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

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

My graduate school studies focused heavily on issues related to the psychological experiences of Black folk. This included studying, researching, writing about, presenting on, and treating issues such as race-related stress, racial identity, emotional health, and body image. I am involved in two national organizations with an emphasis on issues pertaining to persons of African Descent.

— Bianca Jones, Psychologist in Houston, TX

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

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

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

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

I am a bi-cultural person and have experience with people who try to fit in a culture different from where they were born, bi - racial couples and consequences of choices that society is not yet ready to accept.

— mariana iurcovich, Psychologist in Boulder, CO

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 POWAY, 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

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

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

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