Something Other: Diversity Space. Idea – Implementation

The blog below is a collection of thoughts, around the theme of setting up a singular focus, focus group. In short the beginnings of a manifesto in support of Diversity Spaces.

Since leaving University of Greenwich in 2012, and being introduced to BAATN in 2010, finding a community of Black and Asian therapists, I have sought to find a space of relative comfort amongst the Psychological profession. Psychology has been mistakenly identified as a White domain, however numerous cultural and ethnic groups have engaged with psychological ideas long before Freud popularised his dangerous method.

Setting Up
Engaging with the early phases of development with Diversity Space alongside trusted colleagues felt just, after the charitable organisation experiences. The challenges met, were mostly overcome in the early phases of Diversity Space. Organising sites to meet. Arranging times to gather, discussion about if minutes of each meeting were to be taken, or if they were necessary to share with the NHS Foundation trust of how we were using time. All efforts were in order to hone and re-enforce the need for what the Diversity Space was. In a short period, D.S. achieved a number of worthwhile outcomes.

1-2-3
3 outcomes of note – the delivery of White privilege training to highlight what members from diverse communities experience whilst engaging with ‘White spaces’. A second outcome – were a number of conversations with the head of the NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Executive and their team attempting to take the department into a fair and equal organisation to work. The best outcome for me was to witness a coming together of members from diverse communities and professions within the NHS foundation trust. Meeting to discuss and reach outcomes of how to develop the organisation to face and embrace the changes needed to have the trust be EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) focused.

Blood Red Flower – Signaling Change

Space to Think
The experience of belonging to a professional group of practitioners that understand what is at stake in not having representation at all levels within an organisation was of great importance to me. Being a member of the African diaspora we engage in an uncivil set of circumstances. Like being in a war of attrition continuing to deliver much needed highly skilled tasks under fire and being debased, and abused whilst completing them. The practitioners I worked with at some of the prisons I supported, not only understood but offered space to be heard and plan possible ways forward. Speaking with those who shared the idea of a community of professionals all working towards a similar outcome: that of being understood, respected, listened to and seen by the NHS foundation trust we worked for was a highlight. One of the effects of being othered and the hobbling caused being discriminated against, can be the impact on ones thinking/feeling/behaviour whilst at work and away from…

Outcome List
Below a list of outcomes the Diversity Space sought during Oct 2019 – Oct 2020.

Valuing contributions of members to the host organisation.
Sharing perspectives of Black/Indigenous/Asian Mental Health .
Discussing the impact of working at one level and being paid at a lower one – challenging outcomes of interviews/seeking feedback.
Critically evaluate a perceived hypocrisy of hypocritic oaths of caring professions.
Highlighting the impact of working within a biased/unfair/racist culture/organisation (The NHS ).
Completing meaningful endeavour whilst within a former colonial country (The UK).
Reducing the stigma of access to psychological/therapeutic support in prison/medical centres for Black and othered persons in prison.
Sharing the Diversity Space vision and voice through a range of mediums including (prison/NHS) radio, podcasts, news articles/online articles.
Share resources that inspire amongst Diversity Space members leading to change for individuals and within the organisation.
Inspiring change for ourselves, for those we support and the organisation we work amongst.
Enlist collaborators and allies to represent the groups aims at meetings, when the main body are unable to be present.
Seek endorsement/buy in from key members of staff to move the needle.

Dog Tag Tears

Old
Thinking that writing/transcribing a few lines of policy could change a culture is unfortunately unrealistic. For a system of oppression to be removed an approach could be to understand the problem and challenge what is faced continually, unapologetically. The effort takes renewable sources of energy and a motivated team of conspiring individuals to continue the work. Having access to a limitless source/resource helps. Belief in something larger than the team or an individual is important to arrive at a point close to the eventual goal. Holding a compassionate perspective can be invaluable in the attempt to topple an endemic vicious historic power structure. Developing a team of members that endorse the changes and are willing to speak about the journey, the challenge and also the small wins is important to continue the momentum and interest of the endeavor.

Reality Check
The challenge is broad in that there are few elements of life that are unaffected by racist policy and racist decisions. The writing of these ideas have affected societies that we live in so much, rather than question the way in which the world has been drawn we accept and try to make use out of what is available. There are a number of aspects discussed in the episode Made To Be Broken by This American Life which touches on some of the concepts discussed above beautifully. The episode is found in last weeks resources list.

Collect
Having a team of skilled professionals at hand, sharing a race aware lens supported me in redrafting a proposal for setting up and introducing a therapy group for Black Men at one of the prisons we worked. The team’s advice namely was about collecting evidence that a group for Black Men in a specific prison was indeed necessary. The core group of Diversity Space members displayed keen awareness of what may prevent a needed group therapy initiative to falter, stall and die.

Data
The peers of the core group of Diversity Space advised that I collect data. Specific numbers provide evidence that a problem exists and that there is need for said challenge to be tackled. Data gives clear identification of numbers, listing important characteristics of persons that are affected or could be engaged with. Data would observe: Age, Sex, Race, ethnicity, cultural background, Place of Birth etc. The aim to confirm that a service is hitting a target audience and meeting a need.

Art Depicting…

Discovery
If I had asked a number of professionals at various levels within the prison about the need for diverse access to mental health support, to address the lack of representation by Black and Brown people in therapy, a number of important ideas may have been gathered. Discussing some of the concerns with men and women at the prisons and community spaces Diversity Space members serviced could have revealed what caused low numbers to be engaged with therapy.

Trust
In order for diverse communities to access support a service is to be noted for their ability to meet an asked for need. Development of trust is engaged with in successive incremental encounters. The success of a programme, project, research with a designated group can be measured by the groups willingness to attend, engage, develop the programme and increase the knowledge/awareness of everyone involved. A mark of success for me, is how a group over time skillfully withstands ruptures to engagement. Grumbling once a programme restarts, yet willing to encounter the tapestry of building a meaningful project after a project begins again.  

Understanding
Belief in European models to address Global South community’s concerns is a moment to begin pausing and develop listening that can incorporate culturally appropriate therapeutic methods to support growth health and wellbeing. Emotional Emancipation Circles would be a useful approach to work with African Diasporan communities and groups. A low representation of a diverse staff base, providing mental health support is often an experience that Global South communities encounter when visiting health centres. I lightly touched on similar factors in a previous post. One way to increase belief in models of care is to have representatives of a local community delivering that health provision. My imagination holds ideas similar to low representation of persons from the Global South delivering care. Preventing and spurning access from communities that could benefit from neighborhood provision of support.

Machination of War and Peace

Mapping
By gathering insights from a range of sources, could provide a number of useful approaches to create access points for communities that would previously not have accessed support – to engage. Currently peer support works and has been a useful way to introduce psychologically informed guidance to clients that would otherwise avoid or decline mental health support. Re. EWB mentors at HMP Swaleside and Together’s Service User Mentoring scheme.

Answer
Address the challenges that are presented with creative and open-hearted solution focused idea generation. Gather ideas of old and reimagine them along with ideas from the populace to be served. A service ‘done to’ dooms all. A service ‘done with’ can only succeed because it achieves alongside learning and reviewing and changing and adapting continually.

