Cultural and Systemic Oppression

The term cultural and systemic oppression refers to the mistreatment of people of a specific group that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions. It can be formal or implicit, and appears in many forms, including racism and sexism. Oppression of any kind, especially over an extended period of time, can deeply affect your mental health and your sense of self. Working with a therapist who is well-versed in these constructs can help you better recognize when they are influencing your life, and how to better manage that influence. Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s cultural and systemic oppression specialists today.

Meet the specialists

Are you seeking to heal the wounds of tension, anxiety, depression or chronic challenges, that relate to experiences of injustice or oppression in your life? As a therapist, I support you in finding your path to empowerment through deeper knowledge of yourself, and also (re)establishing those resources or capacities to heal from trauma, find your voice and self-agency, and navigate the triggers of the past and present. I bring support to you through extensive study of somatic psychotherapy approaches to shift patterns imprints of embodied oppression in mind and body, including sensorimotor psychotherapy and touch therapies for trauma healing. My graduate studies focused on cross cultural and social justice informed somatic healing. I also have a focus on supporting you to transform patterns of scapegoating and marginalization, both in family roles and societal roles, with extensive study of group dynamics.

— Eveline Wu, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA

Society dishes us a can of whoop-a$$ on the daily. Unless you're part of that top 1%, cultural and systemic oppression contributes to significant stress. Let's work to eradicate the jacked up messages society has used, and continues to use, to keep us down.

— Dr Stacie Freudenberg, Therapist in Denver, CO

Intersecting systems of oppression broadly and uniquely impact us all. They are at the root of much of our suffering and disconnection from each other. While systemic change is beyond the scope of therapy, therapy can help to heal from the trauma of oppression, to reduce internalized oppression, to shift your participation in systems of oppression, and to support you in any work you are doing to fight oppression.

— Colette Gordon, Counselor in Portland, OR

Using preexisting ideas about what it means to be, we narrate our stories in order to make meaning out of our experiences and live within a culture. All too often, these preexisting concepts do not fully capture who we are and who we want to become. When these norms fail to represent our experience, it is common to struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and sadness. These experiences can trick us into thinking we are bad individuals, however, it is essential to challenge and question the oppressive systems of which we are a part. I want to support you in identifying ways in which patriarchy and capitalism impact your ability to connect with yourself and the people around you. Together we can explore how to resist and recharge.

— Madeline Fox, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR

After completing a master's of fine arts degree in creative writing at Louisiana State University, I became aware of a need to spread love to my global community. As an AmeriCorps service member I spent two years mentoring youth in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I learned and practiced the bedrock of my training as a counselor: resiliency-driven, participant-centered mentoring; restorative justice conflict management; and asset-based community development. In Louisiana, I also served the YWCA's "Dialogue on Race" as a facilitator under the guidance of Maxine Crump, supporting communities to break down barriers and dialogue about racism. This background propelled my work as a writing coach and has lead me to support myriad social justice groups and storytellers to change lives. I draw on my broad connections to activists across issue areas to provide anti-oppression competency for my clients.

— Anna Hirsch, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Oaklnd, CA

Cultural and systemic oppression can sometimes be very obvious to people in cross cultural, inter-religious and inter-racial relationships. However, there can sometimes be less obvious effects on couples from different class or educational backgrounds. Many LGBTQI couples may experience stress on their relationship from prejudicial forces in society or family. Gender differences (especially since the consciousness raising of the #MeToo movement) may add stress in heterosexual relationships.

— Esther Lerman, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA

This specific focus allows us to frame your life and experience by including the greater forces of oppression at work in the world, such as patriarchy, racism, sexism, or homophobia. In today's political climate especially, it is important to me to offer a safe(r) space in which to consider the impact of cultural trauma and oppression.

— Pilar Dellano, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

As a woman and person of color living in the NW, I've personally experienced discrimination and marginalization related to my ethnicity. I am continuously educating myself on the history of oppressed communities in the NW, and how our socio-political culture reinforces institutional and systemic oppression to weaponize poc into continually feeling traumatized so as to feel too weak to fight back.

— Tamara Randall, Counselor in Vancouver, WA

I look at power and privilege in the therapeutic context. I look at my white privilege and work hard to unpack my racism and fight against injustice in and out of the therapy context.

— Abigail Weissman, Psychologist in San Diego, CA

All staff are people of color and participate in trainings aimed at enhancing our ability to practice from an anti-oppressive lens.

