ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN THE FIELD:
A GESTALT THERAPY APPROACH TO DISCUSSING RACE
Since its beginnings, one of Gestalt Therapy’s ethical charges has been calling therapists to go beyond the clinical space to engage in and critique the socio-political world as it relates to social injustice and its impact on the human condition (Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, 1951). Building on this, Gestalt Therapy’s ethical principles invite us to strive towards humanistic, egalitarian, and non-authoritarian clinical values (Bloom, 2013).
In more contemporary thought, Gestalt Therapy practitioners are more explicitly considering the ethics of what happens in the psychotherapy relationship and calling for a shift from a modernist ethics of individualism to a post-modern relational, field, community, or environmental ethics (Wheeler, 2000; Lee, 2004; Staemmler, 2009), and more recently, to an intersubjective ethics of care (Jacobs, 2011). This includes calling for more relational focus around social location, particularly race, and exploring how the therapist’s life experience lives in the room with the client (Hycner & Jacobs, 1995).
In this workshop, we will bring these ethical principles into dialogue with one another and consider specifically how, within the therapeutic relationship, our racial identities and racialized experiences are live in the field for our clients and ourselves. From a Gestalt Therapy perspective, we will explore what kinds of ethical dilemmas emerge when we do or do not ask questions, and when we remain curious about our own and our clients’ social locations. More specifically, we will consider how such conversations or silences impact our ability to have moments of mutuality (Schack, 2002) with our clients.
Through a demonstration of phenomenological inquiry, we will examine how Gestalt Therapy Theory offers a framework, which invites us to attend to the relationship through the intersectional lens of race - specifically exploring the ways in which we experience race and racial difference in our bodies before it is in our awareness. Also we will elicit how creative adjustments (such as internalized messages of superiority and inferiority) or projection are at the core of these ethical dilemmas.
We will use experiments and small group work as a way to support participants to experience and practice these frameworks. By the end of the workshop, participants will:
- Understand both the clinical social work ethical mandate and the Gestalt Therapy ethical principles inviting us to address issues of race and social justice within the therapeutic relationship
- Expand one’s comfort and dexterity with bringing one’s own social location more into the therapeutic relationship and clinical work
- Learn three concepts that Gestalt Therapy uses to understand and explore race and white supremacy within the therapy relationship
CEUS: 3; $20
HOURS: 8:30 am Registration; 9 am – 12 noon
DATE: Saturday, February 23
LOCATION: Bryn Mawr College Dalton Hall
TUITION: $85 Room number: TBA
$65 GTIP associate members
Alison Gerig, LCSW is a 2008 GTIP graduate and culture change consultant. She worked in the field of HIV and queer health for ten years – first with homeless queer youth at Callen-Lorde Health Center in NYC and then at Mazzoni Center as the first health center director running the first trans health clinic in Philadelphia. While in training at GTIP, Alison shifted her focus to more clinical work with disenfranchised communities and became the executive director of Therapy Center of Philadelphia (formerly Women’s Therapy Center) for 11 years. While there, she provided the vision and structure to expand their feminist clinical lens to include striving to be transgender-affirming and racially equitable. She currently supports leaders, organizations, schools, and foundations around similar culture change work, and maintains a private practice. Alison (she/her pronouns) identifies as a white, cis-gender queer woman with locations of privilege around class, gender, race, and ability, and marginalizations around gender, sexual orientation, and family structure. She strives to attend to all of these intersecting locations in her clinical and organizational work.
Jennifer C. Jones, LCSW (she/her/hers) is an enthusiastic GTIP faculty member and an alum of the GTIP training program. Jennifer is proud to be the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Center and a doctoral candidate at Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research. Since graduating from GTIP in 2008, Jennifer has provided clinical supervision for staff at various mental health agencies, and she currently provides supervision as well as psychotherapy in her private practice in Center City, Philadelphia. For the past 20 years, Jennifer has worked predominantly with individuals who identify as: lesbian, gay, queer, or bisexual; transgender or gender non-conforming; a person of color; struggling with class oppression; a person living with a positive HIV status, and/or healing from childhood pain. She has conducted and co-facilitated numerous workshops and trainings on topics such as: suicide assessment, sexual abuse, trauma, grief and loss, embodied Gestalt Therapy with individuals identifying as transgender, trauma-informed care in medical settings, sex work affirmative care, and working with people living in poverty from an economic human rights perspective. As a cisgender, queer-identified person of color who is dedicated to building a better society for her child, Jennifer is committed to organizing across color lines to unify poor and dispossessed people to fight for all of our economic human rights.
This session is co-sponsored by Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research for a maximum of 3 credit hours. Bryn Mawr College GSSWSR, as a CSWE accredited School of Social Work, is a pre-approved provider of continuing education for Social Workers in PA and many other states.
GTIP is approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology to offer 3 hours of continuing education for psychologists. GTIP maintains responsibility for the program. The Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology requires Psychology workshop participants to furnish their license number to receive a certificate of attendance.