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CAPTP Colloquium: Addressing Racial Enactments...

Date: Jan 16, 2020 11:45 am



Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program

William Alanson White Institute

20 West 74th Street, Room 1A


Thursday, January 16, 2020

11:45 am to 1:00 pm

Stephen Friedman, LCSW

Addressing Racial Enactments to further Therapeutic Discourse in Cross-Racial Dyads: A Case Study of a White Therapist and an African American Adolescent

This talk is based on a recently published article by the presenter in Smith College Studies in Social Work entitled: “Exploration of racial enactments in interracial therapeutic dyads to foster the strengthening of voice and identity in African American male adolescents.” This talk will seek to address important theoretical ideas some of which emerged out of clinical practice in cross-racial therapy with adolescents. A case study taken from the presenter's clinical experience will inform some of the important issues to be interrogated: How does a White therapist engage in therapeutic discourse around issues of race and racism across a racial divide with an African American adolescent?  How can awareness of implicit bias and stereotypical thinking triggered in a cross-racial therapeutic dyad lead to an opening up of the therapeutic space? Adolescents of color are rarely if ever referred for therapy services to address their lived experience of racism and discrimination. An important premise will be explored that recommends validation of this lived experience of marginalization as a necessary precondition for meaningful therapeutic dialogue. It is also important for the White clinician to bear witness to accumulated traumatic stress in the adolescent of color and acknowledge their own experience of unearned white privilege. A deepening of the therapeutic dialogue can follow leading to the emergence of a stronger narrative voice and sense of agency in youth of color.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Clinicians will learn strategies to begin to identify and address unconscious bias as a method for opening the therapeutic space for inquiry and dialogue in cross-racial therapies.

  2. Clinicians will acquire a deepening understanding of the importance of validating the lived experience of patients with marginalized identities due to the social construct of race, helping to identify often hidden obstacles to enhanced therapeutic dialogue.

  3. The presenter will clarify the importance of the White therapist accepting complicity with systemic racism, acknowledging white privilege, and resisting the temptation to distance from the role of the oppressor.

Stephen Friedman, LCSW, has been a clinical social worker for over 30 years in New York City where he also grew up. He worked in outpatient psychiatry in hospital and agency settings, with severe and persistently mental ill adults, for the first 10 years of his career. For the past 20 years, he worked as a school worker in a specialized school for learning disabled children. He is also an adjunct professor at Smith College School for Social Work and Columbia School of Social Work, and supervises in the CUNY Clinical Psychology program.  Currently, he is a doctoral student at Smith College School for Social work in the dissertation phase of his program, and a second year Candidate in psychoanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute. He is currently in full-time private practice on the Upper West Side.