Antiracist Practices in the Room: An Interview with Dr. Allen Lipscomb
Curt and Katie speak with Dr. Allen Lipscomb, PsyD, LCSW about what therapists should consider in working with Black clients, common mistakes, and implementing anti-racist procedures into practice. What can therapists do better? Where is graduate education lacking? How do we respect and explore our Black client’s narratives? Who can work with Black clients? How can therapists help clients heal from race-based trauma?
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Interview with Dr. Allen Lipscomb, PsyD, LCSW
Dr. Allen E. Lipscomb, PsyD, LCSW is an Associate Professor at Cal State University Northridge. Dr. Lipscomb received his PsyD from Ryokan College in Clinical Psychology and his Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Dr. Lipscomb has also received additional certification through Cornell University in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as a Certificate in Mixed-Methods Community-Based Research from the University of Michigan. Dr. Lipscomb is the creator and writer of the BRuH Approach to Therapy, specifically created for the healing of trauma in Black Men. He has taught courses in Social Work Practices with Urban Families, Psychosocial Assessing, Diagnosing, and Evaluation, Family Crisis Trauma and Grief, and many more classes. Dr. Lipscomb is a researcher in Black Male Grief and has contributed to numerous peer reviewed papers and textbooks.
In this podcast episode we talk about working with Black male clients and antiracist best practices.
We talked about Dr. Lipscomb’s BRuH model in a previous episode and thought it would be important to dig more deeply into his model and how he works with Black male clients.
“You don’t have to understand something to hold space for something.” – Dr. Allen Lipscomb
How can we do better with our Black male clients?
- Black male grief shows up in different ways than other client’s grief might show up.
- When assessing Black males for psychosis or conspiracy theories, ensure that you look at the context of their lived experience before determining psychosis
- The traumatic experiences of racialization, trauma, and mistreatment that many Black people can sound like lead to thoughts that might sound psychotic to an uneducated clinician.
- Listen to the client’s narratives. Question what the themes and patterns are and if the thought is maladaptive to their functioning and well-being.
- Utilize FIDO: frequency, intensity, duration and onset in questioning clients
- If a clinician is unsure if a thought is a conspiracy or legitimate threat, assess for how the client’s community is responding to the client’s narrative
“I think we also get it wrong when we don’t consider who we are as clinicians in the space with them” – Dr. Allen Lipscomb
- Ask clients how the session was for them. How was it for you to meet with me? Acknowledge your cultural limitations and create an invitation for the client to let you know when you can do better.
- Be mindful, Black male clients might be minimizing their experiences to be “less threatening.” This is the cultural congruency dichotomy that clients often have to take to avoid further potential trauma.
What does it mean to be antiracist?
“I’m okay with talking about [race when a therapist brings it up in session]. Because as a Black man, I don’t know if you want to, or if you’re able to talk about it. So, guess what, I am never going to bring up your whiteness in the space.” – Dr. Allen Lipscomb
- Clients might be resistant to bringing up a clinician’s whiteness in the space.
- Black clients might not think that a white clinician has the capability or desire to talk about race. It is the responsibility of the clinician to actively establish the openness of the space to discuss race and the client’s lived experience.
- This should be a continuous conversation that is led by therapists, to make the topic open until it feels naturally open.
- It’s affirming to have someone who is white in a position of power to say to me – hey I recognize we’re racially different and we could have a different experience how that shows up in this space.
- You can catch moments where anti-racist action could’ve been taken or acknowledged in the next session, if missed during a session.
- The need to revamp our graduate programs to be anti-oppressive and anti-racist
- How to show up as an ally in the room, without centering your own experience
What is Dr. Allen Lipscomb’s BRuH Method?
- The BRuH Method, or BAT, stands for BRuH Approach to Therapy.
- BRuH stands for Bonding through Recognition to promote Understanding in Healing when providing therapeutic services to Black men specifically.
- The approach is modeled off of other therapeutic approaches like CBT and DBT
- Phases include: Bonding Phase, Recognition Phase, Understanding Phase, Healing Phase
- The clinician is always doing aspects of the various phases throughout the course of treatment
- This is not an evidence-based practice but an honoring based practice
- The evidence of efficacy in this practice comes when you see your clients continuously returning to receive more sessions, from the feedback they give you, and the improvements in day-to-day life.
