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

Traditional therapists can be quick to label your thoughts and behaviors as "irrational" or "disordered," but for some, these thoughts and behaviors are survival tools in an unsafe world. For gender expansive, incarcerated, houseless, disabled, BIPOC and queer folks, changes may be wanted, but not all of them are under our control. My narrative approach to therapy creates opportunities to explore dominant cultural ideas and to build on your held values and beliefs, rather than tear them down.

— Madison Alvarez Brunk, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern in Longwood, FL

Exploring topics of racism, discrimination, colorism, internalized oppression, migration stories, and resilience as it relates to family of origin, culture of origin, and personal identity. Of particular interest in working with those who self-identify as Southeast Asian.

— Canh Tran, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA

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 theoretical foundations in Intersectionality, Disability Studies, and Queer Theory. I have additional clinical training focusing on racial trauma, working with adults with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ Affirming approaches to therapy. I have also taught courses on these issues.

— Shaquinta Richardson, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Spartanburg, SC

My dissertation investigated body image across diverse populations including WOC. In particular I am interested in how WOC use their bodies as a commodity in order to compensate for systemic-level oppression and white-cis-heteronormative dynamics. Clinically, I work from a holistic, relational, empowerment focused and intersectional feminist perspective. I recognize that areas of oppression are linked and cumulative. I strive to use my privileges to help others create clarity and

— Olivia Carollo, Clinical Psychologist in Chicago, IL

As a clinical social worker, I inherently believe in the equality of all human beings and am dedicated to promoting social equality for all. For nearly 25 years, I've worked with individuals who've been impacted by prejudice, racism, sexism, classism, poverty & other types of discrimination/oppression. The result often erodes self-esteem/self-confidence, influences identity, increases anxiety/depression & decreases a future orientation. I bring concrete tools to help address these problems.

— Melissa Cole, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Towson, MD

Intersecting systems of power and oppression impacts all of us physically, mentally, and socially. Healing these mental, emotional, and social harms necessitates addressing the intersecting power dynamics of impacting us as individuals and groups. An anti-oppressive/liberation approach to therapy challenges the separation between the personal and the social, and recognizes how personal healing and growth is interrelated with issues of social justice and collective liberation.

— Ida Hammer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

It is important to recognize and name the social constructions that exists and the impacts they have on shaping how we think we should function and interact with others. Cultural and systemic oppression can create a heaviness that can bring feelings of hopelessness. At the core, it is important to understand our own truths, acknowledge what be bring and have to offer, and embrace and celebrate who we are as unique individuals.

— Evelia Ilarraz, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Oakland, CA

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

I am a Chinese American with immigrant parents--I have lived with a bicultural identity all my life. I am well-versed in navigating conversations about white supremacy and the resulting oppression, discrimination, and alienation it has created for people of color. I am also passionate about dismantling hetero- and cis-normative frameworks. These are not topics we have to shy away from in our work together. I will work with you to claim space for yourself and build your own narrative.

— Laurel Meng, Psychotherapist in Chicago, IL

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

Systemic oppression, be it racist, patriarchal, or cultural, can have a strong and negative impact on your life, mental health and sense of self. As a Latina Therapist who myself have experienced the negative impacts, my goal is to help POC heal wounds from internalized oppression and systemic inequality.

— Valeska Cosci, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Santa Monica, CA

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

Being an Asian female, I can say I have experienced cultural and systemic oppression, which leads me the privilege to sit with you when you share your pain and anger. Racial trauma is real and for those that experience it, it

— Thavone Huinil, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Grand Rapids, MI

Over twenty years ago, I chose to get my degree in Social Work because the code of ethics spells out social justice as a core tenet of our practice. I believe that our identities affect our lived experiences and those dynamics need to be integrated into every healing process.

— Carrie Heron, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA

I have spent a lot of time researching racism and oppression in the US. Everything from verbal racism to environmental racism to poverty and red lining. There aren’t enough characters to even begin to explain my passion on this matter.

— Bianca McDaniel, Associate Professional Counselor

There are many ways that the fields of social work and mental health have contributed to cultural and systemic oppression, historically and to this day. I participated in a series of workshops for white people hosted by Baltimore Racial Justice Action, and know that it is a lifelong journey to unpack and dismantle racism and other forms of oppression. I have participated in and continue to take part in training, conversation, and action related to anti-oppression mental health practices.

— Gretchen Tome, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Towson, MD

The unprovoked deaths of women and men of color have exposed again the challenges that many of us face to have true equity in the United States. This, along with COVID-19 and the resulting economic impact have had a disproportionate impact on families of color. Understanding the systemic issues and how to address them proactively is essential for our mental health.

— Eldridge Greer, Clinical Psychologist in Denver, CO

As a mixed race, gender-nonconforming, lesbian of color, I have an intimate, lived experience about how societal norms can weigh us down. I can support you in taking back your power and self-determination in the face of adversity.

— Laura Pearce, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Long Beach, CA

Unfortunately, we are living in a racist pandemic. There are mental health consequences associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and somatic issues. The stress caused by not feeling that you belong can contribute to the development of identity issues. Healing may take place by acknowledging your experience and bringing forth your sense of agency and unique identity.

— Nadia Thalji, Ph.D, Psychotherapist in San Francisco, CA

Recent events show the result of anxiety, frustration, and anger arising from systemic oppression. If you experienced being controlled by someone or a system with power, anxiety and anger builds over time, even generations. Like other traumas, these need treatment beginning with addressing the causes--the people and systems which do harm. Therapy can help a person cope and develop skills to reduce the affects of social trauma. I have also taught and am published on oppression.

— Dwain Pellebon, Clinical Social Worker in Norman, OK

As intersectional beings, intersecting systems of oppressions influence our experience incessantly. With the ever expanding technological and historic globalization, the oppression we face daily may even feel overwhelmingly debilitating. It's no wonder that many of us are experiencing burnout, insecurities, and overall disconnection in relationships. My approach to therapy values your insectional experience and how these systems influence your life, so that you can heal and engage differently.

— Jean-Arellia Tolentino, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow in Walnut Creek, CA

Each person stands at a complicated and often tangled intersection of our identities -- our race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and so forth interact with the beliefs, values, expectations, and assumptions of those around us. I believe that social justice has a necessary place in the therapy room, and that the relationship between client and therapist allows a moment of equity and understanding that can be hard to find anywhere else.

— Mallory Sprague, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York, NY

I have experience working with many African-American clients who have experienced racism and oppressive systems in the US.

— Antonia Hickey, Clinical Psychologist in Los angeles, CA

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

Being an Asian female, I can say I have experienced cultural and systemic oppression, which leads me the privilege to sit with you when you share your pain and anger.

— Thavone Huinil, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Grand Rapids, MI

It’s important here to highlight Terry Cross, MSW, LCSW, the developer and founder of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He works to dismantle colonialism through the Relational Worldview Model.

— Cameron Small, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Minneapolis, MN