Therapy as a Political Act

Therapy as a Political Act

An interview with Dr. Travis Heath, PhD, regarding the myth that therapists can remain neutral and be considered not “political”. Curt and Katie talk with Travis about how he perceives effective therapy and how to interrogate the ways in which people interact within the systems where they live and work (and what they consider to be absolute truths). We also look at decolonizing therapy and honoring preferred, culturally relevant methods of healing. Finally, we look at being a therapist (and especially a BIPOC therapist) during this time – the ways we can support each other and the opportunities we have to impact real change with our clients.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Dr. Travis Heath, PhD

Travis Heath is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has worked in Los Angeles, California and is currently a licensed psychologist practicing in Denver, Colorado. The work he has been focused on includes shifting from a multicultural approach to counseling to one of cultural democracy that invites people to heal in mediums that are culturally near. Writing he has contributed to has focused on the use of rap music in narrative therapy, working with persons entangled in the criminal justice system in ways that maintain their dignity, narrative practice stories as pedagogy, a co-created questioning practice called reunion questions, and community healing strategies. He is currently co-authoring the first book on Contemporary Narrative Therapy with David Epston. His practice has been apprenticed by David Epston, substantially influenced by the work of Makungu Akinyela, and inspired by collaborators such as marcela polanco, Tom Carlson, Sasha Pilkington, and Kay Ingamells. He has been fortunate enough to run workshops and speak about his work in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, and United States.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Travis’s personal history and its relevance to the current conversation
  • Therapy as a political act
  • How neutrality fits into the idea of politics-free therapy – “Neutrality is a political position”
  • Narrative therapy’s role in anti-racism
  • Interrogating systems at play in clients’ decision-making
  • Challenging assumptions and “absolute truths”
  • How therapists are impacted by the stories and perspectives of their clients
  • How to manage clients who have held positions that are threatening to you as an individual
  • The systems perspective on how people behave and how systems shape their beliefs
  • The place for antiracism work within therapy
  • “We don’t need more social justice theories; we’ve got many of those. We need more social justice practices”
  • A framework to carry social justice in therapy beyond the current news cycle
  • The problem with multicultural counseling
  • Decolonizing therapy – looking at how to restore culturally relevant methods of healing
  • The problem with CBT for non-Eurocentric clients
  • Preferred mediums of healing and cultural democracy
  • The mediocracy of typical therapy prescriptions
  • Elevating the knowledge of the other
  • Expertise in asking the right questions and elevating the expertise of the other
  • Co-creation of tools and strategies
  • The liberating effect of asking your client for their inherent knowledge
  • Where to use your role as expert
  • The benefit of mentorship and apprenticeship in learning to be a therapist
  • The lack of mentorship within the current educational system for therapists
  • How to do antiracist supervision and training for therapists
  • “In this field we do far too much telling and not enough showing”
  • The idea that we can apprentice the whole person of the therapist
  • “Theory doesn’t do therapy. Therapy does therapy.”
  • What is considered therapy and what it actually can be
  • Community work as the work of therapy
  • The exhaustion of being a BIPOC therapist right now
  • The importance of support and community for therapists

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Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Dr. Travis Heath on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrTravisHeath

Contacting Dr. Travis Heath PhD: heatht@msudenver.edu

marcela polanco: https://education.sdsu.edu/directory/csp/mft/mft-core/marcela-polanco

Makungu Akinyela: https://www.drmakungu.com/

Vikki Reynolds: https://vikkireynolds.ca/

Navid Zamani: http://www.navidzamani.com/

David Epston: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Epston

Relevant Episodes:

Is CBT Crap?

Ally is a Verb

The Person of the Therapist

Be a Better Therapist

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Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, the CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, 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 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 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

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano http://www.crystalmangano.com/

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