Racial Gaslighting – Counselling and Psychotherapy

Recently I re-shared a post by @blackfemaletherapist on Facebook giving examples of Racial Gaslighting

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The post received lots of positive responses and comments about the experience and how this relates to counselling and psycho-therapeutic practice.

With the positive response and contributions in mind I posted this onto another creative therapies fb page.  What a shock I got.  This post was met with a lot of  hostility, ignorance and racism. Wanting to respond to some of the comments I realised I couldn’t, without any explanation comments had been turned off for this post. Great way to shut down a conversation that Matters to Black People.  I wasn’t happy with being shut down so I followed up this post with admin who earlier this month had written a very long statement in support and recognition of the issues being raised by #BLM protests. I shared my thoughts and concerns about the attitudes in our profession and that this should be of concern to us all. I also added in an article from the Guardian titled “It seems black lives don’t matter quite so much, now that we’ve got to the hard bit” by Nesrine Malik.  To my astonishment my post was refused on the basis that it breached group rules of sharing links to other pages that are not reliable sources! Really! I am sharing this story because since May 2020 starting with an incident of police brutality in Manchester this has become a pattern on counselling and psychotherapy member fb pages.

I am aware of two separate British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy fb pages that have been suspended as a result of challenging racism and racist comments. One page was eventually suspended following the removal of a post showing police brutality in Manchester just days before George Floyds Murder was televised. Many members complained about the relevance of the post whilst others posted racist and derogatory comments,  as well as challenges to these views. I have heard that another member’s page was suspended for similar reasons and is now being looked into by the organisation.

Black individuals, families and communities are speaking out about systemic abuses within the criminal justice, health, education, employment, sport, media and suffering trauma and poor mental health as a result. We know that access to culturally appropriate talking therapies are poor and for Black people crisis services are often the first contact with mental health support.

 The University of Manchester found that tackling the ‘impact of racism’ is the number one priority to reduce ethnic inequalities in severe mental illness. Black Caribbean patients with psychosis are more likely to be coercively treated under the powers of the Mental Health Act than White patients, and less likely to receive psychologically-based interventions. Also, Black patients are just over 50 per cent more likely to be prescribed injectable antipsychotic drugs than White patients. Source: University of Manchester (2019) https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/new-hope-to-end-black-schizophrenia-carecrisis.

If counselling and psychotherapy practitioners do not have an understanding or training in issues of racism how are the needs of Black people going to be met?  We really need some honest and deep reflection in this profession I am concerned that we have counsellors and psychotherapists in the field who just don’t get it and they are operating in communities and organisations with the potential to cause great harm. I wrote a blog on this at the time in response to my experience with the BACP member’s fb group.

If this is triggering a defensive response in you please as a colleague of mine said ‘lean into these feelings’ and don’t respond without reflecting first. It is what we are trained to do!

Psychological harm is being caused by such reactions to Black people’s realities all over the world. If you want to share your experience about racist gaslighting in a counselling and psychotherapy context do get in touch.




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