I created this video one afternoon to get down some of my thoughts about a group I've been considering forming for therapists to address racism (our own, and structurally) and whiteness (our own, and structurally). I think it is necessary that therapists explore what it really means to be practicing a craft that is a historically white/European modality - specifically, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. We studied in white space, we trained in white space, our exams were epitomes of white spaces- and now, as licensed therapists, there are subtle and obvious ways we practice our indoctrination, within a greater system of whiteness. Now, after having the chance to watch this video, I have become aware of the racism inherent in being white and speaking about racism, and the several "slips" I have made in this video that ultimately do the opposite of what I was attempting. This brings several questions and paradoxes to mind.Read More
Last week, I wrote an article for Medium called "How to be a therapist when the world is on fire." It is a small window into the way I work as a therapist, and the urgency of connectedness and redefining the "container" when the world is on fire. I mean this both as a metaphor and, particularly in the current state of our country and planet, quite literally.
We are all impacted, albeit in different ways, by what is happening in our communities. While therapists by necessity and design are often one layer removed from our patients' pain and experience, when we are both impacted by environmental tragedies that layer can become thin and transparent. There is important work to be done in this realm, if we can manage to continue to think clinically.
The world is on fire around us. None of us are spared completely, but some of us are in more pain and devastation than others. In some cases we just can’t do therapy right now because the immediate need to save your physical body is too great. In some cases, we can. When the walls are burning, this is when we are forced to redefine the container. - Molly Merson, MFT How to be a therapist when the world is on fireRead More
I am STOKED at how many people are writing books right now. There was a time in recent history when popular culture suggested that books were a thing of the past- but I am happy to notice that those predictions were incorrect, and that most of us will never stop reading. Instead of video and internet turning books obsolete, we actually are in an abundance of information with a variety of ways to participate with it. Again: STOKED!
Several folks have asked me what I’m reading these days, so I’m offering this “monthly” (that’s the goal, not necessarily the realistic outcome) reading recap with some reading and listening suggestions, including books, articles, videos, music, podcasts, and anything else. I will share things I've read, watched or listened to, whether I like them or not. I hope you discover some cool new stuff this way!
Read on for this month's recap!Read More
In case you haven't seen it, Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update last weekend with a sketch about how (white) women have spent the last several months since November 9 stuffing their faces with sheetcake in an "I told you so and now I am stuffing my feelings" kind of way. Though there is certainly room to interpret a poignant satire about the actual uselessness of "sheetcaking" in this sketch, it has been called out as perpetuating the privilege that many white women have to bury their heads and avoid discomfort rather than disrupt and dismantle the systems that keep their privilege intact and keep marginalized people oppressed (highlighted by the racist quip about black drag queens).
Whatever your take on the Fey sketch, it's an excellent metaphor for what so many of us do in the face of frustration and feeling helpless. It's a gendered stereotype that women will turn to food to stuff their feelings, but perhaps we can think a bit about the metaphor. Shoving cake in one's mouth when one's voice is not being heard is a way of silencing oneself. When one's work is not being recognized, and when one can work hard (campaigning for another political candidate, say) but still get steamrolled by someone who has more power to silence you– all of this re-enacts the violence of being silenced. Sometimes, people who feel powerless will do something punishing to themselves in order to feel like they have some control to take back their power. Unfortunately, it still leaves them punished, hurt, and sick.Read More
Charlottesville. Ferguson. Orlando. Neo-Nazis. Police brutality. Racism. Classism. Fear. Fear, hate, and Othering have a figurehead now, and people who were once hidden in their hate are now empowered to come forward. As a white person who gives a shit, it is painful knowing the reality that this kind of hate is on the shoulders of marginalized people day in and day out, when it truly should be the burden of white folks such as myself who are complicit in systems of stolen* status and privilege.
So if you’re one of the many white folks asking, “What can I do?”, I suggest you consider the words of my friend and colleague Lily Sloane: “You have to fight your inner Nazis before fighting the outer Nazis.”Read More
I don't know about you, but I am so tired of reading articles telling us that exercising, eating right, and sleeping enough is “as good as therapy.” As a therapist and an athlete, I think it's important, and potentially life-saving, to point out the fallacy of this broad statement.
