Jerry Saltzman

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I have worked for the past twenty years addressing issues of oppression directed at a variety of groups as a social justice advocate, in my clinical practice as a psychotherapist and in my university teaching At present I am focusing this work within the context of a counseling psychology program devoted to training graduate students in psychology to become therapists. In my teaching I emphasize multicultural competence and a social justice perspective as a key factor in performing excellent clinical work. Multicultural competence involves becoming aware of and deconstructing biases and attitudes that harmfully effect others, which are emanate from one¹s social conditioning based on one¹s cultural background (race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). It also includes understanding the systemic (institutional) basis of privilege and marginalization and its profound effects on individual lives and relationships among individuals and
groups.

Because the dynamics of privilege and marginalization are so deeply embedded in our views of ourselves and our relationships to others, this issue is addressed in every course I teach and is woven into the more traditional psychological curriculum It also forms the core of two courses: Multicultural Perspectives in Psychology and Clinical Treatment of Internalized Oppression. In the latter course students learn about the
mechanisms of oppression and its internalization. They also examine the ways they have been oppressed based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, etc. Finally I do a counseling demonstration with each student which is designed to show how clients can deconstruct the internalized messages based on the oppression directed at their socially constructed groups. These demonstrations are deeply moving and powerful, and demonstrate in profound ways the deep hurt caused by oppression and ways to free oneself from that hurt. The issue of reparations is directly addressed in Multicultural Perspectives with an emphasis on discussing the ways it can be addressed within the scope of therapeutic practice. I get consistent reports from students who have taken these two courses that they have, in different spheres, become more committed social justice advocates.

In addition to teaching I am working with some faculty and students to design and implement conversations about racism and social justice among students, faculty, staff and administrators. The conversations are based on a model affirming the inherent worth and importance of every human being, and are geared to support all participants in their journey to widen their perspectives on the mechanisms of oppression in general and racism in particular. Participants are encouraged to use this awareness to push through the personal and socially imposed barriers to developing principled and caring relationships with participants who are different from them and, by extension, to members of all racial, ethnic and other socially defined groups.

Finally, I am starting an organization entitled Therapists for Personal and Social Transformation. Based on the model developed in Clinical Treatment of Internalized Oppression, it will train therapists and future therapists to better understand the mechanisms of social oppressions and their internalization, and to develop skills to use this information in their therapeutic practices, where substantial changes in awareness of social justice issues can take place because they so deeply impact the personal lives of the people we work with. For example, helping clients understand that many of their struggles are related to the ways they have been oppressed or privileged and not because of individual pathologies has affirming, empowering and liberating consequences for their self-concept and the conduct of their lives and relationships. Indeed, the personal is political!

Contact Jerry Saltzman at jsaltzman@reparationsthecure.org.