Resources
The EWB Scheme at HMP Swaleside is an engaged programme of work for persons in prison engaging with counselling skills to support other persons in prison that may be struggling with life inside.
Together’s Mentoring Scheme for persons who have returned to the community from prison links former prison residents with voluntary support mentors that are successfully navigating life outside and away from prison.
I am listing Code Switch’s episode on This Racism is Killing Me Inside again, because of the dual content of what is discussed, and to present what is meant by surviving the allostatic load and not being able to fully discharge the psychological build up. The costs weigh on individuals greatly. Hence the need for Diversity groups.
The Untold Story Policing speaks strongly to the notion of being organised and being ready to step into protect what’s important. Jay Ellis strongly advises how policing can be reformed by groups of people coming together and strongly stating what they do and what they don’t want.
With Resistance I have gone back to the initial podcast that was highlighted by This American life podcast. This episode looks at divergence amongst a protest group and the paths people take to achieve a similar goals/outcomes.
School Colours podcast from Brooklyn Deep I have listed before in Why Listen, as there is something familiar and frustrating to hear about a school district that has largely been written off by a city’s school board. Residents, parents and teachers do not sit idly by and allow their school’s dismemberment to happen in their neighbourhood. No, they organise and loudly fight – admirably.
The BBC’s Black Power documentary illustrates what happens when unity meets purpose. I hope to be able to watch more of the telling of this story from Canada.
Radiotopia’s new show S*** Hole country offers an entertaining view of being an Afircan in America and an American in Africa. Yes Afia uses the phrase the previous incumbent of the White House used to describe African countries. There is something refreshing to witness the re-mix and re-interpretation of a dour *imbecellic phrase to juxtapose investigative journalism alongside identity. The link to the Diversity Space is how Afia uses the podcast to begin questioning and questing with herself, the African Diaspora and her 2 countries of origin.
Code Switch This Racism is Killing Me Inside
The Untold Story Policing Nix The 6
Resistance Is It Too Revolutionary?
School Colours Agitate! Educate! Organize!
Black Power: A British Story of Resistance – BBC
S*** Hole Country Quote Unquote

Images
Image theme: War
Downed Bomber photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash
Poppy photo by Quaritsch Photography on Unsplash
Dog tags photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash
Nails and Painted Fist photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash
Tank and Star Pattern photo by Felix Tchverkin on Unsplash

Something Other: NHS

The experience with the charity was painfully inspirational and set me up with a want to build a communal space for Black and Asian mental health professionals. Meeting Frank Lowe in the summer of 2019 moved the want aspect into a need. I will investigate what causes a need for a space that I and marginalised others could feel comfortable in below.

Diversity Space
Kent prisons offered a useful sidestep from the set of challenges I contended with as a project manager at the charity. As the lead counsellor for the Kent cluster of prisons I held onto hope for a number of new experiences. Meeting the No. 1 governor at the beginning of my time at one of the six prisons I was to oversee, encouraged me to believe in change as a possibility. The number one governor appeared approachable, a good listener and socially aware of the setting of the jail and the over representation of young Black men detained at the prison. The governor was clear that the concerned focus on ne’er do well’s, sent to prison was a societal/political/educational issue if we widened the lens.

Diversity Thinking Spaces Call To Act

One Amongst Many
In the second year of managing 6 prisons, alongside 3 other Black and Asian staff, we started and implemented the Diversity Space. There was something I found hard to metabolise, voice, and process about being a Black male lead counsellor managing a mostly White staff team across 6 prisons. The diversity space gave me chance to lay down the shields, masks, double consciousness I walked along every corridor with, into every room carrying, all meetings attended, most telephone conversations and only a few counselling interactions. As Code Switch’s ‘This Racism Is Killing Me on The Inside’ link in last week’s post highlights, the effect of being discriminated against wears the recipient down.

The Need
I have previously highlighted that walking whilst Black in the 21st century is a different experience than living and walking whilst Black in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Working in prison as a person of proposed seniority, with legitimate reasons for being a key carrying member of staff offers a number of challenges for both uniform and detained persons in prison. There were concerned looks by prison staff as I appeared from behind a previous locked door. These concerned looks intensified from staff when I began walking the corridors with a cane to assist my slow MS labored progress. Persons in prison treated me as an anomaly. Visibly disabled and Black, not uniformed, hobbling about with a cane. ‘He must be one of us then’ seemed to be the consensus. I was once asked by a person in prison where he could get a cane like mine? He and I weeks later laughed once he realised that I was staff. I needed a space where I could process these mal formed moments, vent my frustrations amongst a room of people who yes resembled me in some way, but also understood what walking, breathing, living as an othered person was like.

A Message to The Battle Weary

Beginning
Starting Diversity Space I wanted a safe space in a prison more than once a month! The irony is not lost. As a member of staff there was something either confusing, discombobulating and often discomforting about being a Black free person working in prison. The team that I supported did their best to accommodate and support me. The practicals of getting the computers to work, or using the telephone system, and finding various cell blocks or locations of colleagues the team excelled at. The deeper learning of moving amongst a populace of staff who had rarely interacted with a Black man, other than in prison was a gap perhaps too great to fathom.

Tresspass
I did not share my frequent observations, experiences and worrisome times of being treated as an other. For instance, my first day at one of the prisons, a member of the psychology team almost with eyes of unpleasant surprise wanted to loudly proclaim but stilled their tongue ‘you can’t come in here!’ as I entered the counselling and psychology office. The hastily dropped assessment may have been that a Black prisoner was entering a protected ‘White’ space. The topics of race, class and poverty were often left overlooked. They unspoken barbs of information perfuming an already laden atmosphere. An undercurrent of fear lurked in every corner. The social subjects of othering people too large to appropriately be dissolved in any singular discussion. I felt that my presence in prison was a question some could not find a fitting answer to. As a result I was often left reeling from acts from staff that limited the aim I had of wanting to improve circumstances for persons in prison and staff that cared for them. Diversity Space offered a balm. Similar to my experience to BAATN I felt appreciated, seen, heard and understood once the group began.

Community and Sharing Feels Thus

Underestimate
When a group of like-minded individuals begin a project that ultimately is used as a tool to hold themselves together within a hostile environment. Violent uprisings can be an outcome, however, the gatherings are usually fertile ground to develop ideas that disrupt and destroy the psychological hold power structures like White supremacy maintain. The aim – to move the needle – the axis of control – away from oppressors. Generally, the idea of coming together is to be of support, to listen, to share stories, to laugh uproariously and to find ways of managing an intolerable set of circumstances whilst not losing one’s mind. The empathic embodied understanding received by fellow colleagues, was one of the best and most fitting outcomes the group offered me, a Black member of staff working across 6 prisons in Kent. I no longer walked the corridors alone. There is an implicit confidence that a person with knowledge strides with. I walked the prisons, as if carried by an unseen army/team beside and around me. I had a special group of psychologically and sociologically trained Black and Asian professionals that were in the Strange Situation with me.