Who can work with Black male clients?
- There can be an urge for white therapists to refer clients of color, especially Black men, to Black clinicians
- These referrals are unnecessary. A therapist of any background, if holding the space correctly and connecting with the client’s felt experience, can work with a client of color, specifically Black men.
- It’s important to be mindful that questions asked to clients are not investigative or for the purpose of educating the therapist.
- Focus on listening and honoring the client experience. Make space to allow them to emote in the therapeutic environment.
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Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
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Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Curt Widhalm 00:00
This episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by SuperBill.
Katie Vernoy 00:05
Interested in making it easier for your clients to use their out of network benefits for therapy? SuperBill is a service that can help your clients get reimbursed without having to jump through hoops. Getting Started as simple. Clients complete a quick HIPAA compliant signup process and you send their super bills directly to us so that we can file claims with their insurance companies. No more spending hours on the phone wrangling with insurance companies for reimbursement. Super bill eliminates that hassle and clients just pay a low monthly fee for the service.
Curt Widhalm 00:34
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You’re listening to the modern therapist survival guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings to support you as a whole person and a therapist. Here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 00:58
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the modern therapist Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists that explains and explores a lot of things that we don’t necessarily get in our trainings. And rather than just waiting for clients to show up to our office and make us have to learn things, or hope that we know everything about our clients coming in or in some cases where clients might not be coming in. Due to some certain factors. We are being joined today by Dr. Allen Lipscomb an LCSW. We had made reference to him back in our conspiracy theory podcast a couple of months ago, as far as having a particular method that we’ll get to a little bit later in this episode here. But Dr. Lipscomb, we found out after that episode, He’s an associate professor at Cal State University Northridge, where I also teach so always kind of cool to see how our communities come together. Thank you very much for joining us today. Dr. Lipscomb,
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 02:10
Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.
Katie Vernoy 02:12
We’re so excited to have you here. I was reading through the the BRuH method you put together, I really liked the things that you had to say in that conspiracy theory article that we had referenced before. Just so excited to talk with you today and and pick your brain a bit. But we always start with all of our guests with the question, Who are you? And what are you putting out to the world?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 02:37
Absolutely. I am a Black male grief researcher, I am a clinician, I am a professor, I am a father, I am a partner as well.
Curt Widhalm 02:47
And we are starting out the conversation in talking about working with Black male clients and case people haven’t noticed therapy’s been pretty white for a very long time. And this is a population that might have some reservations about seeking out some services. What are we getting wrong as a profession that’s making it to where it’s creating maybe some unnecessary barriers to being attractive to Black males as far as clients wanting to seek out services? And once they do show up? Is there things that we continue to do wrong?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 03:29
I love so much this question, Curt. Yes, I think the first thing we’re getting wrong is this whole narrative that Black males are not wanting or coming in for services and therapy. One of the things I found out fairly quickly, when I went into private practice, I still maintain a small private practice is that that was the number one population that I started to see in a private practice setting were Black males. And I said, Wait a minute, this went against everything I learned in my graduate program, there was a lot of information in research around resistance, and and there being trepidation and coming in and seeking services. So when I started to see a lot of Black men coming in for therapy, and underneath that, regardless of why they were coming in for services, I found that there was this underlying grief piece unresolved grief piece. And so I think going back to your second question is what do we get wrong when they come in? I think we’re not prepared for them to come in. So then we don’t know how to hold the therapeutic space, assess, provide services and treatment that are culturally responsive
Katie Vernoy 04:40
With this grief, and I think you described it in the questionnaire we sent over as Black male trauma, traumatic grief. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re what you’re referring to there?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 04:50
Absolutely. So when we think about traumatic grief among Black men, it is due to racialization it is race based trauma. So you yours, Floyd, Ahmad Marbury Trayvon Martin, right, so on and so forth, that has an emotional and psychological traumatic impact on other Black men and youth who were exposed to it and hear it and view it on social media.
