Supporting Marginalized Communities in the Current Political Climate

As we enter a new year, I know that many of us have concerns about the new political climate and maybe even fears about how our lives, both personally and professionally, may be impacted by the new presidential administration. In many of my personal circles, I find myself engaged in conversations about how to be supportive of marginalized communities in the new political climate. Often these discussions center around being particularly cognizant of how the political transition may impact our friends, colleagues, and peers, as well as finding ways to demonstrate allyship through the creation of safe and inclusive spaces. Counseling psychologists (CP) often are in unique positions to advocate for and support others, and so we offer a few suggestions for how counseling psychologists might draw on their expertise as we start 2017.

Visibly Demonstrate Support. Now more than ever, it is important to visibly display allyship to other people. This can be done with Pride Flags, Ally Cards, Black Lives Matter posters, SafeZone Signs, etc.

 Advocate. This is perhaps one of our greatest strengths as CPs, our ability to advocate. There are several different ways to go about doing this.

  • Politically: We can expect there to be a lot of pushback on laws enacted under the Obama administration. You can stay updated on current bills at the federal level with apps like Countable, or at the local and state level with VoteSpotter, both of which allow users to read about proposed legislation and to communicate quickly and easily with your representatives. Things to watch for: changes to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), The Affordable Care Act (ACA), marriage equality, criminal justice reform (including stop-and-frisk and ban-the-box), and immigration.
  • Financially: As we have heard lately, there are several major organizations that are in jeopardy of losing funding or needing more financial assistance to keep doing the work they are doing. Many reproductive justice organizations (like Planned Parenthood, The Center for Reproductive Rights), organizations supporting specific populations (The National Immigration Law Center, The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project), or organizations supporting civil rights in general (The American Civil Liberties Union, The Southern Poverty Law Center) are all in need of financial support now more than ever. Many of these organizations also need volunteers, too. If you are on amazon, you can also set your account to automatically donate (free to you) to the organization of your choice.

 Integrate Social Justice into Teaching. As many CPs have the opportunity to be in educator roles, we can and should use this platform to connect with students and stand as a pillar of support.

  • Incorporate social justice research. Staying up-to-date on topics relevant to your own classes and bringing in research to confront bias and prejudicial thinking is a great place to start. SPSSI offers many resources for teaching about social issues.
  • Include diversity statements. Syllabi can be a great place to outline diversity statements and to remind students of tolerance policies. Instructors can also find ways to use inclusive language in their syllabi.
  • Demonstrate allyship. Instructors can demonstrate their allyship to students by sharing preferred pronouns and asking students to do the same, using students’ preferred names, consistently confronting bias in the classroom, and using diverse and inclusive examples throughout classes.

 Connect with Clients. It is important that we all remember that our clients are likely feeling impacted by the new president and general political climate. As with multicultural therapy in general, it is crucial that we address this directly. You may consider ways to begin discussing the political climate with clients, especially ones who are particularly vulnerable to political changes. One way to approach this topic is from a feminist perspective, recognizing that the sociopolitical environment of our clients impacts their mental health and that our role is to acknowledge the situation, validate their feelings, and empower them.

 Have Courageous Conversations. As CPs, we all possess the skills and experience to initiate courageous conversations, whether this is on campus with faculty and/or students, with colleagues, or within our own communities. Everyday Democracy offers many resources for individuals hoping to facilitate these types of dialogues, and there is substantial research in the field to support the efficacy of intergroup dialogues and White affinity groups.

 As always, we recognize the importance of self-care during a difficult time for many. It is important to have respect for ourselves and to take care of our mind and body at this time. Though we can expect a lot of changes politically in the next several years, we should also expect counseling psychologists to become an even stronger voice for positive change, too.

Links provided in this article are for resource purposes only and do not imply endorsement by SCP


Keri Frantell, M.S.

3rd Year, Counseling Psychology

University of Tenneseee

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