Thinking Space
I met Frank Lowe as he delivered training on Decolonizing Psychotherapy in Bexley, South East London. The event changed something in me. I felt Frank largely presented his truth as a catalyst for change to be made amongst attendant staff groups. Frank highlighted the need for change fundamentally within the NHS and specifically within psychological professions. Last weeks blog pointed at the ‘over and under representation’ aspect that engulfs the delivery and receipt of care in the National Health Service. During the training, I boiled over when a senior (PMSF) psychologist suggested that we are all racist. In essence they were correct. Growing up in a racist, financially oppressive, sexist, classist, homophobic, ableist society is going to have a deleterious effect. My position was that the likelihood of being stopped searched and unlawlfully killed by police was less likely for them and unfortunately more an eventuality for me. This the summer before the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Before Corona Virus Disease 2019 permanently rearranged our planet. Frank during the lunch break pulled me to one side and offered his wise understanding. His advice ‘Do something that changes the dynamic for you and those who look like you. Don’t stop until the environment, your environment, that you work in feels good with you in it.’ He thanked me for my honesty and challenging what was left ‘unsaid’ to be heard. I exited the training with the germ of a concept burning away until we turned DS into a reality. I was only too happy to share with a few others and start something called the Diversity Space in October 2019. I would like to also thank my then manager who recognised a need for Black and Asian professionals to meet outside of the ‘White gaze’. There is a history of health services taking time, energy, health, family, money, opportunity, choice, friendships, promotions away from those who toil endlessly within it’s substrate structures as ‘othered’ people, and offer little to compensate for multiple losses. The idea was to find a community within a community and our way to health.

Continuance
A part two will follow taking in the steps of how we developed a singular focus – focus group. An impossibility as there are too many foci…

Resources
I came across the Mary D Ainsworth Strange Situation whilst attending my counselling training. I use the term strange situation to show how being in a prison as a Black civilian was seen as strange. Often by those who looked upon me and by my awareness of those who looked at me – askance. Double consciousness 101.
Robert Glasper’s Got Over artfully uses the voice of Harry Belafonte to resonantly express the arc of his career and his lived experience of being an outsider and othered. The request is to recognise achievement no matter the obstacle.
Gabor Maté and Resmaa Manekem share a beautiful conversation. These two pioneers at the top of their fields having an equally empowering conversation about Race, difference and learning to survive the discomfort. Thank you Kwame Opoku for the share!
The Unlocking us Podcast with Brené Brown and Esther Perel, two women at the height of their respective powers – highlight the need for all of us to be aware of Thanatos and Eros. What we lose by not being aware of the death of the other both actual and metaphorical. What can be gained as we dance, play and experience the erotic is also wonderfully unpacked.
Rohan Thompson of Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness talks with Isaac Callan about a report that impacts staff in the district of Peel Ontario. Rohan discusses the beyond intimate labor from a Black union that caused the report to make a significant impact. The link for me in relation to the podcast and the NHS is how a minority group observing and experiencing a racist system leans into their own discomfort and articulates what steps are to be taken to bring about necessary changes.
The Am I Going Mad series of YouTube documentaries invites us to observe the challenge of being Black in the world, contending with racist thought belief and actions from the societies we live in.
With This American Life I felt the title was a useful frame to begin looking at what has been built within a system of hate and what else could exist once the towering edifice cracks, crumbles and falls into dust?
Got Over Robert Glasper and Harry Belafonte
The Wisdom of Trauma with Gabor Maté and Resmaa Manekem
Unlocking Us podcast Brené Brown and Esther Perel
What’s The Point Management of child welfare in turmoil
Am I Going Mad Are All Men Created Equal
This American Life Made To Be Broken

Images
Cover photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash
We Welcome photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash
Survive Hoodie photo by sham abdo on Unsplash
Young Men Laughing photo by Siviwe Kapteyn on Unsplash

Something Other: Therapy

I continue thought on being something other in the psychotherapeutic profession. Whilst the experience is singular, I know I am not on my own.

The Problem
A problem halved, is a problem that is shared. Or so we are told, and a few believe. Many hold to a sense that they alone carry the burden of their thoughts and worries. Often withholders are surprised by what happens when they begin to discuss concerns with a trusted other. At times the trusted other is an outsider to their lives. Strangely, anonymity helps entrust the listener and the sharer to intimately examine past and present hurts. This – the relationship between counsellor and client, coach and coachee, mentor and mentee, perhaps also teacher and student.

Unseen or Invisible?

Taught
The experience I have had of being othered has been a part of the caring profession for as long as I have been aware of the double standards held within the profession. Caring and caring less about those who are identified as other. Therapy is to be an experience of supporting individuals, groups, organisations observe the problem(s) and provide support in moving into the beyond. Completing my training as a counsellor at Uni of Greenwich, I have grown increasingly aware of the long held and embedded ideas that accompany being Black and working in the psychological profession. By omission of African, Asian, and global community influences and contributions to the psychology profession, an unspoken idea remains prevalent of Black and Brown bodies delivering care. Some notions may include identification of African Diasporan practitioners as inferior, incapable, unintelligent, possessing poor communication skills, lacking in technical ability and seen as a low quality substitute compared to qualified ‘professional’ (White) mental health practitioners.

Difference Stratified
At most – 6 weeks worth of teaching for the 3 years I was at Greenwich, involved an awareness of Gender, Race, Religion, Age, Culture, Class, Economic status, Education, Sex (G.R.A.C.E.S.). Millions of topics relating to equality were lightly grazed. I am grateful for being introduced to BAATN in my second year. I had no awareness that BAATN existed, and have enjoyed what I have learned from being a member.

Standing Amongst
I once described being at one of BAATN’s men’s gatherings as being not only seen, but heard, understood, recognised and valued. My presence was accepted as amongst. A hugely significant and powerful moment of realisation for me. Ralph Ellis’ book Invisible Man offered a useful frame to know what a Black man might experience beyond the sanctity of his home.

Unstoppable

Pscyhotherapeutic Beginnings
The profession I am a part of is yet to appreciate Black people as amongst and belonging alongside difference. The understanding I have is that a supremacy is incapable of holding a compassionate view inside a nihilist agenda. Europe birthed an idea of psychology that was largely Eurocentric, built on Greek foundations of Philosophy. For me, the link to African (Egyptian) beliefs and traditions is undeniable. The contention I have relates to the progression psychology has taken since the 19th century. Becoming centred and refined on an understanding that gaining more knowledge of the subconscious, will reveal our path to healing. But as the ancestors invite us to be aware, to truly know self is to also be aware of our physical nature too. The body has as much influence on how we think and feel as does the subconscious. The investment made to dust off the research into psychedelics and psilocybin, invites a further leap from mind singularly to mind body and spirit connections. Is this not where those in Middle Earth centred some of their beliefs and understandings of humans living on the planet eons ago? How have we lost this information and what has made ‘Psychology’ the purview of a select few Frail Pale Male Stale people. Freud the genus but the belief in the European model of therapy being best, has many other global traditions behaviours and practices scrapped and made to be valueless muck.