Curt Widhalm 05:14
So for those of us who got the grad school experience of wait, they are actually going to show up to therapy. Can you help us with? What do we do? What What can we do better to help support clients who are facing this kind of traumatic grief and actually promote health and healing in this process as we welcome them into our practices.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 05:42
I think in the initial phases of services in treatment, that engagement and rapport building, it’s really about slowing yourself down enough to honor support in respect, what fair sharing, even if it doesn’t make sense, in our own view, based on our positionality social location. intersectionality. One of the things I found for non Black folks who are providing clinical services to Black folk, specifically Black men, is they feel like they have to provide them a referral to a Black male therapist, because they are white, because they might be Asian Pacific Islander identified, etc. They don’t believe that they are the best person to provide services. And I think that’s a mistake too, because who’s to say that you cannot be clinically effective, just because you do not identify racially as Black men who may be coming in receiving services.
Katie Vernoy 06:37
So if we don’t refer out, I think there’s, there’s a fear that the lack of lived experience, or the very different lived experience, maybe it’s more appropriate way to say it will get in the way of being able to be present, to be empathic to to really understand the experience. What do you say to that?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 06:57
I say you don’t have to understand something to hold space for something. One of the examples that I use with my students is that as a cisgender, male, I will never know what it’s like to have miscarried. I will never have that lived experience. But can I provide support with compassion, empathy, and respect? For a woman who has miscarried? Absolutely, do I have to refer her to another female therapists who haven’t experienced when a miscarriage? Absolutely not. It’s how we hold the space and connect with the felt experience that showing up in the room that allows for Black men and people in general, to feel like you get it, you’re connected to the felt experience. And we’re not questioning their truths, to investigate, to interrogate, to deny, or to make you teach me to get it that that’s the other setup is that we don’t want to put specifically Black men in the position to have to teach you how to support them in the space. It’s truly about listening and honoring and not moving quickly. One of the other things we get wrong going back to the question that Kurt was asking, is we don’t allow allow for Black men to emote in the space. And this is everyone. This is Black folk who are clinicians as well. We have learned as a society to mitigate it, to rescue it, to try to make sense of it were by truncating, their bereavement emotive experience in this place that they’re sharing. So I tell folks slow down when I provide trainings around Black male grief, when we start to see fluctuations and feelings and expressions, that’s your reminder to take a beat allow for that. And they will traverse their own grief and emotive experience.
Curt Widhalm 08:50
So what I’m hearing is, treat them like they’re humans.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 08:54
That part. That part. 100% 100%
Curt Widhalm 08:59
It’s interesting, because I remember back to the day in my cross cultural class when I was in grad school to talk about working with Black clients. Yes, the one day and
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 09:12
the one day the one class,
Curt Widhalm 09:13
though, yes, exactly that that talks about almost the opposite of what you’re suggesting, which is that if Black clients are coming in, you should give them a very structured and formal idea of how long treatments and action is going to take. So that way they can predict how they’re going to get out of treatment.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 09:34
Mm hmm. And I think that’s that’s the setup, right? And what I like to do is go critical, go a little bit deeper and say, Well, where are we getting this information from? How do we know that we need to do this right? Have we talked to and spoken to Black folks who are receiving services? That’s what started me on this whole Black male grief journey is that one I found that this was one of the number one unresolved issues that I was seeing across the board with Black men. And too when I looked at the literature and research on Black male grief, it didn’t exist eight, nine years ago when I started off on this journey, right? It’s like, what do you mean Black male grief, grief is grief. And there’s still folks who believe that grief is grief, there is no difference. And what I have found over the past eight years, is that it is different. And it does show up different specifically around Black Male grief.
Katie Vernoy 10:25
There’s so many different places to go with this. I have, you know, so many questions. I’m gonna try to pick a question here. And then we’ll probably get back to other ones in a little bit. But But I think the first one is really looking at, believe the clients experience be present slow down. And we first mentioned your work rate related to conspiracy theories, and how those things can show up. And so I’m very curious on how you hold both of those things, especially towards the beginning of treatment, when you’re just getting to know someone it seems like there is there’s a lot that could be there. So maybe I’ll start with that question. And then we’ll, we’ll keep scooting around, because there’s just so much I want to ask.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 11:06
Absolutely. So when you’re first beginning services and engaging, specifically when we talk about conspiracy theories, we don’t know enough about who that person is to determine at that initial intake session. If this is truly a conspiracy theory, is it rooted in psychosis? I mean, yes, it depends on if there is psychosis here, right? hallucinations and delusions, we can pick up on that rather quickly because of our training and skills. But what I’m touching on, it’s more about the lived experiences connected to racialization and trauma, and the mistreatment of Black folks that can lead to these conspiracy theories related to I don’t know what they’re putting into my body. I don’t want to go and get vaccinated. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. Right? Notice, I’m not saying Help me understand, because I may never understand that. Right. Talk to me more about that. Right? When did you first notice this? Right? I tell my students do FIDO frequency, intensity duration at onset? When did you first start having this experience around people putting things in your body? When was the last time how often does it happen? So on and so forth? And what we’re assessing for is one listening to their narratives, to what are the themes and patterns? And is it impeding upon their functioning and overall well being? That’s when we have to go a different route with it. That’s when it’s concerning as it relates to their mental health.
