Counseling Associates for Well-being’s Isom White, LCSW wrote a very thoughtful piece published in the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work (GSCSW) summer publication for his colleagues. It is a wonderful invitation for all to contemplate. In it he addresses his white colleagues in particular to assist them as they endeavor to work to help those impacted by the generational tragedy and trauma of racial injustice. I encourage you all to read and consider. Isom in GSCSW 7-20
From : Georgia Society For Clinical Social Work Volume 43. Issue 25
By Isom E. White, LCSW
Mindful Connections with African American Clients
FROM THE EDITOR: “Passionate, powerful, and purposeful. I implore you to read this.”
The question is this: How do you (a non-African American) mindfully engage
with your Black/African American clients on matters of racial injustice
and police brutality?
Given the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the abysmal history of Black/African Americans dying
by the hands of White/European American police officers in the United States, I must use my privilege and platform to help my fellow thera navigate these cyclically tragic and traumatic events—traumatic events that get passed down from generation to generation and become an entire community’s truth. It is a shared truth that must be acknowledged for meaningful healing to take place.
Before I can even begin to help White/European American therapists show up for clients of color in the therapy room, I have to ask some
critical questions. Please, reflect on whether or not you are making your services available to the Black community and other communities
of color. How many Black/African American (or other persons of color) clients are currently on your caseload? Is there one? Five? One percent? Or five percent? Do you accept insurance or private pay only? Do you offer a sliding-fee scale? Do you accept Medicaid? If not, are
you aware that these could be barriers to receiving your services for communities of color? Are you willing to change your practice to be
more accessible to communities of color? Are you willing to accept less money? Are you willing to sacrifice the extra time that it takes to
become paneled by insurance companies?
Can you hold in your awareness and accept that you may have unconsciously constructed these barriers to distance yourself from serving
Blacks and other minority communities? We haven’t even entered the therapy room and there is so much work to be done.
Are you willing to educate yourself on the history of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States and its effects on the Black
community? Furthermore, are you willing to accept this as truth for your Black/African American clients? Are you willing to accept the abhorrent history of White supremacy in America as a part of your truth and understanding? Can you become aware of the resistance or discomfort in doing this extra “work”? Let’s be honest, you already have a full caseload, a family, a partner, and your own issues/trauma in which
to deal. Can you locate the sensation of discomfort in your body? Are you willing to accept that discomfort, breathe into it, and create the
space needed within yourself to provide more compassion towards your Black/African American clients?
A helpful place to start understanding and educating oneself on the effects of White supremacy and systemic racism on the Black/African
American community can be found in literature. I strongly recommend that you read, The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of
Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
Let me pause and refocus the direction into the therapy room.
As a White/European American clinician sitting across from your Black/African American client you are witness to the recent murders of
their community members, the subsequent televised and demonized grief response, and your current position of power as a healthcare
provider. What do you notice is happening within you as you sit across from them? Are you nervous about them bringing up their trauma
from recent events? Are you uncomfortable processing their own experiences of overt and covert racism? Are you becoming present to
moments when you have acted on your own prejudices? Do you notice feelings of guilt or shame for doing so? Are you insecure about
your ability to sit with their trauma? Are you outraged, disturbed, and traumatized by your witnessing of a VERY public execution? Are you
confused? Do you have questions? Are you able to notice what’s happening in your body as these thoughts cross your mind? Do you notice the urge to approach or avoid the conversation? And can you breathe acceptance into those urges, emotions, and thoughts?
In doing so, even if you are partially successful, you may be able to practice the compassionate stillness it takes to be present to the trauma experienced by the Black community.
Holding all those reflections in a nice and neat little compartment as all therapists are so skillfully trained to do, you can begin the session. And as your client sits across from you, here are a few tips on how to begin.
1. Meet the client where they are. “Where would you like to begin today?” This invites your client of color to broach the topic of
current events or not. Don’t assume that just because it’s happening and they’re Black that they wish to talk about it in
2. If the client wishes to process their feelings about their current or past traumatic experiences with racism, ACKNOWLEDGE
your race, privilege as a person of non-color, and your inability to fully understand the Black experience. “I have no idea
what it’s like to be a person of color.”
3. Be mindful of your inner experience when your client is processing. Do you notice urges to avoid their trauma? Do you notice your own insecurities? Do you notice the urge to assuage your own guilt? Try to avoid asking, “How can I help?” Instead, try tip #4.