Prometheus
I am in a part of the book ‘Work Won’t love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe, where the author looks at intimate labor and observes how largely Black and Brown women are treated in professions that care for others professionally. I wonder if the inbuilt label of being classed as unskilled and unvalued is also cast upon Black and Brown mental health professionals? We aren’t what the model of a highly skilled professional in text books looks, sounds and behaves like. It is at the institutions that change is to happen. What is taught, how it is taught and by whom it is taught has got to change. Informed this week that Wales is to introduce Black History teaching to all of it’s curricula will in Wales address the change that is to happen globally. The West did not travel the globe liberating people from eternal darkness. The West plundered the Global South for it’s wealth and plunged nations and billions of people into a modern form of windowless shadow. The gloom that persists is the one that hides the light of realisation from plain sight and holds to high ransom (debt, imprisonment, indentured labour, substandard education, threat of war) for those seeking to enlighten the masses.

Over and Under
Engaged in similar work a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist a belief is held, that roles such as these are the purview of White highly skilled, highly educated women and men. Caring professions in the West are heavily over-represented by a main ethnic social and class group. That deliver services to ever over-populated people represented by G.R.A.C.E.S groups, in institutions. Schools, Child and Adolescent Services, adult education and prisons are a small list of a mismatch between the numbers involved in delivery and receipt. Observing mental illness and support on offer at hospitals, residential short and long stay facilities, psychological interventions in the community, again I am struck by two experiences of over representation by those providing care and those on the receiving end of it. I wonder what those who provide care to those receiving care believe, think, feel about their knapsack of real or presumed privilege?

It is about change

Supervision
Attending an online supervision group I note the welcome received, (tight, brief, a hint of something undefinable yet all too present). Generally I like to arrive early to the meetings. I hear and regard the effusive positive welcome and list of accomplishments other therapists are lauded with. A warmth, recognition of something similar/familiar, a thing not spoken but still wholly palpable. I understand we like people who in some way mirror ourselves. When met with a frequent experience of being unconsciously or consciously reviled a weathering happens. Aware of the apparent unconscious bias I say nothing of the discomfort these experiences cause. I do not want to be the rabble rouser. The upstart, bringing contention and upset, where others feel sanguine. But some degree of psychological pain experiencing the deletion of my attendance happens. I am at a loss of how to make use of the feeling so as to experience this edition of supervision well. A better solution may be in non-attending. Or showing and saying little (another form of non-attendance), or even being the one who throws each meeting into necessary checking of insults felt and throwing hurts back to be managed by the group. An hour or 2 is not enough to fully disgorge the malcontents held, and I wonder what ultimate good is caused?

Always Seen, Often Ignored
Being othered and feeling an inconsequential value within the counselling psychotherapy profession is a common experience I note. Being the only Black person, nay the only Black man (on screen) at a meeting of mental health professionals is a scene on repeat. I am shocked less by these moments. There can be little comfort in solitary confinement. The scene (me alone or to be counted amongst a smaller population of global majority attendees, alongside a larger whiter group of people) has presented itself many times before. The threat of being discovered as not as good as, pointed out as the fraud or made the subject of biased judgement lurks peripherally. One is unable to hide in plain view.

Intimately Labouring
What would I like to happen instead in group? Would platitudes, and over ingratiating welcomes make me feel better about attending mostly White gatherings? For me, the change would be about a sensate shift towards feeling less at the wall, clamoring to flee. Fearing attack from an unknown assailant. My preference that all at a space, potentially, are unknown unknown allies. That are doing the emotional, psychological, spiritual work to lessen the sense of distance between G.R.A.C.E.S groups of people, of which I place White people amongst.

Quiet defiance

Canvas
The sense of attending a space where all in attendance are (un)consciously aware of the lack of representation from Global South communities could reduce unease. The challenge ahead is staying with the sense of discomfort. The *taughtness of an environment in time will lessen. Even when the experience is incredibly difficult. It’s the example of my Spidey sense going off at the Pizza Place, letting me know that an unknown foreign agent (fear) is malevolently spoiling an experience. The deciding factor, an awareness that perceived difference does not make anyone lesser or should jettison them from a room. If a space is filled with curiosity and a willingness to make it beyond – to the other side of the challenge then mostly all are usually lifted further along. A new path of awareness can be engaged with. An appreciation of the complex richer connections made across aisles, ages and other forms of perceived stratification and otherings enhance learning. To be applied by continually evolving professionals.

Therapy Today
The latest edition of BACP’s counselling magazine Therapy Today (October 2021) offers a wonderfully rich complex yet balanced review of Black therapists engaged in changing the psychological landscape of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. ‘On the shoulders of giants’ the title of the magazine, looks at a range of professionals. Offering examples of the many women and men who have battled to steer important changes made for the improvement of the profession. My reasoning is ‘But we all have hearts, minds and bodies with which we think, feel and move with’ and so a mass experience of living whilst human can be identified, installed and ideally utilised for the fulfillment of all.

Resources
The term allostatic load was the first time I recognised what prejudice, othering and the effects of racism are for Black and brown bodies is medically noted as. Code Switch podcast, discusses what Weathering is and how it can affect people.
An earlier blog listed the second link. Black (African American Psychoanalysts) speak of their experiences, training and working with members of the public. When I first watched the documentary I was both affirmed by what these esteemed colleagues discuss and also slightly dismayed. An inherent sadness is present within the pride of being a Black Psychoanalyst and the reality this title holds a mirror to.
The link to the Podcast takes you to BAATN’s site. listing the richness of the Black African And Asian Therapists Network Podcast series of talks and presentations. The highlighted episode with Arike and Eugene discusses what steps training organisations could take to become globally influenced, engaged and representative of, in relation to psychological teaching. The podcast was both encouraging and conscious of the work still ahead for many colleges and universities staff students and graduates.
The last resource may have been missed in the shuffle. Listed amongst the resources discussing a Pizza shop experience. Jennifer Mullins discusses her journey to become a therapist the learning she experiences in both the class room and most importantly outside of the institution are both inspirational and illuminating.
Black Psychoanalysts Speak
BAATN Podcast Creating Partnerships Training With Organisations: Lets Talk About Race
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins

Further Reading
I am yet to read the Race Conversation by Eugene Ellis and Black Identities, White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago. My listing them here is to highlight that I am still learning and growing.
Race Conversation in Psychotherapy by Eugene Ellis
Black Identities White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago
Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird by Dr Dwight Turner

Images
Cover photo Black and White Dice by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
Invisible person photo by Laura Thonne on Unsplash
Eyes on the prize photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Office window smiles photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
Orange Tie professional photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash


Something Other: Peering in

Following last weeks post, that observed experiences of being othered, ostracised and shamed, attending a cultural phenomenon a nativity play. I continue this blog series observing a *recentish example of being the other remaining mute, and finding safe side bar.

Charitable Work
A few years ago, I worked for a charity where the strange experience was of being othered and held outside of. It is not because of what some staff said specifically. Most are aware that saying racist, sexist, homophobic things at work will lead to reprimands or dismissal. Racial abuse was not metered to me as a member of staff but was in the acts that had me do double takes. Questionable acts were observed discussing cases involving marginalised communities that either worked for the charity or were supported by staff.