Katie Vernoy 12:37
I think the follow on question is how do you know if it’s a conspiracy theory or somebody’s really out to get you? I mean, I think those are the things that especially in in being a white person working with a Black person, I think that there could be a tendency if I’m not just exploring the lived experience, where if I’m showing any doubt, I mean, part of that could be biased part of it could be something else. But it also I think, could be really invalidating for the lived experience. And so I don’t know if you have any suggestions on how to walk that line for non-Black therapists,
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 13:10
wonderful question. Assess for how their community and kinship are responding to that narrative. What do I mean? Ask them? Have you spoken to your family about this? How have they responded to this? Do they support your relatives? What does your community like if you’re a part of a church, etc? How have they responded? Because that’s what you will start to suss out and find out. Is this culturally connected and relevant or not? Because if the kinship and family community is saying, no, no, no, no, no, this is all in your head. There we go. That’s information for us. That makes sense. Thank you. Mm hmm.
Curt Widhalm 13:51
One of the things that I’m noticing as you’re talking about this is, it’s also very much in the way that you’re presenting these questions. And you made mention to this in interviews that we’ve seen you do with other people if we acknowledge that other people get your time too. But just in this still very supportive way, that it’s not just kind of like when did these audits that ends up making it be challenging and confrontive that is invalidating to the clients experience that it’s very much in still creating that positive nurturing environment there too.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 14:30
This is why I came up with the whole BRuH approach, right? The bonding recognition to promote understanding and healing is to truly honor people and that this is not anything new. This is trauma informed care, right? Healing centered engagement, right? I didn’t invent this family. I am just saying we have to be intentional when we are holding the spaces. So the three questions that I continue to ask myself as I’m formulating my thoughts and engaging And in services with Black men, is the way in which I am about to ask this question, is it honoring? Is it hurting? Or is it hindering? Couldn’t hinder them? Could it hurt? Right? Is it honoring their? Is it helpful to them? These are things I kind of think about and also allows me to pause and slow down, to engage in more mindfulness, intentional practice, when I’m providing clinical services, versus just engaging whatever comes to me in going with my gut in the moment, right, maybe I need to take a beat and take a pause. I think this goes back to the question that you were asking earlier regarding where we get it wrong. I think we also get it wrong when we don’t consider who we are as clinicians in the space with them. Gone are the days where we cannot talk about how they’re experiencing us, as the provider of mental health services based on who we are intersectionally speaking. So at the end of my sessions, I will ask my clients, how was it for you to meet with me today? And usually, they’ll say things like, Oh, it was fine. It was cool. It was whatever. And I’ll say, Good, I’m glad. How was it for you to meet with me as another Black male in the space? Oh, it was fine. It was okay. It was whatever, okay? If ever there comes a time, because although we may identify as both Black males, there may be something that I might miss, because of my own experience, or lack of experience, please know that we can talk about it, throughout the time that we are working together in this therapeutic relationship, how does that sound to you? Now, you don’t have to be a Black male therapist to insert that, it’s acknowledging I represent something. And I recognize you may have an experience of me. And guess what, we get to talk about it. I’m okay with that.
Katie Vernoy 16:50
I like that. And I also know that there are some therapists who are afraid to bring up race when they don’t share the race of the person that they’re working with. And I know I’ve claimed it on this episode, or not this episode on this podcast that like, there was one time I tried it. And it was, it was with it with an Asian American family. But I was just like, let and it was, it was a big old mess. And so I think and maybe this is just to kind of acknowledge that sometimes bringing race into the room feels very challenging for folks, non Black folks, especially I think, but I’ve heard over and over again. And I’ve experienced this in the work that I’ve done subsequent to some of this new learning, that it actually is a relief, or it’s a non issue. And so I don’t know if you have more to say about that. But I think it’s something where I know for myself, I get that little bit of nervousness of like, this is a thing. And then it’s usually a really interesting conversation and a way to connect. So..
