Discrimination blindspots

It’s easy to inadvertently discriminate without realising it. Start by answering the following, “do I, my practice or organisation provide an equitable service that is adaptable to all?” especially minority groups such as based on age, sexual and gender diversity, culture, neurodiversity, disability and socioeconomic status and secondly, “are those groups represented in both my clients and organisation?” and then “Do clients from these groups achieve comparative outcomes measures? and if not “what attempts have been made to rebalance that disparity?”.

I can say for myself I have a lot of work to do, and that’s why I chose to adopt an anti-discriminatory ethos which challenges individuals, leaders and organisations to become proactive change agents, in providing a fair service for all. Individual balancing acts may include competence training, outreach to minority groups, active signposting, accessible communication, and creating an environment that mirrors and welcomes diversity. At a systemic level it could be to influence organisations to address inequalities, highlighting collective concerns, or calling for changes to training standards. For people with direct power to make systemic change, they can think about accountability, policy, funding, and priorities in rebalancing the system.

Personally, I have been working with a small group of therapists, both diverse and white heritage, to undertake action to fill a gap in providing core competence curricula and training for race and culture, which has now extended to antidiscrimination practice and diversity training, to both mental health professionals and the helping profession. As well as creating an open and safe learning environment, the key challenge was developing an impactful course that could fit into an already pressed training schedule without compromising standards. What we have demonstrated is that race awareness catalyses through individuals working on their own racio-cultural identity, engaging in group work, reflecting on diverse relationships, and developing racio-cultural specific therapeutic skills.

I was also very aware of the need for this training to incorporate an anti-discriminatory ethos too. For example, being aware of individual learning needs, sensitivity to power moment by moment, the meaning of intersectional identities, inclusion/exclusion dynamics, as well as making the training accessible and affordable. I find this rewarding work and there is always more reflective anti-discriminatory work to be done to ensure equity in training, therapeutic practice as well as in life. Now that we’re coming up to the end of the first year of this training, it’s amazing to see so much positive support and both white and diverse heritage attendance, including trainee therapists, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Never to miss out on an opportunity to influence change, I would recommend anti-discriminatory practice be embedded into therapy trainings, in practice, and within organisations. Anti-discrimination practice is both best practice and ethical practice. It has no end point but pushes us all towards a fairer society.

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