Tops
The feeling was of not being seen, listened to, wanted, being valued and insights shared – not appreciated. As I progressed from new employee, to my first, second, third and final year with the organisation, I started to notice the holes. I shared my understandings and points for growth change and development with managers and was either ignored or the ideas petered out to nothing. The organisation whilst heavily committed to engaging in change with those worked with, was less invested in making changes amongst itself for increased employee satisfaction. Handing to a manager Brené Brown’s 10 point manifesto for improved employee satisfaction was an example of mine, to shift an experience towards health. See Below from Brené Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. A sense grew in me that for as long as I worked within the charity even if I made it through the glass ceiling, I would be furthermore cutting myself crawling around on the broken glass to potentially make improvements.

Square Peg
Me being seen as the other, were based on a few factors: my training, age, race and the way I saw and interacted with the world was different to most of the colleagues I worked with. I saw my difference as a strength. Others may have seen my position, as a former prison counsellor, problematic. I did not fit. They psychologists, me an integrative counsellor. My support of probation services in London was quietly daring. Sharing insights with probation officers of the psychological lives of their service users. The feeling of familiarity to the experience service users had whilst working with psychologically trained staff did not escape me. The awkwardness, the implied superiority, the speaking over and talking down to, often present. The awareness could not be brushed off, packed or folded away. An interpretation I have of the experience is that within the charity I was looked on as criminal, outside I was hero? The binary can cause ruptures in thinking. I could code switch and was okay chopping it up with service users and probation staff alike. ‘Power amongst and power to’ helped build rapport to perform my practitioners role well.

Mirroring
I often sat across from people who looked like me in probation services. A feeling as if a fellow returnee from behind the wall, often present. My crime – working whilst Black amongst a charity that chose to look the other way. Focusing on delivery, winning new sustainable and long reaching contracts, rather than it’s culture and treatment of staff. The charity was long in service and yet poor in dynamic development. Tied possibly to governmental funding cycles and predicting positive outcomes to grant applications. Other Black staff working for the charity either left their work contracts early (sometimes within weeks) or found ways to make their set of circumstances work for them. I spent over 3 years thinking I could change culture, by kindness and cakes. Small acts could, I believed fell the juggernaut of racial oppression and the sense of othering I frequently found myself battling amongst, questioning lofty ideals.

Singular
Whilst amongst a staff team, I felt some responsibility to influencing the culture. I was not alone in wanting to positively affect things but when seen as an outsider, one often cannot change what occurs in the building shouting from the pavement across the street. I read Daring Greatly in September 2015 and thought there were a number of insights shared in the book that really brought in to sharp awareness what the charity could do. I enjoyed the chapter ‘Mind the Gap’ that looked at organisational culture determining specific changes that improve experiences for all. Brené Brown lists questions that could potentially push an organisation to be aware of the unease had in areas relating to; errors, vulnerability, (**pain) shame and blame. Brené concludes observing what an actively responsible culturally aware organisation, does to support a staff team and their work. Invite communication! It is a shame that the charity I worked at, was criminally motivated to bring change only on their own terms.

The Count
I once mentioned the concern the charity may have had like this to 2 other Black members of staff.
1 is a manageable concern,
2 a problem,
3 a gang,
4 looks like an unmanageable riot
5 or more – a hostile takeover and at worse a mutiny.


My comments were made amongst a huddled meeting during a comfort break, outside on a cold, grey mid morn. The informed colleagues observed a perceived sense of paranoia from others when we rejoined the main group. I wanted to mark the occasion as important for the rarity of being seen together and seeing ourselves in a fleeting moment of solidarity – happy. When asked what were you lot talking about? Attempting to snatch the moment away. We knowingly smiled and said “Nothing that should bother you, much.” The suspicion confirming the hypothesis. We were trouble for a number of unobvious reasons. This moment sowed an important seed for me.

Street View
Being an outsider, I am often first to notice the roof smoking and catching fire. The possible routes to safety and what improvements can be made to support all who work in the building mitigate against future disaster! I am also on hand for the rescue teams when they arrive, accounting for all staff leaving the building and who may remain inside still and where they might be. We may have heard the saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’. An example could be of internally questioning what has some team members not be vocal or even in the room when choices, plans and change decisions are being made? The uneasy hard to reach one is often that which provides the most insightful answers and ways forward.

Cycle
Within a circle, each point lies equi-distant from the centre. Being amongst can feel both precious and magical. When I think of community settings, I bring to mind gatherings that enable a circle to form. Within a circle, hierarchy and importance are difficult to assume. We are all at a point equal to the other. Recognising the importance of the whole together represents one truth. The sum total of the various parts and individuals is another. One is no more relevant or important than the other. To be discounted harms the whole, which is the point I attempted to arrive at in the White Supremacy series. Whilst silenced and left to remain outside of, the remaining whole cannot be as powerful or as life altering in relation to human development of all our experiences on the planet.

Can it?

Resources
I have wanted to use this particular episode of Resistance since I listened to it earlier this year. The fit for me is, listening to Jermaine Guinyard walking a difficult path in Nebraska with his family. We listen to a story of being willfully excluded by a community and the pain that follows. We also hear how Coach G over time turns an impossible tide.

Resistance Podcast Coach G

Images
Earth photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

**I added to the list because pain rhymes and offers a sense of direction.

Something Other

A distant memory has been unearthed. As thoughts often do – tugging on a few more to join their masquerade ball. These series of writings are in support of another.

A form of racial attack in the form of exclusion is often not documented, fear of further reprisal or silencing disbelief – can stall efforts seeking justice. I will aim to draw out both the strangeness of experiences like these, and also the self questioning that arises in the pieces that are to follow.

Mockingbird
Dr Dwight Turner’s Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, summarise in a myriad of ways what it means for Black, Asian and members from Global South communities to live in former colonisers countries. Dr Turner pays attention to what his experience was to be trained in counselling and psychotherapy. Mockingbird does well to observe: Feminism, what members from the LGTBQi+ communities continue to contribute to the lexicon of intersectionality, the poor and working class, as well as embodied experiences of the disabled, a community since 2011 I count myself among. Assimilation into community and acceptance is granted partially at significant personal cost. A loss of identity, culture, sense of community, language, a knowing of oneself is summarily deposited outside the exclusionary zone of becoming a therapist and adjusting to living amongst…

Past It
Dr Turner also shares his disquiet of being a lecturer and accosted by a student. You may have seen images of #thisiswhatapsychotherapistlookslike after an encounter where he met *affrontery. My fantasy is of a White woman stating “But you don’t look like a psychotherapist, you look more like a bouncer!” The caring profession is littered with redundant opinionated professionals with outdated views that belong in centuries past.

Altered
The first remembering of difference that has floated up for me, is a primary school excursion. I cannot remember if it was a class trip, or a venture to reward an achievement for friends of mine and I. We had gone to see a play at a theatre in London. As children, we may have found some thrill being away from school, but may have found the play of little interest. The play was either a nativity or a pantomime. A cultural experience I had little knowledge of, or interest in. After watching for 20 minutes we (my friends and I) found fun elsewhere. What I vaguely remember is being told off. Reprimanded for throwing wet balls of tissue paper at ceilings and at friends. Playground behaviour at a reputable establishment. A teacher growing redder and angrier at each of us, saying words that were meant to hurt and shame. They did! I can remember leaving the bathroom, head bowed, with a heavy heart. Something of significance had transpired, an element of innocence removed or dented.