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 17:50
100%, You know, it’s affirming, it’s affirming to have someone, let’s go with what you were sharing, it’s affirming to have someone who is white in a position of power to say to me, Hey, I recognize that we are racially different. And I also recognize that we could have a different experience about how that shows up in this space.
Katie Vernoy 18:13
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 18:13
I’m okay with talking about it. Because as a Black man, I don’t know if you want to, or if you’re able to talk about it. So guess what, I am never going to bring up your whiteness in the space.
Curt Widhalm 18:25
I’ve mentioned on the previous episodes here, as well of working with teenagers in my practice that when Black clients, usually parents are on that intake phone call with me, one of the questions that I asked in that intake phone call, and then also in the first session with a teenager is, you know, do you have any concerns about working with a white therapist. And what I’m hearing out of this is that that’s not the only time to have that conversation, that that’s a continuous conversation, and one that continues to be need to be led by therapists to make it open until it’s naturally happening.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 19:06
Absolutely, it should be integrated. You know, there are times where I’ll leave a session and many of my fellow therapists can relate to this, and you’re driving home. And you say, oh, my gosh, I missed it. I missed. Okay, you know, that next session, you get to come back and address that. And so I’m saying that to say, even if you don’t do it in the moment, but you catch it after you get to come back and bring it in and say I noticed you shared something last week, and I think I missed it. I think this is where our identities came up last week in our session where I did not catch and I want to come back to that authentic, it allows for trusting rapport to be built in a different way. It’s like, wow, you get it. You caught it. Absolutely.
Katie Vernoy 19:53
In a training that I went to and I don’t remember exactly when it was and I don’t know how, how well it was put together, So I’m gonna ask this question from you is, is there you were talking about kind of allowing space or holding proper space for the expression of grief. And when you were talking about identities, it just popped in my my brain that as a society, we fear, Black male, emotion, especially big emotions. And, and I’ve heard, I think in some of these previous trainings that there is an impulse or an instinct or a perceived need, I don’t know exactly, or potentially a real need for a Black male client, to protect their therapist, from their emotions. And I know in some of the interactions that I’ve had with Black men that there are times when I feel like I’m getting a veneer of very nice, very kind, very smiley man, non threatening man Hello, non threatening, non threatening, and, and I feel like that must show up in therapy with with folks who are sitting cross culturally from a Black male client. And so I don’t know if you can talk a little bit about that.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 21:01
I love everything about this. Absolutely, absolutely. I refer to this as the cultural congruent dichotomy, right. And so in session, if you look differently than me, with the example that you were just sharing, I am going to ensure that what I say, not only is not going to make you uncomfortable, but I want to make sure that what I say is not going to get me in trouble, I’m not gonna get hospitalized, or whatever it might be. So although I’m extremely uncomfortable, being like, this is my initial session with you, etc. But guess what, I am catering to your perceived discomfort, or I don’t even know if you might be uncomfortable. But I have learned as a Black man in the society that I need to make you comfortable, where in reality, I’m the one who’s extremely uncomfortable in this therapeutic relationship starting off. And then the other opposite of that applies, where if you look like the person you’re providing services to so Black male with a Black male, there’s also this congruence piece where I expect you to get it. So when you don’t get it or you question or deny my experience rooted in my Blackness and racism, etc, and does a special type of cultural injury that is deeper than a white person who did not get it because I expected them not to get it. Whereas you have all people should have gotten it.
