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

I have made it my mission to assist with calling out cultural and systemic oppression and working to help dismantle it. I work to help my clients do the same and navigate against the trauma of cultural and systemic oppression.

— Kadesha Adelakun, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Kennesaw, 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

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

Regardless of the particular reason bringing you to therapy, I am intentional about having discussions related to your various identities and how they intersect to shape who you are as a person and how you navigate the world. These discussions often help us better understand the presenting concern(s) you are experiencing in a larger context. We can explore the impact of your cultural background, family values (and how they may differ from your own), and systems of privilege/oppression.

— Alexis Lopez, Clinical Psychologist in San Francisco, 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

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

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

Clinically, I work from a holistic, relational, empowerment focused and intersectional feminist perspective. I recognize that areas of oppression are linked and cumulative. In response, I work to help clients navigate these complex dynamics and improve their quality of life. As a Cis-White, Able-Bodied female, it is my job to do the background work and create a space where clients can explore, learn and understand themselves better. You are the expert of your life.

— Olivia Carollo, Clinical Psychologist in Chicago, IL

My life's work has been serving people from communities who have limited access to quality services in a language they speak. I've worked as an advocate for undocumented students on a college campus, and I offered trainings and workshops to improve cultural competency for students and therapists. I've participated myself in trainings and have done extensive readings to help better understand the challenges people face.

— Elena Herrera, Psychologist in San Jose, CA

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

In addition to my lived experiences as a Woman of Color, I have 10 years of experience in Higher Education as a leader in committees, training development, and presentations related to diversity and inclusion. I partner my expertise in Diversity and Inclusion and Mental Health to provide therapeutic care that challenges and deconstructs internalized oppression, impostor-syndrome, stereotype-threat, and racial trauma.

— DeHeavalyn Pullium, Counselor in Seattle, WA

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

Have you ever asked yourself how much more education or experience do I need to be the right candidate to hire? While you then see someone with zero experience, be able to float on by. They tell you that it is all about how engaging and memorable you can be in the interview, but if you are of color or a part of another minority group, that is not always the case for us. It's hard to hear that work ten times harder conversation again! Let's talk about it!

— Tara Genovese, Clinical Social Worker

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

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

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

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

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

Being an immigrant and minority in a foreign country, I personally experienced more systemic oppression. I related with clients who also experience in oppression

— XiaoRan(Alice) Zhao, Mental Health Counselor in Towson, MD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have experience in working with different cultural backgrounds. I make efforts to attend training that help deepen my cultural competence. I continue to seek understanding when it comes to the systemic impacts that occur with minorities. I find that this helps me identify, address, and offer support to my clients and their situations.

— Ana DeSantiago, Clinical Social Worker in Berwyn, IL