Mushy
I also remember some of the boys being resolute that they were going to tell their parents. Which they did. I can remember 2 parents attending a meeting with the school a week later. Not mine. I carried my shame without disclosing. Fear of further punishment and their disbelief stopped me. What fails to be recalled are the exact events, the teachers words, what nativity play we saw, what theatre and what reason I had of not being aware enough of the hurt she had caused my friends and supposedly – me. Something other may have been said, decrying of our inner city, poor, council estate dwelling, or lack of appreciating a cultured artistic performance. Her anger, disappointment and confused rage – causing us all to register with shock that the teacher only saw our demise. We, supposedly trapped eternally to live our lives on the housing estate. A heady and unworthy blow, delivered for simply not enjoying a play. We, making a wet paper towel mess of a theatre bathroom and being held as criminally deviant as a result. She may have used strong and shaming words. Adding further to her sense of the wrongdoing and branding us *whip-handedly. Instituting my first experience of the ‘them and us’ polemic idea.

Culture
The idea of who was acculturating whom is what I am now left fathoming. Perceived difference does little to engender a feeling of shared interest, warmth, curiosity or journeying to discovery. We witness as citizens on our planet, an increase of ideas towards separation, division and increased animosity against the other. Displacing a growing state of anxiety. Answers lie in what Dr Kelly suggest below…

Resources
The below link is to the excellent podcast by Ibram X Kendi who interviews the university professor Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley about misguided notions of superiority and capital interest. The link to the writing above is the perception of which ideas of betterment are seen as valid and overvalued and what ideas are vanquished as valueless.
Ibram X Kendi Be Anti Racist podcast Capitalism

Image
Blue Orange photo by davisuko on Unsplash

Group – Explored

The not Netflix show Group, has truly mesmerised me. I could watch both seasons repeatedly and still learn something new. Alerted by Kwame Opoku in the UK. A fellow Ghanaian Psychotherapist suggested I give the YouTube phenom a try. Working with groups has been a part of my life professionally as a counsellor for more than 5 years. I wanted to discuss and share partially what it is like being in group and being designated the facilitator in this piece of writing. Primarily because the position is an imperceptible dance.

Diviner
As the facilitator of a group you get to dance with the life and death of experience. At times the pace of a group is so slow and quiet. A group can be a space filled with unheard and unseen ghosts of past experiences. At others group experiences can be fast and dynamic, filled with talk, voices raised as the energy flies around the room. If you have read the Shopenheur Cure (as yet I have not) or Loves Executioner (this one I have) by Irv Yalom you will recognise the unending sense of experience and compassion that arises from Dr Ezra. 

Boardroom Group Collaborating Board Room

Art Imitating
What has inspired me to remain a fan of Group, and hoping for a further 20 shows that gets picked up by a major studio, is the sense of how true and congruent and vibrant the show feels. Group is strangely authentic and as real as any TV show has the potential of being. For me it is the recognition of the energy that appears to move about the room. The energy, caught well by the double camera filming and the actors shedding lines and insights like members of a dance troupe – fluidly, with the ease, force and grace of a strong wind.

The links below highlight the felt sense of movement for me in Group and also how both Move and Code Switch live in Birmingham Alabama brought group experiences and shared insights to life.

Resources
Move – Netflix
Code Switch – Live in Birmingham. A group experience and more

Images
Cover Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash Women on Steps
1st Inlay Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash Women in Boardroom

H.E.R.

Until I remembered a number of sharings,
Of personal stories
Of moments of loss and gain.
Hospitals.
Intravenous drips.
Transfusions.

A walk along an old street.
The sun hidden behind
Thin clouds. I remember
Trees whispering with intent.
Offering scents of a tomorrow
We both couldn’t grasp.

I was swept up in a story
Of lifting awareni.
But was falling.
Like dry leaves from
Branches overhead.
Those trees!

Tree Fall

I remember the warm
Glow. The awkwardness.
The unsaid.

The conversation belied
Contact that seemed
Omnipresent and
Yet scant.
We danced closely
In minds held by
Other times.

Never to meet
Intimately. But to be held
Fondly as memories
Of what could have been.
Remaining as a gift,
A laugh, a humming ache
With no short answer.

To dare,
To dream and never
Arrive at picture book
Endings. Feeling as though
Everything is possible.
Yet be damned by distance
Confusing

Improbability.

Resources
Inspired by H.E.R. Could Have Been
Cassandra Speaks Unlocking Us interview with Elizabeth Lesser and Brené Brown

Images
Cover photo by Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji on Unsplash
Inlay Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

Love Rains – The Father Wound

I wanted to revisit the story of invisible wounds that are carried with us into adulthood. To look somemore at where Jill’s story ends and how and why Mos Def’s story begins. The reason: Psychological concepts live in us and are always present. Love Rains offers not just insight but also understanding.

Listen while you read if you can!

The Always Support

Jill Scott
Now me non clairvoyant and in love,
Made the coochie easy and the obvious invisible.
The rain was falling,
And I couldn’t see the season changing,
And the vibe slipping off its axis.
Our beautiful melody became wildly staccato. The…rain…was..falling…and…I…could not…see..that…I..was…to…be
Plowed…
And sown and fertilised,
and left to drown in his sunny afternoon,
Cumulus clouds, 84 degrees,

melody.

Chorus x1

Joy and Risk

Wide open, wide, loose like bowels after collard greens.
The mistake was made, love slipped from my lips,
Dripped down my chin and landed in his lap,
And Us became nu.
Now me non clairvoyant and in love
Made me the fool
You were never true
If you didn’t want me, ah, you should
have let me know
All you did was make a mockery of
Something so
Incredible, beautiful
I honestly did love you
So

Chorus x1

Immature
What then? Both hurt, but for two differing reasons. What follows is time healing and recovering from that pain of loss. Until it is met again and perhaps both can learn how to survive the intimacy and complications that romantic love can bring. For some, men can be less emotionally aware, less in tune with body-mind-emotion connections. Men can feel that shame and fear are the same and do not spend time investigating to understand their differences. Until an adulting experience happens. They are met by circumstances that force change. Then they do. Then they can. Then they will. Willingly facing the denial of their first hurts and begin the process of healing.

Cold and Warmth

Throne Making
Mos Def’s piece blew me away when I first heard it. It still does. No poem before or after had ever exalted and re-set the Black woman so perfectly, I wanted to possess and inhabit these words and the intention behind them, to make right the many centuries of wrong hurt blame shame and pain. This too is my shame. In a word I am sorry for the wrongs that I and my ken have brought to you. I want to make peace with you: Queen.

