Featured Practice: Psychotherapy

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Illustration by Ander Negrazis

Illustration by Ander Negrazis

Author: Ander Negrazis

What is Psychotherapy?

We’ve been sold an image of therapy that does not meet the needs of those of us facing oppression – where healing is based on a confessional model of revealing our secrets, presenting ourselves for judgment and correction, or receiving ‘feel good’ affirmation. Not only does this model fail to meet the needs of folks facing oppression, but actually mirrors the type of relational violence that many of experience on a daily basis. We have all shared something personal with someone who either denied or ignored our experience, or who affirmed our experience but then left shortly thereafter, taking our stories with them, and away from us. We have all experienced what it is like to not be heard, what it is like to try and fit the rich complexity of our experience into a quick, easily digestible sound-bite.

Unlike the normative confessional model of therapy, relational therapy understands that we need to be heard and seen in order to hear and see ourselves. Because, without knowing how someone receives you, it can be impossible to know how we are conveying your experience, or even how we exist in the world or are experienced by others. In order to tell our stories, to know and understand them, we need to see them through other’s eyes. And when relational therapy is anti-oppressive and systemic-informed, it can help us re-frame our experiences in ways that resist pathologization, affirm our struggles, and honour our struggles as areas for potential and possibility for personal and systemic change. It can help us ‘try on’ our life stories to see how they fit, before wearing them out in public.

Relationship and Creativity as a Basic Need
As a queer, non-binary, disabled, psychotherapist, community organizer, and artist, my approach to healing integrates both the individual and collective dimensions. One of the ways that I take a systemic approach to mental health in my community organizing work is by creating accessible studio spaces for artists with disabilities to bridge barriers to access to relationship, communication, and creativity. This work brings individual healing together with systemic change, because art is used as a medium through which to build access to relationship and communication – two basic needs that often go unrecognized and unmet.

One of our most basic needs is relationship – without it we would struggle to meet our other basic needs that are thought to be even more important – like food and shelter (because there would be no one to grow or cook the food or build the shelter in the first place!). Visioning, then, and dreaming is a crucial part to keeping us alive and thriving because it gives us hope, a sense of purpose, and meaning. Trying to dream on our own can sometimes make us feel ‘stuck’ – we can easily discount our contributions even before we get a chance to begin. Other times, dreaming on our own can make us feel free, capable, and clear in our direction.

Finding a balance between connectedness and independence is one of the biggest challenges, and therapy can help us connect with others without losing ourselves, or without losing the other person. After all, telling your story isn’t just about expressing yourself – it’s about finding your voice and storying your experience in ways that re-connect you to others. And it’s about regaining control as authors; of sharing our past experiences, and writing our futures.

Finding Support
It’s important to find a therapist who will not only deeply listen, but reflect back how they understand your experience, and who will not only help you process, understand, and re-frame your life stories when they rely on unhelpful oppressive logic, but also support you in navigating systemic barriers to access.

In order to help you decide on whether therapy could be useful to you, or whether we would be a good fit, I offer free 20-30 minute consultations. My role is to support you to access the support that you need – so if we decide that there could be a better fit, or that you don’t necessarily need psychotherapy, I am happy to refer you to the right place. In the interest of making therapy accessible, I operate using a sliding scale, and reserve a few additional subsidized spaces for unpaid community organizers and folks facing extenuating circumstances. So, if you have any questions about therapy, or need some support, don’t hesitate to reach out!
To learn more about my approach and areas of focus, visit: http://www.holdingittogether.com/

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