4. Be mindful and curious of their experience in the therapy. “What is it like to process these feelings with a White /European
American person?” Can you notice shifts in their body language? Breathing? Can you notice if and when transference and
countertransference has entered the therapy room?
Lastly, and most importantly. The best piece of advice I can offer to White/European American clinicians showing up for your Black/
African American clients is to do the RESEARCH on America’s history of systemic racism, so that you can WORK to acknowledge
your PRIVILEGE without prejudice, which will then open space for you to remain present and truly LISTEN and empathize with the experience of being Black in America.
Isom E. White, LCSW, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Kennesaw State University in 2011, and with a Master of Social Work
from the University of Georgia in 2015. He enjoys working with a variety of populations: late-adolescents, young adults and adults, LGBTQ+, and executive
professionals who are dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, grief & loss, trauma, and life-transitional issues. Isom also embraces working with men’s
issues, high achievers/perfectionists, and healthcare providers. As an African American therapist, he holds a strong commitment to enhancing the quality
of life and empowering people of African ancestry through advocacy, human services delivery, and research. Isom incorporates mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral interventions including Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Dialectical Behavioral
Therapy (DBT) to enhance the therapeutic process by cultivating non-judgmental awareness, compassion, and purpose. You can find Isom E. White at
Counseling Associates for Well-Being at 3050 Atlanta Rd, Smyrna, GA 30080. You can reach him at 706-389-1708.
Talking about our prejudices is a very sensitive topic. Whether we realize on a fully conscious level that we have prejudices, or we just have fleeting thoughts and feelings, we all have prejudices. Let’s examine the word prejudice. It literally means to pre-judge someone. We do this a number of ways; based on our own past experiences, the experiences of people we know, and accounts in the media, from news stories to reality TV to blockbuster movies. It is a sort of mental shortcut that we use all the time and in many ways can be helpful. If you travel across the country and you are looking for a restaurant to eat at you can decide where might be good, and not so good, based on your previous experience with restaurants of the same name. You might have heard a friend rave about this wonderful restaurant, and they said “if you ever make it out to Seattle you just HAVE to try it!” Here you’ve prejudged based on information from your own past experience in the first instance and information you got from someone else in the latter example. When it comes to picking a restaurant, having a prejudice is an innocent enough thing. When it comes to interacting with a person you’ve never meet prejudices can have an impact on how you relate to the person, either positively or negatively. I say all that say to say, yes we all have prejudices, and when it comes to prejudices about groups of people we can feel ashamed of those thoughts and feelings. Being able to admit those thoughts and feelings as the brave caller did in this video is the first step in making a deeper examination of our prejudices.
What does this have to do with therapy? Therapy is a safe place where we can be vulnerable. It is a place for examination and exploring our “true” thoughts and feelings. Yes, even the ugly ones like our prejudices. I believe that when you have an honest, forthright conversation about a prejudice and examine it in the context of therapy, where you feel safe to expose the fears behind the prejudice, you find that the basis of most prejudice is built on a shaky foundation. Many of our prejudices come from what we are taught growing up by people who we love and respect. Perhaps in some ways admitting that a prejudice is unfounded or wrong feels like we are disrespecting those loved ones. I know because my own personal journey includes growing up with prejudices. However, in learning that my relatives were just people, prone to all the mistakes and follies that entails, I came to see that not everything that they taught me is necessarily “true”. Having the courage to admit that we are prejudiced is certainly not easy, and talking about prejudice is complicated and can be unpleasant. Even so, the end result can be to free yourself from the fears and anxieties that come with prejudice. Your therapist is someone who will listen to these thoughts and feelings without judging you and can help you work through them. Doing so hopefully you can adopt a healthier way of relating to others. Today’s society is continually a more connected one so being able to peel back the layers of prejudice and look at people as individuals can only benefit us all.
Do you struggle with thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable? Contact me today at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail email@example.com and setup an appointment to work through some of these issues.
Active listening sounds like a pretty simple and easy thing to do yet when I work with couples it’s one of the skills that we spend a lot of time on. I often have each partner roleplay what I call the two roles in any productive conversation. One partner is the Speaker and the other is the Listener. Your role as the Listener, and this is the most crucial role I believe, is to make sure that you have really “heard” what your partner is saying. I don’t just mean that you can parrot their actual words back at them. Anyone can do that if they are half-listening. The role of the Listener is about making sure that what the Speaker intended is what the Listener understood them to be saying. As the Listener you have to give the Speaker your undivided attention, that means no only turning off the TV and putting away the cellphone, it also means blocking out your own mental distractions. You cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time.
