Queering Psychotherapy

First of all, this is not a book review, since it seems somewhat disengenous to review a book you appear in. It is more loose thoughts, and an introduction to where my mind is going over a series of blogs about supervision, queerness and what the non-queer theraputic community needs to learn from queer therapy and therapists. Which flows quite nicely into next weekend where I will be attending and facilitiating the online side of the Pink Therapy 10th Annual Conference (but more of that in a later blog).

Queering Psychotherapy is a much needed book, which grew out of the lockdowns, but has deeper and more tangled roots, encompassing anti oppresive practice, feminism, liberation movements, challenges to white supremecy, het/mono/cis/normativity, and many many conversations, presentations, workshops, late nights and long hours of interactions between queer therapists. It is editied by J.C Czyzselska and consists of a series of chapters where individuals are interviewed with a specific lens or area of specialism.

As Czyzselska writes in the introduction, quoting Lorde, the “European mode” sees life as a problem to be solved rather than an experience to be lived. Whiteness underpins so much of the theraputic experience, from white norms to overt racism and white supremacy – how many of us use colourist language about black and white thinking, where black is always darkness and shadow, and white always growth and light? The sometimes postulated theraputic “ideal” of moving towards rationalism, individuality, pure reason being superior to feeling, being, messiness and complexity is a very white, post Enlightment ideal. This is perhaps not the space for my rant about the misstep European society took in the Enlightement – the moment when, unsurprisingly race as a categorising concept was also developed – but many of the foundations of therapy are in the movement away from feeling, from the emotional, the expressive and communal and into the champtioning of reason, of explanation and yes, of seeing life as a problem to be fixed. Whilst this has been recognised over and over again, we are at a moment in the theraputic dance, with IAPT and CBT where the enlightment mode of therapy has a tight grip.

Whiteness holds within it other norms, cis, het, male, being three of the strongest. If you are other you are removed from the safe center, with those who aren’t even white, the ultimate other, removed from the circle of humanity all togeather.

Why so much about race in a discussion of a book about queering psychotherapy? It is because queering is a verb, it is active, it is looking at a thing which has pushed the other out and saying we will take back this space, reclaim it, just as the word queer itself has been reclaimed. It is not a book about queer psychotherapists, or a modality, but about pushing into the theraputic space all those bodies, queer, disabled, black, brown, old, trans, all those others, who have been either pushed out, or told they must mask and disguise themselves to be admitted. This is why the wider theraputic community needs to look to those queering psychotherapy, and needs this discussion. This is not niche. For every person in therapy, every therapist in supervision has had that moment of otherness, of being pushed out. If we can only respond to it with a demand for conformity, a requirement of masking and disguise we are failing those who come to us to be heard and to heal.

Clients who are told to change themselves, to fit better with the world, supervisees who are told to hide who they are, LGBTQ people of colour who are told they must chose between self and community, therapists who are told they must be lesser human beings if they are to fit with ivory tower ideals. All of this needs to be interogated and dismantled in an active process of queering psychotherapy.

The tagline of the book is – non normative insights for everybody – and everybody involved with therapy, counselling and mental health needs the growth that those insights can bring.

The book can be bought here, as well as the usual online and in person book shops. https://gayprideshop.co.uk/products/queering-psychotherapy-non-normative-insights-for-everybody-book?variant=40474565345334&gclid=CjwKCAjwtKmaBhBMEiwAyINuwFdbXqxHaYFXpa8ods1P0G1FY_HaF777LS1JsgEjjsClhGV9zJusQBoCl14QAvD_BwE

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