When I was in therapy as an adolescent and young adult, I could never understand why it wasn't really working. I found most therapists to be cold and disapproving, although this wasn't really the case. Feeling judged and even more isolated after going to therapy, I rarely stuck to it. Primarily focused upon required diagnosis, leading to the over-generalization of lived experiences, I felt unseen, alienated, and destined to be irreparably impaired. Having failed to consider my narrative identity, and the impact of stereotypes and over-generalizations, therapy often only reinforced my self-loathing and shame.
It was not until I began studying social psychology and engaged in self-help that I realized how, having internalized negative stereotypes and other victim blaming master narratives, much of my suffering came from internalizing oppression.
I am not saying traditional therapy is all bad. Today, many therapists practice trauma-informed, culturally sensitive, contextualized, attachment-based or compassion-based therapies, all of which view patient behaviors and emotional struggles as reflections of their lived experience. We are also getting better at conveying acceptance and understanding, focusing upon the psychotherapist-patient relationship, and acknowledging that much of our behavior stems from hard-wired neurobiological responses rather than poor choices or character.
But, like all social determinants of health, historical trauma and past experiences of rejection and blame can often make it difficult to establish a therapeutic alliance. Many therapists still say or do things they don't even realize may represent what is called a stereotype threat- a trigger that brings up our defenses. Those with trust issues, attachment issues, or experiencing the neurobiological effects of trauma remain therefore often untreated, viewing therapy as unsafe.
Due to my own experiences of internalized oppression, and the years it has taken me to know and embrace my authentic self, I have designed Self- Realization Circle to be a dynamic and diverse group, utilizing journaling, life story work, self-help workbooks, and psychoeducational presentations, in addition to group cognitive processing therapy techniques, to help people gain insight, self esteem, and self confidence, rooted in solidarity.