— NYC AFFIRMATIVE PSYCHOTHERAPY, Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY

Psychological theories and practices have historically perpetuated the cultural and systemic oppression of marginalized identities. Using the best of psychoanalytic and somatic modalities, I offer a safe space to challenge these inherited stories to support your growing into an identity that is truly authentic to who you are.

— Camillia Thompson, Counselor in PORTLAND, OR

The need for social justice comes from the heavy emotional and physical toll that cultural and systemic oppression takes on us. Many of us carry the symptoms of oppression. It is in our bodies and spirits and shows up in work and in our relationships. I work with clients by teaching somatic techniques that help create inner support as well as strategize for ways to develop nourishing practices and cultivate interpersonal and community supports.

— Jamila Dawson, Sex Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

As a Women's Studies major at the University of Minnesota in the early 90's, my knowledge of and interest in oppression of all sorts grew enormously. It was truly one of the most valuable aspects of my education. That interest has only increased since the 2016 election. From that time on, our political and social climate has felt surreal. Unfortunately, it seems the progress we've made since the 1960's has been crumbling before our eyes. Ultimately I'm an optimist though, and I still have hope.

— Molly Nicholson, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Minneapolis, MN

My academic work has focused on studying racial microaggressions and how people of color cope with them. Like any form of stress, microagressions put us in a state of "fight or flight," and when we get overwhelmed, we freeze. Being exposed to them repeatedly makes it hard to think, do your job, or even enjoy your relationships. Eventually, you find yourself either getting more irritable and confrontational, or more withdrawn and internalize your feelings. Without having some coping skills, you start to burn out. As somebody who not only studies this, but lives it, I know how frustrating and overwhelming it is to cope with microaggressions day to day. Using culturally-adapted, evidence-based tools for managing distress, I'll help you use your discernment to do what is needed in the moment--whether that's confronting someone skillfully, or practicing self-care to prevent burning out. Because while we're all in this struggle, we also deserve to pull back, and take care of ourselves.

— Daniel Gaztambide, Psychologist in New York, NY

I have honed my specialty in working with marginalized folks through years of clinical trainings and experience, leading cultural dialogue groups, teaching and leading workshops on social justice topics, and participating in white privilege self-exploration groups

— Lindsey Brooks, Psychologist in San Francisco, CA

Let's be conscious of how “mental health” is constructed in society and how expectations around wellness impact us as we hold subordinated and privileged identities. Systemic oppression hurts the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health services. Minority stress processes, internalized oppression, stereotype threat, implicit bias, rejection, concealing, and hatred and affect our coping and mental health. Understanding this can help us take back power in our lives and fight for change.

— Marissa Lee, Counselor in Los Angeles, CA

It is so important for counseling to honor your cultural experience and values, in addition to being evidence-based. Together, we'll make a plan for healing that is unique to you, based on your cultural values and/or cultural heritage.

— Liz Adcock, Counselor in Atlanta, GA

Being a marginalized woman in a world designed for straight, cisgender white men isn't just frustrating. It's actively harmful to our health & well-being. As a therapist, I believe that we can't help our clients manage concerns like depression, anxiety, stress or burnout without attending to the role of systemic oppression and the trauma it creates. I work with women of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ womxn, and other marginalized folks to provide a space for healing, recovery and growth.

— Maya Borgueta, Psychologist in San Francisco, CA

In my undergraduate studies, I specialized in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. During this time, I studied theories of non-violent action, the intricate works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and completed two tours of the American South, to immerse myself in the study of the Civil Rights Movement. During that time, I also began my own anti-racism work to heal the racism that I have internalized, as a white person in the U.S. After coming out, at age 21, I began to focus my studies on the harm of homophobia, perpetrated by religion. I completed both an undergraduate and graduate thesis on LGBTQ issues in the Mennonite Church. I believe it is important to recognize that my clients exist within a culture and that this absolutely influences their psychology. Systems of oppression hurt all of us and I am passionate about working with clients who are wanting to free themselves (and others) from oppression.

— Addie Liechty, Clinical Social Worker in Oakland, CA

We live in an indoctrinated society. Stigma runs rampant and most of us have a narrative and language we use that perpetuate. and complies with our oppression and indoctrination. Is it a surprise we are suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and the likes? If we can begin to unpack how society has victimized us we can begin to alter our stories around shame and self-blame towards a more holistic view of inner and societal healing.

— MOUSHUMI GHOSE, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in TOLUCA LAKE, CA