Counselling for Issues Around Race and Difference

Race. Racism. Discrimination. Judgement. Prejudice. Difference. Diversity. Equality. What is race, what is racism and why do they matter?

One dictionary defines race as ‘a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.’ Another describes race as ‘a population within a species that is distinct in some way.’  We generally refer to race in terms of colour or origin: for example, white, black, hispanic, African, Caribbean, Indian or Chinese. Many groups of people who share certain physical and cultural traits might be considered subpopulations within the human race.

Another way of looking at race is to feel there is only one race: the human race. There are arguments to support both viewpoints. We might consider all humans as one race, or we might celebrate difference and diversity. People who hold or express racist views may fear difference and diversity might suffer from a condition known as ‘racism.

How do we address racism in therapy

Talking about racism may be uncomfortable. Racism is a visceral thing felt on emotional, psychological and physical levels. To understand racism we need to understand each other. To stop racism, we need to acknowledge and challenge racism in society. One by one, we might evaluate our own belief systems and open ourselves to the possibility that ideas about race and culture are challengeable. Social influences play a role and education, too, plays a role in how our ideas about race are shaped.

Therapy helps by processing the harm caused by racism, the origins of racist beliefs and the effects that unequal societies have on every person. Being free of prejudice, fear, racism and judgement can be liberating. Anyone affected by racism may benefit from sessions with a therapist. Anyone with difficult or negative ideas about race and culture is welcome to explore these beliefs with a qualified therapist in a careful, non-judgemental setting.

Racism is not just one thing

There are different types of racism though all types of racism share the same core belief that one group of people is superior to another.

Cultural racism is a view that members of another race have a flawed culture. A group of people doing something culturally different from what is valued by the majority may therefore be deemed inferior. Hostile racism is when racist behaviour is overt with a mission of rejecting, subordinating or destroying a cultural identity or race. Passive racism is when a person becomes complicit in racist ideology through inaction. Genetic determinism is an ideology that some races are biologically inferior. Internalised racism is when a person embraces stereotypes and negative attitudes about their own ethnic group and turns these attitudes inwards towards himself or outwards towards his ethnic group.

A group will often have a tribal view that their shared customs, values, religious beliefs and cultural systems are superior to those of another group.

Do we all carry racist beliefs to some extent

It’s hard to escape racism. Whatever a person’s colour or ethnicity, it’s easy for most of us to believe that a person of another background is inferior or superior to oneself.

Stereotypes are embedded in society, in films, in television, in advertising and in folklore and we are all vulnerable to external ideas about race and culture. While racism is endemic in most societies, we feel racism most when we see the damage it can do to individuals, to entire populations and to society.

The more vulnerable a person is to race-based maltreatment, the more likely a person will be aware of their own difference. A white person in the UK is unlikely to consider what it means to be white, while a black person may be in constant awareness of what it means to be black.

What to expect in couples counselling

I’m often struck by the anxiety that I see on the faces of clients when they come to their first couples counselling appointment. They are invariably wondering what’s going to happen. Will they have to reveal things they don’t want to say in front of their partner? Will their…

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What to expect in counselling

When I trained as a psychotherapist, me and my fellow students were given the assignment of doing something we’d never done before. The course tutors wanted us to get in touch with how scary it can be to do something new, to feel the fear of the unknown. I chose to …

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Individual counselling

Our counselling services are conducted in a supportive, non-judgemental atmosphere and discussions in therapy are […]

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Couples counselling

Couples counselling, or relationship therapy, provides space for couples to discuss relationship problems in an […]

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Our therapists in London

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Counselling and psychotherapy services in London since 2006

Client reviews

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