Active listening doesn’t just help with intimate relationships. You will find that if you practice the skills in this blog it will help you get along better with co-workers and friends and maybe, if you’re lucky, your in-laws.
Check out this post from the Gottman blog about active listening and read their tips for improving your communication, which will likely improve your relationship.
Their tips include:
Focus on being interested, not interesting. – Don’t sit the entire time the other person is speaking in anticipation of telling your own story. Absorb what they are saying and know that you will get a chance to express yourself as well.
Ask questions – Don’t just leave it up to the Speaker. Instead actively engage them by asking questions. Ask about their thoughts and feelings so that you can clarify what they are trying to get across to you. If you want to build your relationship, ask about their desires and future plans.
Respond with an occasional brief nod or sound / From time to time, paraphrase what the speaker says – This lets the Speaker know that you actively engaged in the conversation and helps them feel they are being “heard”. It also helps the Listener stay with the conversation when the Speaker has a lot that they need to convey.
Let go of your own agenda – Again, you cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time. You will have a chance to express your own thoughts and feelings and when you do you will appreciate the same level of attention that you are showing to the Speaker.
Do you need help with active listening skills? I’m glad to work with couples as well as individuals in developing this essential skill for improving your relationship with almost everyone from a romantic partner to a business partner. Please contact me today and let’s set up an appointment to get started building this essential skill. I can be reached at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you!
In honor of National Career Development month, I’m offering a special on my career packages. Get 20% off a package from November 24, 2014-December 1, 2014. These packages make great gifts for high school students, recent or soon-to-be college graduates, or for professionals looking for career advancement or career change. To take advantage of this special, contact me at email@example.com or 706-425-8900.
Career Assessment Package$450 $360
This package is designed to help you gain awareness of how your personality, skills, values, and interests play a role in choosing a career, and to explore these aspects of you for use in career planning. This package includes 4 sessions and the completion of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory.
Interview Coaching Package$350$280
Need help getting ready for your next big interview? Interview coaching will help you feel confident about your ability to communicate effectively during an interview. During three sessions, you will learn how to make a lasting impression with your interviewer. We will discuss appropriate attire, the importance of researching the company/institution, responding to interview questions, asking appropriate questions, and how to follow-up. You will receive honest feedback on how to improve your chances of getting the job you want or on getting into the college of your choice. This package also includes a critique of resume and cover letter.
Package for Recent Graduates$550 $440
(For high school, college, and graduate/professional school recent graduates)
Still not sure what you want to do now that you have graduated? Meet with me to explore your future plans. Package includes initial intake, assessment of your interests, skills, personality, and values, identifying your educational and career options, and developing an action plan for achieving your career goal. This package includes 5 sessions, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, the Strong Interest Inventory assessment, a skills and values assessment.
Counseling Associates for Well-Being is excited to be hosting a professional training CEU workshop at our office on January 24th, 2014 in our Athens office.
The Family Divorce/ Self Care Series from Transitions Resource.
Check here for more information:
TransitionsResource.org & Carey Wellness
Present the Athens Family Divorce and Self-Care Workshop Series
Friday, January 24, 2014
7 CEU Core Credit Hours Approved LPCA GA and NASW GA Chapter, GAMFT related
Registration Fee: $125 per person-Registration limited to 12 Attendees first come/first serve
Location: Counseling Associates for Well-Being, 1 Huntington Rd, Suite 703, Athens GA 30606
Hosts: Claire Nichols Zimmerman, LCSW, CIRT and Suzanne McLean, LCSW, CIRT
Training Schedule and Titles:
10:00-11:00 a.m.-Divorce Prep Tools and Resources to Minimize Costly Pitfalls (1 CEU)
11:00-12 noon lunch (lunch will be provided by our generous hosts: Claire Zimmerman/Suzanne McLean
12 noon-2:00 p.m.-Recognizing Abusive Tactics in Divorcing Couples/How to Minimize (2 CEU’s)
2:15-3:15 p.m.-Intro to Divorce Support Group Program (1 CEU)
3:30-6:30 p.m.-Self Care-Intro to Meditation + 2 Thirty minute Guided Sessions (2 CEU’s)
Registration pre-payment required (limited to 12 attendees) email KelleyLinn11@gmail.com to register.
Space is limited. Offering 7 CEU core credits for LPC’s and LCSW’s. Please join us!!