Mos Def:
I stretched my arms towards the sky like blades of tall grass.
The sun beat between my shoulders like carnival drums.
I sat still in hopes that it would help my wings to grow,
So that I could really be fly.
And then she arrived,
Like day break inside a railway tunnel,
Like the new moon, like a diamond in the mines, like high noon to a drunkard, sudden.
She made my heart beat in a now/now time signature.
Her skinny canvas for ultraviolet brushstrokes;
She was the sun’s painting.
She was a deep cognac color;
Her eyes sparkled like lights along the new city.
Her lips pursed as if her breath was too sweet and full for her mouth to hold.
I said, “you are the beautiful, distress of mathematics.”
I said, “For you, I would peel open the clouds like new fruit;
Give you lightning and thunder as a dowry.
I would make the sky shed all of its stars like rain,
I would clasp the constellations across your waist
and I would make the heavens your cape,
And they would be pleased to cover you.
They would be pleased to cover you,
May I please cover you?
Please”

Adoration

Heady
For me there is little in the way that speaks of adoration and reverie to honour or emits love much better than this. The poem can be interpreted as if to say I am sorry – and somehow yet, still more.

That an idyll can be obtained and brought about between Women and Men in this tale. ‘I see you, have loved you, am in love with you. With you, greater than I could ever be without you. And for that, I will share all that I am and more with you.’ That’s what I interpret in Mos Def’s verse.

The story in the remix offers a safe turn around to what is a well-known and pre-destined ending to love: Loss. Defeat. Endings.

As a result of the Kaemotherapy counselling offer, a number of Black women have been accessing my free workshops on 21st century mental health. I’ll write up my findings about the workshops soon.

Supporting Black women and men have become primary targets for my therapeutic support. There is great work to be completed and I am glad to have found a role that leads to overall wellbeing and health for more people.

Resources

Goddesses of the Roundtable Healing The Father Wound
Brené Brown Unlocking Us Podcast Ask Me Anything
Tony Porter T.E.D. Talk A Call To Men

Images
Cover photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash
4th Inlay photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash


A Different Future

Equity in Dreamworks Inc

An odd moment arrived recently when reviewing the past few weeks of protests, stating the now ubiquitous ‘Black Lives Matter’. The movement, for me, blended with the ending scenes from the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3. The idea is somewhat out there, and will probably not land safely. If you have not seen the movie or are unfamiliar with the KFP franchise the idea will land ever more askew!

Unity Looks Like
Ubiquity Accepted

Unity
In the final scenes of Kung-Fu Panda 3, a village of pandas step forward after defeating a marauding wolf pack and put out there paws to save the hero, Po.

Demonstrating
The scene clearly demonstrates the now common idea that in unity, a great wrong can be put right. That a Black and White hero can defeat a Demi God! Inviting a village/world to heal long held wounds and restore itself to a bright and limitless future. The idea has long been held. The story has also been told since human beings have walked the earth.

Together we stand. Divided we fall!

Touch
With Po (Hero) in the spirit world, feeling the hands/paws reaching out and lifting him up. Po gains the strength to be able to put up a good fight and defeat the misguided power seeking Kai. Does this concept sound familiar? World leaders current and past be warned…

Switch
Kai interestingly resembles a buffalo with dreads and his baritone voice denotes a person of African-American heritage. Possibly increasing the diversity representation in the DreamWorks cannon of films and simultaneously complicating my relationship with the synergy of good and bad, black and white, up and down dyad.

Support
There is mass celebration and delight amongst the villagers, once Po returns. Evil has yet again been defeated by Po aided by the furious 5 and the Panda village. To save the One, The Many must unite.

Silence as Weapon
Apathy Harms

Evolve
The moment of blending for me, is the recognition of the callous murder of George Floyd and the laying of hands for Po in KFP3.

For me, evolution can be experienced amongst us (the human being). A global recognition of the myth of White Superiority has begun.

And in protest against the systemic factors insisting that White Supremacy is the natural order of how the world is always to be.

What has been experienced by the many, has been one of finding Unity. At least for a moment in history. Seeking justice for George Floyd after the pandemic is also about finding a way to restore – make what has been centuries of old wrongs – right for and with Black people at the helm. Globally.

The Tao Haiku
Without opposite
Warm, Cold, Up, Down, the journey,
Possibly never

Resources
Kung-Fu Panda 3 Ending
The American Lie https://youtu.be/2roWLzrqOjQ
History of White People – Nell Painter
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – Dwight Turner

Images
Cover Photo Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash
1st inlay photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo by Karimi Karagania on Unsplash


Kim Evans of Kaemotherapy

Kaemotherapy

The Luddite and The Technological Savant discuss supporting Black Lives Matter

Meeting Kim online was a serendipitous moment. She has a prolific Instagram posting regimen with sayings, providing instant support to over 900 followers. I wanted to interview her as she appears to have her fingers very much on the pulse of what the nation is looking for – A smart experienced therapist who can be available in a range of formats to provide those seeking help with immediate relief and guided support.

Full disclosure, Kim has also recruited a team of therapists to provide 4 hours (up to 6) of free counselling for Black people in the UK. I am one of the counsellors recruited.

I wanted to know what inspired Kim to develop the concept of providing free counselling for Black People and then put the idea to the public for Kaemotherapy to be crowd funded? A quick calculation informed me that the provision will deliver over 40 hours of Free counselling and counselling workshop experience for Black people in the UK. Which I think/believe is incredible!

MO: Hello Kim, thank you for agreeing to doing this interview. 
Kim: Thanks for having me.

MO: So we have known of each other for a little over 2 months. Mainly commenting and referencing each other’s Instagram posts through the CoViD19 experience and I wanted to know a little bit more about you. We have spoken a few times whilst you were finalising the plans for the 40 hours of Free counselling. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Kim: I live in South London, studied in Nottingham.
I’m a Person-Centred Psychotherapist, Body and Trauma specialist,
I help people move forward from trauma they have experienced.
And support individuals to understand the intricate relationship between mind and body.

I have experience of working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and supporting BAME clients through racial trauma. I’m passionate about…

Fighting racial inequality and supporting black communities with their mental health. I have a private practice but I’m fully booked at the moment. 

Like Michael mentioned I’ve been offering online counselling and raising funds for that. It’s so we can support black individuals impacted by recent events and the exposure of racial wounds with the BLM movement. 
Check out my page 🙂 @Therapy_with_kim

A first collab
An outcome of one conversation between us


MO: Your instagram is fire. The posts lift me every time I see one, I am not sure if it’s the smile, the words, the image of the plant or the combination. What brought you to want to provide counselling?
Kim: Aww wow thank you so much. It’s interesting because I realised once I started to produce my own content rather than reposting other peoples stuff I got more followers and feedback. I think it’s about people understanding my values as a practitioner and getting to know me a little more. Also, I strangely muse on things at night when I can’t sleep, that’s when the best content comes to me.

MO: How long have you been practicing as a counsellor?
Kim: I’ve been practicing for 5 years now.

MO: How do you go about counselling? What approach do you take? You might have to explain that for someone who is not too aware of the many different styles of counselling.
Kim: My foundation is the person centred approach.

Fundamentally, person centred theory asserts that tensions between our external and internal worlds create psychological distress.

How that manifests in my practice is focusing on the autonomy & choices of the calient and helping them to develop their voice (message, desires, needs), delving deep into their subjective experience this may often include cultural and social contexts.

For example, if family culture or a country of origin plays a part in their self image and to what extent they want that for themselves.

I’ve also recently integrated some body work, meditation and body scans to support regulating my clients’ nervous system. This works well with anxious clients and clients moving forward from traumatic events which have let them numb or hypervigilant.

