First thing’s first – what does anti-oppression mean? It’s basically an all-encompassing way of saying no types of discrimination of people’s identities. That means I don’t discriminate people based sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, ability, age, nationality, political or religious affiliation, class or socioeconomic standing. But anti-oppression work isn’t just not discriminating against people, it is also actively working to undo systems that keep oppression in place. It is working towards equality for marginalized groups and balancing power where it is creating a disadvantage in a relationship. On a society scale this might mean gender equality, fair working wages, or LGBTQ* rights.
How does this apply to therapy? I look at the sub-systems that are built into the relationship(s) or person that comes to see me, and look at the power imbalances. If one person in a relationship has all of the financial control, it strongly disadvantages the other person. If one child is always blamed for issues in the family, they are scapegoated and that creates a power imbalance.
In anti-oppression work people often take a look at their self to recognize their privilege (this is called reflexivity). I have a lot of privilege. Let me share my social location – I am a Middle-Eastern and English/Irish/Scotish mix. I am a woman. I am cisgendered. I am heterosexual. I am middle-class. I am able-bodied. I am Canadian. I am pretty left-wing and have no religious affiliation. All of these have given me the advantages to be successful in the ways I wanted to be. I recognize that I bring in a certain form of power to the therapist-client relationship. I cannot undo that power, but I can do everything within my power to share it. My approach is client-led, I see clients as the key holders to their own success, and I build on the strengths that the client has coming into the room. I merely help clients find the right key to the door in front of them.
Like I’ve said in my bio, it is so important to me to have a strong relationship with my clients. If someone feels I’m being exclusive based on something like race or gender, how successful will our therapy be? Not very… if at all. Trust is the most important thing we can establish and I try to be as egalitarian and non-judgemental as I can. That is a core value for me as a therapist, as well as a fellow human.
So how is charging $120/hour anti-oppressionist? I keep space in my schedule for sliding-scale work so that I can share services with low-income clients. If you are in need of some assistance with getting access to resources or want to talk about that sliding scale, get in touch with me.
Natalie Koleric, MA, MMFT