Shades of Life

SHADES of Life as Systemic Practice 5/5: Calling all Therapists!

A series of 5 blog post written for PESI,UK a CPD and training network for counsellors, therapist and other mental health professionals.

I have often been told that I am “trying to change the world”, to which I usually respond that “I am trying to make a difference!” In this last blog post of the series, I would like to call on all therapists to make a difference by taking even just one small action now. The SHADES of Life circle is about taking small steps that can be actioned on a personal or professional level.

Taking action doesn’t have to be about changing the world. After the killing of George Floyd in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement came to more public attention. Many colleagues reported that white peers and friends were contacting them to request how they could help. They too wanted to know “how can I make a difference?”

There were a variety of responses from black and brown therapists. Some commented, publicly and privately, that now was the time for white people to do their own work together, whilst others were happy to start engaging in dialogue. Many discussed the impact of living and working while Black, and the feeling of exhaustion and sometimes loss of hope that comes when working with colour dynamics in the real world.

I wondered whether I could meet the needs of Black Transgenerational Lives and still have energy left for the inclusive bridging SHADES work.

I have become interested in how we move from talking about colour to action on colour in therapeutic spaces. As therapists, we cannot afford to be colour-blind. Structural inequalities in society are well documented and follow us into our work. And yet, at the same time, none of us are immune to the difficulties in exploring colour dynamics with clients. This is a deeply complex and multi-layered area of work. It challenges people to really think about what they are prepared to do to make a change to the status quo.

I think we have to start with ourselves. As therapists, we ask that of our clients all the time. A discussion about colour dynamics, structural oppression or other diversity issues can feel like a personal attack. But it is important not to shut down and shut off by becoming angry or defensive, nor is silence the answer. One of the challenges for white therapists is to find a strong voice and be prepared to show vulnerability, own fears and share concerns. As a systemic practitioner, I know that one small change will influence all other parts of the system. So perhaps the place to start is with something small and simple, a look at ‘what is’. Doing a constellation to explore one situation, one dilemma, one confusion is a ‘what is!’ moment.

In February 2021, there was a conference entitled, ‘Exploring the barriers to inclusion within Counselling and Psychotherapy Education and Training’. Organised by The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion, it was well attended. The organising group included representatives from various counselling bodies, including BACP, UKCP, BPC, MCAPT (Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network) and PCSR. And there was recognition from both organisers and participants that more needed to be done to embed colour and culture issues within the core curriculum of training programmes.

But for this to happen, it needs action at a micro and macro level. Yes, the organisational bodies have their part to play and so do we, as therapists and counsellors. For a number of years, I have retreated into primarily Black spaces – I needed to take some time out, to rest and recuperate. But the events of the past year with George Floyd and the pandemic galvanised me into action and I decided to step out and try again.

Working with colour dynamics is a marathon and not a sprint. It doesn’t require everyone to do something all of the time, but if everyone could do something some of the time, we would start to affect real change.

Sonya Welch-Moring facilitated a series of SHADES of Life circles with a focus on colour dynamics in personal and professional contexts.  In association with Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, these workshops ran from 2020-21 online. 


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