As predominantly white staff, we acknowledge that we are limited in our awareness and personal understanding of the experiences of the BIPOC communities and are actively re-evaluating our efforts in serving those affected by racism and oppression. Each of us are in this field because of our desire to help people heal. In light of the current global conversation around racism, we are addressing how we can do this healing work more effectively with increased education and sensitivity to the particular needs of the Black community and others we do not represent as a staff body.
Anti-racism and anti-oppression values have shaped our work since our group’s inception. Here are a few examples of what we have done to date:
*Utilizing a trauma-informed lens in our work with those we serve. This means evaluating the larger systems and experiences (past and present) affecting each individual and family and addressing their needs with those larger systems' effects in mind. We strive to embody the understanding of how complex it may be to heal from trauma and that it is misinformed and even re-traumatizing to assume that people can and should ‘get over’ their past experiences while current environments remain traumatizing. Being trauma-informed means recognizing that sometimes what are pathologized as mental health symptoms are actually necessary coping skills for staying safe in an unsafe world and would not yet be in the patient’s interest to ‘get rid of’ or ‘heal from’ based on their current circumstances.
*Staff meetings and subcommittees discuss and address how current policies and procedures unintentionally marginalize certain groups. We have taken some steps to minimize that possibility wherever we can, as best we currently understand the issues. Clinicians seek continuing education in diversity and the experiences of marginalized groups and factor that education into establishing policies and procedures.
*WHW directors have begun engaging with local racial and social justice organizations to support implementing long-term equity, diversity, and inclusion plans.
*White staff members created and met last year to read and discuss literature focused on expanding our understanding of white privilege. We have continued to investigate and hold each other accountable to when recognizing white privilege at play.
*Our play therapists keep dolls, toys and books that feature BIPOC children and families on visible display in their offices, as well as other carefully chosen therapeutic toys and other tools that allow children to show us (through play) their concerns and experiences with accurate representations of their world.
*Offering sliding scale fees when able, and paneling with state insurance due to our awareness that racism and oppression are factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing poverty and lack of access to resources. Finding creative ways to meet our financial obligations while keeping our services available to those experiencing poverty has been a priority within our group since we began our practice. We believe it remains a crucial component of enacting social justice in a meaningful way.
All of these activities are important and we are committed to continuing them. We also realize that they have been self-monitored by a group of privileged white people. We realize that deeming our efforts to be informed as ‘good enough’ from our own privileged perspective is unacceptable, both because that perspective is narrow, as well as unaccountable to those we might harm with our privilege. Our list of new commitments will likely change as we deepen our awareness of our BIPOC community members' needs.
We have more recently instituted the following commitments:
*Developed an anti-racism committee to meet regularly to formalize our commitment to educating ourselves around the anti-racism movement and to stay involved in this movement for the long-term.
In the near future we plan on:
*Expanding partnerships with individuals and organizations who serve and identify with the BIPOC community.
*Expanding our organization’s education on anti-racism and anti-oppression and encouraging individual team members to expand their self-examination.
*Providing opportunity for anonymous feedback for regular review and action through our internal committee as well as support from other BIPOC organizations and individuals
*Exploring ways to increase community awareness around the effects of trauma on both individuals and groups.
*Further developing ways we can support our white clients on their own anti-racism journeys
*Exploring ways that we can advocate for system-wide change through laws and policies in healthcare.
*Attempting to cultivate a work environment in which those in BIPOC communities can thrive
*Supporting other individual clinicians or groups of clinician leaders who wish to start/expand a practice that better represents and serves those from the BIPOC community.
*Identifying and supporting ways we can encourage and support individuals from BIPOC communities to train in mental health fields.
In sum, we know we have not done enough. We know that we do not understand everything BIPOC communities need us to understand and we are committed to furthering and deepening our awareness. We are committed to acknowledging our biases when we become conscious of them and when we realize they have gotten in the way of good care and/or have caused harm toward individuals or communities of BIPOC. We will continually strive to work toward healing the parts of ourselves that are biased, that judge others, that might make unhelpful or hurtful assumptions, and that might interfere with our goals of treating mental health needs and impacting our community in such a way that they occur less often in the first place. We hope to do this by owning our need for more antiracism education, and by more effectively utilizing the education and experience we do possess that might positively impact the larger pursuit of racial and social justice.