Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations


Discrimination in Context: Subjectivity in Motion

Friday, November 17
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Cross Cultural / Cultural Differences | Diversity
Presentation Type: Symposium

We often consider discrimination as a construct we can define, and while it is helpful to operationalize discrimination for research purposes, this is difficult in therapeutic settings. It is challenging to define personal factors influencing our clients’ subjective appraisals of discrimination, and guiding them in coming to personal conclusions about discrimination. Defining the subjectivity of discrimination like we define psychiatric diagnoses may inhibit personal meaning for our clients. The presenter will discuss ways to become mindful of our tendencies to label and categorize experiences in relation to personal accounts of discrimination

Oftentimes when assessing for distress related to discrimination, we as clinicians want to clearly understand our client’s internal experiences and therapeutic goals. Discrimination can provide internalization of societal messages, as well as anger, potentially inhibiting a client’s emotional clarity. Combined with a longitudinal history of discrimination, internalized negative appraisals, and ongoing anger toward constant oppression, navigating emotional awareness to reach goals can be difficult. Our well-meaning tendencies related to helping clients achieve therapeutic goals may cause us to rush our clients into making meanings about themselves in relation to discrimination, when they may not be aware of underlying emotional reactions. The presenter will discuss practical ways to provide space for these natural reactions, build therapeutic trust, and guide clients in understanding and coming to their own conclusions about the deeper emotional underpinnings of their systemic and interpersonal oppression.

Group pride may be particularly helpful in buffering stress responses to discrimination, however feeling proud of a particular group that is stigmatized can cause more feelings of anger in response to discrimination. As clinicians, we do not want the negative messages of society to become internalized, but we also do not want to build unrealistic expectations about the world. The presenter will discuss strategies to increase cultural pride, along with processing and building acceptance of harmful systems of oppression. Further, defining emotional distress related to discrimination can be clouded by societal tendencies to promote colorblindness. The presenter will discuss ways to psychoeducate clients about these tendencies, as well as create space to explore a client’s meaning of their own experiences and find validation despite colorblindness. 

Broderick Sawyer

Doctoral Candidate
University of Louisville


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Discrimination in Context: Subjectivity in Motion

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