Katie Vernoy 22:28
So interesting. And it speaks to and I read the article that you wrote about the BRuH method and using that with your three clients, the case studies, and it was something where you really mentioned kind of the really understanding where you where you’re situated, and the intersectionality that’s happening in the room, and constantly coming back to that, and being aware of that, and it feels like, especially in our society, and how we treat Black men that that would be foremost of importance, utmost importance for working with Black men.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 23:00
Absolutely. It’s that constant reminder and recognition that because of who we are intersectionally speaking, it is always showing up in the space because it’s showing up in your life day to day in my life to day to day
Curt Widhalm 23:16
What needs to change in therapist education that makes treating people like people wherever their intersectionality is, but especially when it comes to some of the cross cultural stuff that we can, you and me as educators can start to implement now. But that we need to start looking at systemically to be able to take this nuance, but also take kind of this universal honoring approach to clients in a way that does promote this healing.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 23:47
I think we need to revamp and restructure our curriculum. 100%, right. I think we need to look at how is our … What are we included in our curriculum? Is it anti oppressive, anti racist, and socially just also, is it integrated throughout all of the courses Gone are the days where we take that one multicultural class, and then we’re done. It needs to be throughout our entire program, so that when folks are finished with their graduate education, they have a teen understanding of what it means to provide effective, culturally responsive, anti oppressive, anti racist, honoring base political services to the community, regardless,
Katie Vernoy 24:34
So if we’re really going to try to look at that very specifically, what are the most important elements in a practice that that is anti oppressive, anti racist, honoring, all of those things? Like where where would you start or where I mean, I guess the BRuH method, just kind of where you started, but like, tell us a little bit more about what actually this treatment could look like. Because to me when I was reading about the method, it felt like it was very effective for This population and really should help is how we should practice with everyone.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 25:05
Absolutely, absolutely, I think we should be able to expand, right taking the approach to really expanded to all populations and communities, it goes back to what I was saying before, I’m not doing anything new. It’s how I’m putting it together to work with a specific population. I think the other piece is, we have to listen to the communities to inform our practice, I am all about practice, informed research, practice informed evidence, etc. Gone are the days where we come up with something and then we do it, it should be in response to the clients that we’re working with. And that is guiding how we’re providing services to be effective in ways that really honor who they are intersectionally speaking,
Curt Widhalm 25:56
You know, I, for those of you who only know me by voice, I’m pretty white.
Katie Vernoy 26:05
With a glorious beard, glorious beard
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 26:07
It’s a lovely beard, from one beard to another.
Curt Widhalm 26:13
And I point this out, and that’s growing up in a very white part of the country. And just for people who are new to these conversations that may not necessarily be in the social justice piece of the worlds that I can already hear some of the criticisms of why does this need to be centered on everything that is, you know, part of this, you know, having a response to an anticipated response here is just kind of, I’ve heard the evolution of this argument into well, it’s front and center for Black men and women everywhere. And it’s something that’s faced every day, and then it fits to anybody else coming from a marginalized community that should also be front and center of a lot of these conversations. And I think that there’s those of us in this field who are facing this, who are allies who are doing this kind of work that have a different space, not only in our clients, but also in the response to our profession in this in that you as a Black male and a professor and somebody who hold the position of power, and obviously important enough to be in interviews and cited and all kinds of things. You’ve got a great position in this as a leader, for those of us facing the people in our lives and the other people in our profession as allies. Is there ways that you recommend us to continue to help elevate these kinds of conversations and to hold our space in it?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 27:54
Absolutely, I think continuing to use your voices in the spaces that you have most contact with in proximity to becomes important. And doing it in such a way where you’re not taking over right liberation efforts, you’re not coming in as I’m the white savior, coming in and telling you all other white folks how to duck’s back to that. It’s more about bringing that conversation and topic into the conversation in an intentional way. But also allowing people to do their work around this, right. So I always say practice grace and space, right? We’re not beating people over the head, we would hope people will get it in already know it. But we recognize it is not a given for everyone. And so again, allowing for grace and space for people to do their own journey and awareness and reading. I recommend Dr. Ibram Kendi’s book all the time, how to be an anti racist. That’s a great starting point. Many folks have joined but clubs and groups and things like that around really taking charge and their anti racist work. And so I think about start somewhere versus nowhere and continue to sustain that momentum so that it’s not, you know, fizzling out over time.
Katie Vernoy 29:12
And the direction not to be a white savior, I think is is very resonant. I think that there are a lot of folks that that’s where they feel like they must land. And I know it’s something that I’m constantly trying to grapple with myself, because I’ve, you know, white guilt, all of the things. So I appreciate that that direction. I think the thing that struck me in reading your work was this notion that this should be very front and center with our clients as well that they’re aware of our anti racist, anti oppressive, you know, kind of methods, mechanisms, the way that we’re moving in the world. And I guess the question I have is how does that show up at practically in a therapy space like the fact that we are allies that we’re working every day to be allies and that we’re we’re working to be anti racist and anti oppressive like, like Does that I mean, like, without centering our own experience and kind of like, Hey, look at I’m doing good work over here
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 30:06
TV advertisement, right?
