions for Child & Adolescent Development, 2011.