21st Century Mental Health Workshop

MO: You laughed at the word luddite when I was asking for technical support a few weeks ago, and you mentioned you studied at Brunel, what course did you study there?
Kim: Yes because it reminded me of my industrial revolution module in my second year of university. The rebellious workers adverse to industry advances smashing up machinery, scared they’d lose their jobs. I studied undergrad History and love it. My passion for my community was fuelled further when I studied the slave trade.

MO: Why this approach (Person Centred) and not one of the many other styles of counselling?
Kim: I just love and it fits with who I am and the values I hold as a person. Empowerment (voice choice) and redefining oneself to be flexible with lived experiences, has been part of my journey but I also have seen how its supported clients from different backgrounds and with various mental health issues. I did a bit of Gestalt training and I sometimes utilise attachment theory as part of assessments. 

MO: I know this is going to sound like I am interviewing you on Instagrams’ behalf, but what has lead to you putting the work in to display your services on Instagram, not twitter or facebook?
Kim: For the separation from my private space I have loads of friends on Facebook and I’m not that familiar with Twitter. I recently got a twitter account though, add me @therapywithkae 

MO: With your most recent campaign, providing free counselling and workshops for Black people what has been the response from the community?
Kim: The response has been amazing I’m so happy. I just wanted to help in some way as I was so angry with what was happening (still is). Loads have people have supported financially and all the counselling slots were taken up in a matter of days. Goes to show how needed it was at this time. 

MO: How did you go about selecting the therapists on your poster?
Kim: They were colleagues I studied with and therapists I’d made connections with since returning to London. They are all culturally competent, passionate about the cause and from different backgrounds. 

MO: What do you hope will be the outcome for the community?
Kim: For Black people to seek out and utilise the resources they have out there. Mental health awareness and support to be embedded in our families. For the ‘Work harder’ ethic to connect to emotional and psychological well-being as well as finance, academia and other definitions of success.

MO: Are there any plans for a similar initiative to be repeated again?
Kim: Yes definitely!

MO: How has advertising free counselling supported your business?
Kim: Perhaps you could answer that one Michael?
MO: I would have to say that I am being contacted a lot more as a result of my link to the Kaemotherapy offer. So thank you for that.

MO: Lastly you mentioned that you are soon to launch a podcast, can I ask what it will be about?
Kim: I have been featured in 2 podcasts recently which were a lot of fun to be a part of. I want to develop one and have a few ideas for a podcast. As with most things in life tt’s just a matter of having the time to develop them. I know that currently podcasts are a great way to promote an idea, and set yourself and your business as an industry expert. I am interested in doing that. Definitely.

A few challenges that are ever present

MO: Thank you Kim. I look forward to listening to these and what you later produce for a podcast. Now to turn the tables and ask, do you have any questions for me?
Kim: I do have a few. What made you want to be counsellor?

MO: That is a great question. I wanted to be an artist/architect/interior designer. At the age of 20 I lost my mother to cancer and that had a big impact on my original plans. A few years were lost trying to make sense of life and then became a youth worker, basketball coach and then a learning mentor.

These roles all seemed to naturally fall into psychotherapy and support at an adolescent level. I studied my first introductory course to counselling at Morley College and then jumped ahead of myself to do a Masters at University of Greenwich. That turned me into an integrative counsellor

Kim: What would your advice be for people wanting to do counselling especially men?
MO: Do a bit of research about the course you are thinking of beginning. What are the parts of the course that most appeal? Ask a range of counsellors, or former students of that course about their experience.

Find a mentor to support your learning journey. BAATN offer a great mentoring programme of support for students of therapy. I would also advise for anyone interested in joining this path to become a counsellor/psychotherapist, to begin resolving their affairs of home, job and of the heart as best they can.

The course is going to pull some hard truths out of you. Having a solid home team is going to be at times the best thing to have spent time investing into. Counselling courses can be life changing in both necessary and dramatic/dynamic ways.

For men I would advise to be aware that counselling and psychotherapy is a profession that many women have made a great career in Esther Perrel stands out as an example of a global success. Being on a course potentially could be the first time that a male may encounter being in a minority.

Welcome the learning. Try to listen more. Aim at understanding – Always. The Patriachy exists and we have played a role in it’s continuance. The question for me is what are we men going to do to revolutionise and deconstruct the imbalance? I grew up with 3 sisters and realised that life whilst hard, had potentially more unfairness for them.

Kim: How have you found the workshops so far?
MO: The 1st one was wonderful. I will complete the 2nd this evening on the 9th of July and the 3rd and 4th on the 16th and 23rd of July.

They are all free and look at Mental Health in the 21st Century. The workshops as you are aware as you attended the first week, are interactive and less about me talking at attendees and more with attendees.

I have found them useful and interesting to be a part of a learning experience. Many topics are discussed in just over an hour and I send to participants the presentation slides with useful follow up materials to support a person with their onward journey.

The following weeks discuss: Goals and Reducing Distractions, Reviewing Progress and Implementing new growth strategies.

Kim: What made you want to participate in the free counselling project?
MO: The death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the vicious attack on Rodney King 20 years prior deeply affected how I viewed the world in which I lived.

When you shared your idea of crowd funding free sessions for Black people with me, I think my answer YES was said almost like I was saying yes to myself 20 years ago.

Vicarious Trauma is a difficult thing to recognise or make right when an event viscerally takes over a persons wellbeing. Knowing that you would be helping Black Women and Men recover through 1 – 1 support and with workshops, looked like a courageous and affirming project to be a part of. I am glad that I have. I have met some wonderful people through the programme, who all seem ready to begin their therapeutic journey.

4 Week Workshop 21st Century Mental Health
4 Weeks worth of discussion and thought

Kim: What can we expect from the next free sessions/why should they join?

MO: The workshop Mental Health in the 21st Century began as a conversation had with you a number of weeks ago. The workshops will cover How to manage the deluge of information we are struggling under from a vast array of sources. How to reduce imposter syndrome and what steps to take to continue the work to change habits.

How to Focus and get shit done instead of eternally thinking and thinking and thinking about doing things and not getting them done, which causes a degree of fatigue and leads to impatience and frustration and then a sense of defeat that leads to dis-ease.

The other workshop topics look at Focus, Goals, and Reducing, reviewing Implementing. The aim of the workshops as you know as an attendee are to support fresher ideas and improve ways to live in a World that is moving and changing at an incredible speed.

Kim Explains the support on offer for Black UK residents.

The workshops are a culmination of thoughts I have had, fascinating discoveries I have gained from podcasts and articles I have listened to or read and a range of life experiences that I simply cannot keep to myself.

I’m like that child in the class room, arms pumping the air, waving frantically at the teacher or TA to call on them, bursting with ideas to tell the class or at least mildly entertain them with. Something that that kid knows, potentially is helpful but the class just aren’t ready to hear yet.

Yeah that’s me.

Resources
Keeping Clients At The Centre Kim Evans BACP Training
How to Cope With Racial Trauma ft Kim Evans MSc
Linktree @therapy_with_kae

Images
By Kim Evans of Kaemotherapy
Slide Presentation by M. Opoku-Forfieh