Katie Vernoy 30:07
Yeah, look at me, I’m gonna save, you know, whatever it is. So you know, like, how do you how do you? How does that practically show up for folks who are non Black, but then also potentially for folks who are Black that are also wanting to put forward, you know, kind of where they said and this in social justice and those types of things.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 30:25
I love it. I think it is important that it comes out at the beginning, when you’re talking about informed consent, your scope of practice, how you’d like to do your work, your theoretical orientation models approaches, I think it’s great to go right into in there. And so it could sound something like so I am a cognitive behavioral therapists with an anti oppressive, anti racist lens. What that means is that, as I’m providing Doctor doctor that I also will be intentional at looking at how race shows up and impacts your thinking, your feeling and your behaviors. Boom, that’s, done,
Katie Vernoy 31:07
Done and done
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 31:07
Done, you’re not taking a lot of space. You’re not belaboring the point. You’re not trying to get any stickers or a certificate for trophy involve perfect. I asked as a client would be like, Wow, okay, come on. CBT, anti racist therapist.
Katie Vernoy 31:25
I like it, I like it.
Curt Widhalm 31:27
And what I love about what you’re saying here is that this is another way of extending the action, that it’s it’s not just being, you know, that first phone call, like I mentioned with teenagers, parents earlier, it’s not just doing it in the first session, it’s not just waiting at the end of sessions, either it’s being able to say what you’re going to do and then do it. And show it’s not just, you know, pay lip service to it, which I feel like, especially hearing a lot of corporate messaging around this, of actually being able to just do it without the expectation of getting that sticker.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 32:05
Absolutely. It doesn’t feel like tokenization like, I’m waiting, I’m waiting, got my first Black client. Now let me say it, right? No, it feels like you want it to come across. That this is your spiel. Regardless, if you’re providing services to someone who is Black, African American, identify, or Latinx identified or Asian Pacific Islander and Native Americans like this is your spiel that you use every single time that you start off services. And that’s why I said, it’s important that it comes at the beginning when you’re talking about informed consent, your theoretical approach and model.
Curt Widhalm 32:40
So we’ve mentioned a couple of times in the episode, and I want to create some space to get into your your BRuH methods. And having looked at what I’ve been able to look at it online now being able to talk to you and hear the details of it. I’m excited to hear. So break down what the BRuH method is and how that looks in practice.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 33:06
Absolutely. So BRuH stands for bonding, through recognition, to promote understanding and healing when providing therapeutic services to Black men and specifically. And so what I did was, I started to get feedback from folks saying I love your research you’re doing I love you know, your initial book that you wrote on Black male grief. But how do I do this? And what if I can attend your training? Do you have some type of workbook or handout that I could that I could have? So that is what encouraged me to write this book. And so I modeled the approach after the other approaches and models that we see very familiar in, in therapeutic spaces, right? So DBT, CBT, etc. And so there are these phases, if you will, that I just named right, the bonding phase, the recognition phase, the understanding and the healing phases. And it kind of guides you through from the initial when you start off providing services to Black men, and then all the way through. One of the things that is unique about this particular model is that you’re always doing aspects of every single thing, the bonding, the recognition, the understanding, to always promote healing in honoring, I say this is not an evidence based practice. It’s an honoring based practice and how you know, that you are being effective. Your evidence is them continuing to show up is the feedback they’re giving you during your sessions. It’s how it’s translating in their life day to day. That’s your evidence on how effective the approach is for folks who are utilizing it.
Katie Vernoy 34:52
So in the bonding phase, it seems like that’s where a lot of this identity work and the intersectionality and those things would start. What? How do you know that you are maybe effectively through the, you know, have a strong enough bond to move into the other elements of the model?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 35:13
When they start saying things they’ve been your clients saying things like, that aren’t tell you the story. Have I told you that before you’re like, No, right? That lets you know, that’s one indicator, right? That they’re feeling more comfortable with you, right, or the consistency by which they’re showing up, can let you know that you know what, I think we have a good connection, they’re opening up, they’re softening in their delivery and how they’re sharing things, etc, you’re seeing that maybe they’re sitting back, this time, for the first time in session, where the past three to four sessions, they were sitting at the edge of their seat, not really comfortable in your space, that’s information for you, clinically speaking, that you have established enough bonding, that you can start moving on to the next phases.
