“May we decompose violence in ourselves before we ask it in the world.”
- Brontë Velez
Black Lives Matter. Black Mental Health Matters.
We hope you are finding care and support during these trying times in our world. It is a time of grief and mourning as well as a call to awareness, change, and action.
As an organization that responds to the impact of trauma, we must acknowledge the reality of racism and the trauma that racism inflicts on people and communities of color.
Last week was the Minneapolis burial for George Floyd.
The brutality experienced by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and many other individuals, as well as their loved ones and communities of color across the country is unconscionable. These are painful realities we must face, together.
Our counselors stand in solidarity with people collectively raising their voices to assert that Black lives matter.
Racism is a public health crisis. Not only does it cause ongoing racial trauma, but it is a driving force in other health disparities and severely restricts access to competent and affordable health care, including therapy. Psychotherapy and mental health care may have the potential to help heal trauma—but individual therapy does not treat institutionalized racism.
The fields of psychology, counseling and healthcare must commit to creating equitable access to care. We want to be a part of this conversation. Healing is intertwined with justice.
Society will heal and transform—as the great Civil Rights leader John Lewis said yesterday “not from our bitterness”—but by our being steadfast to understand our fears and decompose violence that has seeped into our minds and bodies. Oppressive ideologies, policies, and systems will not be moved by our hatred of them, but by the re-moving of hatred and fear in our minds, bodies, and actions.
The end…and a new beginning
As counselors we’re working every day to integrate actions that work to heal the legacy of racism inside of and between individuals and within families. But I believe that today is the day we are ready to end one aspect of this work—sharing ourselves only with those that can afford our fees.
Today is the day of something new that transcends our usual, highly selective focus on individuals and families through counseling or psychiatry. Today we move beyond this singular focus of our work and develop clear actions that bring together voices in our communities to enact healthy changes in group behavior, rules, laws, and the fabric of our shared culture.
We will still be counselors and we’re still here to support you with therapy.
We have a long way to go and there are many fronts that this integrative work is already happening. But today we are going to start to make this happen in a new way. I believe it starts with us.
A call-in to connection, courage, and change
Rather than simply calling-out injustice, which we support and believe has a vital place in healthy families and healthy societies, we also believe that calling-out without an equally vigorous calling-in-to connection and belonging while emotionally cathartic—is unproductive, and breeds further disconnection and pain.
We thrive, create, innovate, and find joy when we know that we belong.
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and others, along with the story of Amy Cooper’s attempt to frame Christian Cooper, have shined a light on the ways in which Black people live with fear of violence, abuse, or discrimination in this country in profound physical and emotional ways. For far too long and for far too many, people of color in this country still sometimes feel they do not belong.
Speaking the names
Speaking the names of those involved in highly public tragedies fueled by hatred, fear, or racism is not being done here to advance judgment, but rather, to advance our collective memory of what is really happening. These recent events reflect an ongoing, centuries-long pattern of violence involving state-directed brutality, murder, false accusations, disenfranchisement, criminalization, and disproportionate punishment of Black people.
We are choosing to ask you to help us re-member—to literally embody the energy of oppression in our living bodies so that we are agitated enough to move through our doubts and face the parts of us that block us from knowing more fully our own pain, and the pain of others.
Speaking the names, reading the stories of victims of racial hatred, and taking the risk of sharing with others important to you how these stories move you is a therapeutic response to violence and trauma. When we are able to feel safe talking about confusing or terrifying things, the mind is more rapidly able to process confusing binaries, and come up with creative modes of connecting the dots to form a coherent whole.
Mindful inquiry and courageous communication
We are going to bring together foundations of inquiry principles like “beginner’s mind” (mindfulness) and neurobiological principles of trauma-informed care to help others find wholeness and purpose in the mist of rapidly fragmenting events.
We believe that building strong relationships requires courageous communication—saying the truth about ourselves to call the other to be with us in our vulnerability. We’re sharing how we have been moved by recent events to ask you to also pay close attention to how you are being moved by these events.
What vulnerabilities do these events put you more in touch with? We’d like to hear from you.
Healing begins with us
In the weeks and months ahead we plan to be engaging in a new ormat to achieve healing results in a way that’s new to us—and frankly, is a work-in-progress. This experimentation comes out of our own journeys of growth and healing.
Normally, we counselors only offer our licensed professional skills (governed by a board of health license) in the form of paid counseling. The license-health-provider model of practice guides our standard of care while protecting consumers from many problems. This is good.
We are still offering our normal professional counseling services and will continue to do so (services remain 100% online until further notice). However, we would also like to facilitate healing conversations in a community/group online format, with more transparency and connection to who we are, not just what we do.
This would allow us to:
- Bring more creative parts of ourselves into healing dialogues
- Focus more in-depth on core topics that are require significant repetition to gain results
- Distribute access to mindbody (emotional/psychological/physical) health care more broadly and for free or very low cost
- Nurture community growth between people who can help each other learn, encourage, focus, and share struggles more efficiently than in the isolation of private counseling
- Practice courageous communication and innovate together to show up more powerfully in the world where it needs us most
We invite you to join us in our collective learning about the legacy of trauma (fear, violence, shame and disconnection) that racism triggers in ourselves, and find actionable ways in which our learning will touch the lives of others around us to move us forward toward a safer and more healthy society.
“…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”
― Audre Lorde
Resources for further learning on this subject
During these times it’s ever more important to take care, of ourselves and each other, and to stay connected.
Here are just a few resources for taking care and being aware so that we can remain present and engaged in the search for truth, growth and purposeful action!
- brontë velez transports us through revolutionary prayer. We hope brontë’s incantation ignites your creativity and fills up your inner well with joy, strength and peace.
Shared with respect and gratitude for all belief systems and perspectives.
Be well, be safe, take care, stay connected.