Talking With white Clients About Race
Most white people do not believe that race is an important feature of their lives, and this belief continues into the therapy room where race is rarely a topic of conversation, especially for all-white dyads. However, research shows that race and racism are highly salient for white people’s mental health, and this gap in understanding has negative effects on the well-being of both white people and people of color. This paper argues to embrace the ethical and moral call to actively address race and racism in therapy between white therapists and white clients. This embrace can be particularly challenging for white therapists who believe themselves to be social justice-oriented people, but who nevertheless contribute to racism in both conscious and unconscious ways. A model is offered for how psychotherapists can bring up and work with the topics of race and racism during the course of therapy. The model includes ways for white therapists to engage in the long-term process of self-critique, ways to introduce the salience of race in the white client’s life, and how to connect race and racism to the client’s explicit goals for therapy. Finally, a case example is explored using a well-meaning, self-defined liberal white client.