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Intersectionality and Power: An Experiential Exploration Inside and Outside the Therapy Room

Power and privilege can be slippery things to get a firm hold of, caught up as they are in the structural, historic and ongoing impact of systemic and individual discrimination. The inescapable landscape of power that we are all born into – largely influenced by the internalised beliefs, lived experiences and material realities of our families and wider community – often set the tone for our expected place in the world.

Discussions about power in and outside of the therapy room can easily lead to our systems becoming flooded with shadow feelings such as anger, defensiveness, guilt, shame and fear and we can lose the ability to remain open and connected to others. In this session I will explore this tension through experiential exercises and a focus on some key questions:

  • How as therapists, counsellors and trainees can we work with our own perceived and actual privilege given the human tendency to hold on tightly to whatever we have?
  • How can these power dynamics play out within our therapeutic relationships with clients, especially when there are inevitable power and experiential differences related to class, race, disability, faith gender and sexual identity between us?
  • As therapists and clients what can we do, and have we done, to ensure that these differences can be named and effectively worked with in therapy, without enacting long-held, limiting stories about power or getting caught up in challenging feelings?

Neil Young is an integrative arts psychotherapist with a central London private practice and he also works with clients at ELOP LGBT project. Neil has 25 years’ experience as a trainer and queer community advocate, including founding Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre and working as an LGBT advisor for the first two Mayors of London. In 2017 his article ‘Young People: Not Straight, Not Narrow’ was published by the BACP University & College Journal.