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

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

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

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

Living in this culture for many is a battle field littered with toxic history. While we advertise “ the land of the free” and democracy as our mottos Obviously it isn’t. Ive studied and been involved in struggles related to the holocaust, black history women’s rights ,throughout my life As Fanon said you can have the greatest parents but when the dominant culture sees you as inferior you confront micro and macro aggressions daily. I work to help one find ways to disrupt this narrative.

— Deborah Hellerstein, Therapist in Chicago, IL

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. I specifically have experience working with those who identify as LGBTQ+, people of color, or second-generation Americans.

— Saira Malhotra, Therapist in Denver, CO

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 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

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

As a therapist of color, my sensitivity to the increasingly volatile political and socio-cultural environment in the U.S. and around the world has come with its own struggles. Your experiences and challenges will be as unique to you as mine are to me. Working from a place of understanding my own privilege and marginalization, I humbly strive to create a safe place to explore your unique needs and challenges in facing the impact of macro- and micro-aggressions.

— Hilda Lopez, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor in Berkeley, 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

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

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 believe that how we navigate life is extricably linked to our cultural identities and how those identities get storied in the world. The ever-increasing hostility in the world towards those who identify as "other," along with my first-hand experience with systemic oppression, have strengthened my resolve to provide support for clients to grapple with their complexities within a safe therapeutic context.

— Loree Johnson, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Hermosa Beach, 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

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

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

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

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