Two weeks ago, I gave a workshop for forty Seattle-area psychotherapists about getting their clients and themselves through the new political situation. People spoke about their fears, their clients' distress, and specific issues that have come up in therapy.( Steal all that you want, but give me credit, if you teach it.)
1.Fear of getting beaten, killed, or yelled at on the street by people who are obviously not white or non-Christian.
2.Fears of losing healthcare and social security. Distress about the environment.
3.Trouble dealing with family or others who voted differently.
4. Hopelessness and Overwhelm with Media Coverage.
Here are some of the slides:
For yourself and clients:
- Feel everything and name each feeling.
- Decide how much media to take in
- Decide how you will do more self-care
- Connect with positive community
- Pick your active response: calls, letters, marching, volunteering for a threatened community, etc. And figure out your level of activity. Don't overdo.
How to talk about it with clients:
Grist for the therapy mill:
- Fears, current feelings, trauma, ego states
- I’m here for you, whatever happens (unless your insurance is canceled)
- Sharing? Clients first. Then, you may say how you’re adaptively coping.
- “I’m in your corner, whatever our differences.” “Do you notice I’m still caring about you?”
Look at their trauma history for Tx targets:
- Generational: Immigrant, ethnic or religious minority, violence
- Personal: bullied, discriminated, assaulted/abused?
- Witness: clients, media, friends, community
And deal with their here and now mobilization and possible tx:
- Immediately connect with here and now.
- Are you safe?
- Are you supported?
- Will you, personally, be threatened?
- Is it time for trauma therapy?
- Bad dreams, intrusive imagery or thoughts when doing something else, mobilized body?
- EMDR, Somatic Work, etc.
For yourself or your clients: Coping with Hopelessness (Dorsal Vagal States)
- Sag (acknowledge what you can’t do.)
- Move: feel strength. (“NO!”, “I want.” Warrior stance. Deep breath. Legs pushed into floor.)
- Acknowledge what you can do: Time, $,
Address the past first:
- dress the past first. “What old stuff is arising in response to Trump?
- “He’s just like my abuser.”
- “That pussy-grabbing thing reminds me of ______.”
- “The bullying I got for being ________.”
- “When my family had to ________.”
Sometimes it’s historical:
- “When my grandfather got shot by the side of the road, for getting his mail, while black.”
- Pogroms, Holocaust, Hidden Identities, Family stories, Genocide, Families split apart.
Recognizable Minorities: Race, Religion, Accent, etc:
- Instantly Identifiable: No where to hide
- Historical Trauma
- Currently even more targeted
- VALIDATE the reality of the fears
- Go after the past
- Go after the present
- Look at the future: Safety, allies, working for the community, including self
- May have lost family, church, and/or community for coming out
- Bullying for identity or gender-nonconforming appearance
- Targeted by Religious Right and Trump administration,
- 30% of transgender youth report a hx of at least one suicide attempt. More in female-to-male people. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160831110833.htm) Rate goes down when recognized as chosen gender.
- Scared of what happens now: marriage, adoptions, legal protections for jobs and services
- “When We Rise”, amazing new 8-hour show: https://abc.go.com/shows/when-we-rise: watch it if you want deep background on the community
Sexually or otherwise abused as kids or adults:
- Many triggered by Trump’s demeanor.
- “Grab them by their pussies.”
- Some now being harassed or grabbed in the name of Trump.
- Flashbacks, deskilled, regressed, or “switched”.
- Calof: “Every time you work with sexual abuse, you’re committing a political act.”
No trauma history, but
- Watching our country fracture, daily shocks
- Fear for the environment, healthcare, status of our country.
- Loss of healthcare
- Distressed by shootings, immigrant and border hassles, oligarchy, erosion of rights.
- More bad news, almost daily.
Discussing the Situation with Clients:
- Stay Client-Centered
- Share, for the client.
- Let clients bring it up
- Ask questions about their experience and their affect.
- “Does this connect with anything from your past?”
- “What age goes with this feeling? What was happening then?”
Trauma Therapy: Go after historical and clients' past traumas first.
1.Use the best trauma therapy you know with past occurrences—may be a lot
(EMDR, Ego State, Life Span Integration, Somatic Tx, etc.)
2.Go after the current traumas: threats, shootings, Trump’s demeanor, the news
3.Look at future occurrences. It’s not over. How will they cope if _________?
4.Plan for current life,
1.media (how much to watch)
2.community (hang with people who care for you and support you) Singing? Dancing? Snuggling?
3. self-care: what works to make you feel good? Exercise? Meditation? Good food?
4.action: political, volunteering, phone calls, letters, talking to people, marching. How much is enough? Have limits, pick what works, do it.
YOU CAN'T FIX THE WORLD. YOU CAN HELP YOUR CLIENT COPE WITH THE WORLD.
And here is an article from the Seattle Times about the same thing: https://www.seattletimes.com/life/wellness/mental-health-therapists-see-uptick-in-patients-struggling-with-postelection-anxiety/