Exercise is not therapy, but it can save your life.
Yes, what you do with your body matters. What you put into it matters. How much you sleep matters. These things are all important, and your needs around all of them are as individual as your fingerprints and will change depending on your life circumstance. But if you are disabled, neurodivergent, injured, grieving, or otherwise in emotional, physical, or psychic pain, it may be much more complicated than this. Advice like “eat right and exercise!” can actually amplify the problem if you’re beating yourself up for not being able to do something that everyone is telling you you should.Read More
Before I was a therapist, I spent over a decade working in the nonprofit sector. During this time, discovered a lot about the complexities of office politics. Now, coupled with my training as a psychotherapist, I have been able to help many of my patients navigate challenging and toxic workplace environments and find jobs that fit into the lives they desire.
The bottom line is that workplace dynamics are a microcosm of larger social dynamics and relationships. Unexamined expectations, personal beliefs, and old patterns can greatly impact how people show up at work, and what gets evoked, played out, and triggered. This all impacts how satisfying the work can be. Reverberations of larger structural injustices can often take place in the microcosm of the workplace. As with any group dynamic, some of these reverberations can be structural, such as a common nonprofit top-down “charity mindset” where programming may be based on funding rather than community need; and sometimes interpersonal, through microagressions and other enactments, bullying, denial, and even withholding of important logistical information. People can end up feeling confused and unsure of their roles within the system and in their day-to-day work. Learning how to address these issues both interpersonally and within the company at large, coupled with ongoing attention and company-wide intervention, is key to preventing and mending a toxic workplace environment.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible. So if these issues have been consistently happening without sufficient acknowledgment, and it's interfering with your job satisfaction and quality of life on a regular basis, it may be time to consider a change.Read More
One of the most important and meaningful things in my work is making contact with each of my clients. Without relational contact, whatever work my clients and I do together becomes irrelevant, indigestible, insoluble, and fragmented, which can be traumatizing, re-activating, and particularly harmful on micro and macro levels. That’s not to say rifts and miscommunications don’t happen, even when we are aiming for contact. In fact, that’s often the life blood of our work together, as these inevitable rifts let us know that something is feeling missed inside of you, and therefore there is something that needs to be found and contacted.
So how can you and I make contact, even when you may be feeling an intuitive skepticism and mistrust of what I represent, or even what the vulnerability of emotional contact represents?
I think it has a lot to do with how both of us understand, and can speak to, power, privilege, and hegemony. If I don’t recognize and own my power in the therapeutic dyad, then it is more likely to be misused or enacted without resolution.
In service of a truly transformative experience for my clients and society at large, I aim to stay alive and awake in my radicalism even while maintaining a kind of therapeutic neutrality that is important to my work.Read More
I was talking with a therapist friend today about our personal relationships with authority. We were sharing that, as therapists, we have a particular authority that we as non-therapists might also rail against. As therapists, we have authority in the room. Whether we like it or not, there is often a power differential in the clinical hour. But that authority does not have to be a toxic one, and in fact, can become the very container in which to support profound transformation and growth. Here’s how I think that can happen.Read More
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." –Audre Lorde
Showing up can mean a lot of things.
It can mean marching in the streets.
It can mean donating to local groups dedicated to lifting up the lives of people in marginalized communities.
It can mean sleeping in when you are tired.
It can mean supporting good journalism by subscribing to newspapers and magazines who prioritize unbiased reporting.
It can mean reading books, poems, and speeches by revolutionaries who have come before us, and those on the ground working to make sure our hard-won rights are not stripped from us and the ones we love.
It can mean hosting friends at your home who are willing to talk about the hard stuff.
It can mean less visible ways of showing up when staying home is necessary.
It can mean honoring the process of grieving, taking the risk of loving, daring to make space for your voice and the voices of those at risk.
There is room for all of us in this.