Curt Widhalm 36:00
I’m trying to picture this as far as how it works, and especially where there might not be kind of that congruent bonding thing that’s almost implicit, you know, the Black male to Black male therapists, but really, in looking at cross cultural therapy, is there considerations that therapist might really need to be aware of as far as bonding, because, again, for those of us very white folk, we can we can be very out of touch in a lot of ways, but you know, rather than just being you know, what’s going on in pop culture, or whatever else, but is there considerations in that bonding approach for working with Black male clients that we might not consider?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 36:49
I think allow time for them just to share: How was their experience just getting there today? How was it for you to come in a session today? What what we know to be true in the work that I’ve done in research, sometimes just getting to their services, they could have a unique experience being being followed or being harassed. Someone called the police on the way here. So maybe wanted to fight them, because they look like they were a threat, or whatever it might be. So part of the bonding, what you can do is to begin to ask about their stories just arriving to session, you’re showing interest and curiosity and just their experience, day to day, but more specifically, just coming into the space. It’s kind of like when you ask someone, how’s the temperature in the room? How does it feel today? Right? Do you want me to turn it down to the right, it’s that little communication chat, small chat, small talk, that really helps people to feel comfortable before we start getting into the work.
Katie Vernoy 37:54
So when we’re looking at moving – the bonds established, and we’re moving into recognition, what does that mean? Because I know that you said, we’re kind of in all the spaces. So maybe, maybe we go through the RU H at this point, but like, what are those? What are those different elements look like?
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 38:11
Absolutely. So when we look, when we look at the recognition, the goal of this phase is to honor their experiences of complex trauma, based on who they are intersectionally speaking. So what were their loss or losses, experiences, and grief, connected to maybe racism, maybe health or lack of receiving supportive medical services to their health, and their overall just bereavement process. So when we talk about recognition is trusting without questioning, judging, hijacking the space, and also ensuring that I get what you’re saying, I’m following what you’re saying at this time. That’s the recognition piece. You don’t have to understand it, but you can recognize where they’re coming from and how that’s showing up.
Curt Widhalm 39:00
And paying more than lip service to it so that way, continuing on in the methods that that recognition, creating, understanding for clients have their own process that that’s not necessarily something that is the therapist says you pointed out several times here. It’s not necessarily even that the therapist have to get into that deep understanding of the clients but helping the clients get to their own understanding.
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 39:28
Absolutely. Andthat’s the honoring piece too
Curt Widhalm 39:32
it sounds so simple, to be present and reflect and just give somebody else their own space and their own opportunity to explore themselves and do it in a way that’s non judgmental and non shaming.
Katie Vernoy 39:53
And believe them
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 39:55
And believe them. It Yeah, it is so simple, but because of our our own biases because of our own concerns, fears, it really gets in the way of truly being there and holding the space.
Katie Vernoy 40:09
Curt Widhalm 40:12
Wher can people find out more about you and all of the stuff that you’re doing,
Dr. Allen Lipscomb 40:18
You can find me on social media, Instagram, at Dr dot A lips comb, or Twitter at our combs. That’s a LC O M B 101. Or you can go to my faculty webpage at Cal State Northridge, you just type in my name CSUN. And you will see different articles that I have written books, as well. So one of the books that I was just referencing is the approach. You can find it on Amazon. And then also my other book Black male grief reaction to trauma, one man’s mental health story, and you can find that on Amazon, as well.
Curt Widhalm 40:59
And we will include links to all of that in our show notes. You can find those at MTS g podcast.com. And come in, join us on our social media, join our Facebook group, the modern therapists group, we’d love to hear your experiences in working with Black male clients. And if you have additions and suggestions to things that work for you, we’d love to hear about those. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Dr. Allen Lipscomb.
Katie Vernoy 41:30
Thanks again to our sponsor SuperBill.
Curt Widhalm 41:32
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Katie Vernoy 42:16
The next time a potential client asks if you accept insurance, let them know that you partner with SuperBill to help your clients effortlessly receive reimbursement. Visit the Super bill.com To get started. Thank you for listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. Learn more about who we are and what we do at mtsgpodcast.com. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter. And please don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.