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


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

Facing daily sociocultural pressures can be incredibly painful. Regardless of what brought them to therapy, many of my patients have a social identity that has impacted their mental health in some way. My goal is to help you harness resources, both in your environment and within yourself, that can help you navigate persistent and oppressive social forces. No matter how you identify, my door is always open.

— Saira Malhotra, Therapist in Denver, CO

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

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

An understanding of cultural and systemic oppression is centered in my practice as an insideous and ongoing trauma that many of us experience in one way or another. I use the framework from Nieto's Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment to discuss this with clients and keep an eye on my own places of privilege and targetship and how they may intersect in our work together. I aim for my practice to be an Intersectional, Multi-Culturally Affirming, Trauma-Informed therapy space.

— Jessica Joy, Mental Health Counselor in New Paltz, NY

Over a period of 19 years I worked closely with parents in the child welfare system (or therapeutically) who were separated from their children. I have also provided therapy to adults who endured being oppressed based on being a female or based on their cultural beliefs. My goal is to support you therapeutically, regain your confidence and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

— Bethanie Milford, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY

As a "double minority" navigating the complexities of racial dynamics in America, I have firsthand insight into how minority stress can impact one's mental health.

— Jin S. Kim, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Oppression is trauma. And therapy is inherently political. When we therapists are unaware of our various powers and privileges, we risk further oppressing and traumatizing those whom we seek to support. I strive to be better than that. I want to be an ally, in whatever way YOU define it. Let’s deconstruct and dismantle these system together.

— Angela Doss, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Many who choose to work with me have experienced micro-aggressions at work. Many feel isolated from by the dominant culture in San Francisco. I'm a woman of color. I'm a culturally-attuned therapist with a multicultural background. I have experience with many -isms. I've received micro-aggressions in my workplace, in my community. Sadly, outside of my awareness, I've also microaggressed others. I have deep experience with both sides of this coin, and I can help you navigate across differences.

— Annu Sood, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

Facing daily sociocultural pressures can be incredibly painful. Regardless of what brought them to therapy, many of my patients have a social identity that has impacted their mental health in some way. My goal is to help you harness resources, both in your environment and within yourself, that can help you navigate persistent and oppressive social forces. No matter how you identify, my door is always open.

— Saira Malhotra, Therapist in Denver, CO

I bring my analysis and work from organizing to fight systemic oppression and the anti-violence field to bear on my psychodynamic work. I have developed an anti-oppression approach to my treatment that helps me and my clients understand how Complex PTSD and intergenerational trauma and ongoing experiences of oppression are connected.

— Charles Thompson-Shealy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Kingston, NY

As a black cis woman I am aware of my own privileges as well as the many ways I am part of marginalized groups. I view cultural and system oppression as a traumatic experience that can impact all parts of one's life. Validating the impact of oppression in one's life is necessary to help individuals thrive. I do diversity and inclusion consultation as well as anti-racism advocacy and training. I value working with intersectionality of identities.

— Nathalie Edmond, Clinical Psychologist in Ewing, NJ

The field of Counseling Psychology grew out of our understanding that mental health concerns were not always inherent pathology but rather a response to situational stressors. As a queer-identified, Arab American trained under a counseling model, I appreciate the complex intersections of privilege and oppression and the ways in which minority stress impacts individuals. I approach my work using this conceptual lens and integrate research on oppression into my interventions.

— Matthew Malouf, Psychologist in Baltimore, MD

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, Licensed Professional Counselor in PORTLAND, OR

As a woman of color, I am particularly honored to work with other POC, LGBTQ, religious minorities, and other marginalized communities. I specialize in working with oppression of all forms (race-, gender-, sexual orientation-, religion-based), internalized oppression, and its effects (anxiety, depression, body image/eating concerns, relationship issues, etc.). I am committed to see you fully for who you are and to bear witness to your narrative.

— Lina Pranata, Psychologist in Seattle, WA

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, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA

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

As a multiethnic therapist who grew up in a multilingual home, I have both personal and professional experience in supporting clients who experience cultural and systemic oppression. Being witness to cultural and systemic oppression from an early age, has helped shape the work that I do as a counselor and is the reason why I sought specific trainings and internships when becoming licensed.

— Daniela Paolone, Marriage & Family Therapist in Westlake Village, 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