I am a integrative psychotherapist with 22 years of experience. Working in a white majority team within the National Health Service (NHS) and the third sector in London, East Midlands and South Yorkshire meant I was always in a position of minority with my race, culture as well as being alienated from the sense of ‘oneness’ and belonging. I was different, which was always considered a weakness rather than a strength. I was always in a state of confusion. I often felt I was being marginalised because of my race.
I will start with my experience of working in Higher Education where I experienced continuous acts of micro-aggression and unconscious bias as well as what seemed like blatant unmistaken racism. I had come to believe this behaviour was normal as there was always a plausible reality of why I had to work harder and differently to the privileged white majority. On the other hand, my psychotherapy training was in an institution dominated by white lecturers with little discernment to question issues of culture, diversity and the ‘otherness’ that we, as a group brought into our training.
There is a possible link to the absence of role models in the community, television as well as social media and the way these familial experiences of clients from the BAME group become shameful events and secrets which can never be shared, creating barriers in therapy. My experience relates to white privilege and white supremacy within my training, my work and the therapy room as well as the wider societal context. With that in view, it is important to value my personal experience of my journey into the world of psychotherapy that was exclusively delivered by white middle class lecturers. This gave me very little understanding of working within a multi-cultural society or consider the dysfunction we would encounter in the wider society that had lack of positive role models within the BAME groups as well as the sense of oppression I experienced in the wider society in England. It created a parallel process where I learnt about myself in my personal therapy and became individuated whilst becoming alienated in my personal cultural-rich life.
I have also become aware of my own internalised prejudice against myself. How could I be good when everyone in the work structure told me otherwise with their bias and micro-aggression?
I have learnt to thrive by acknowledging my difference as a potential strength instead of a weakness
A lot of time has passed since I trained, and I am only now realising the lasting impact of my experiences and the manifestation of that in how I relate to the world, my friends and relatives, my colleagues and my clients. I feel most comfortable in the therapy room where there are misconceptions as well as processes leading to positive changes.
My goal is to continue discussions of the impact of my learning, my experience of working as an integrative psychotherapist both in the NHS and private practise as well as how I have come to terms with the injustice of systemic racism that is inherent in the structures and the underpinning of institutions. I have survived by retaining the ethical framework, owning the counter-transference whilst containing the clients in the therapeutic alliance. I have learnt to thrive and hold my experience of structural bias to influence my inter-sectionality and my practise by acknowledging my difference as a potential strength instead of a weakness and our individuality as unique therefore making our experiences inimitable.
I speak Kiswahili and various different Asian languages, practising inter-cultural counselling. I work with individuals on a one-to-one and groups over a short or long term basis. I strongly feel that we need more psychotherapists writing from a position, perspective and voice of those who have lived experience of the impact of racism and discrimination.