A Book of Healing: Practicing a Psychotherapy of Liberation with African-Americans

English: Unidentified African-American childre...
English: Unidentified African-American children at the turn of the 20th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The basis of this blog is the upcoming book:  A Book of Healing: Practicing a Psychotherapy of Liberation with African-Americans by Vanessa McAdams-Mahmoud, LCSW.

From the Preface:

The world is becoming smaller.  Through ardent scholarship, electronic media and easier travel, the self-awareness of the peoples of the African diaspora grows daily. We are evolving more sophisticated and complex understandings of our selves within  the African diaspora and among the cultures of Continental Africa. We are still engaged on all fronts in a struggle for social justice and against white supremacy. We still struggle with those among us who hold their brothers and sisters in disdain, unconscious of how that disdain was created. There is a  real need for books and information for this population that discuss how to heal from emotional and psychological pain related to racism, oppression and internalized racism.

When I engage in the practice of psychotherapy, coaching and healing work with people of African descent, I have to keep in consciousness a unique set of skills. Along with all the other theory bases and intervention skills I have learned in years of practice, I have collected and developed a base set of theories and interventions that I find useful in addressing the effects of oppression and internalized racism experienced by people of African descent.

I base this book on my practice experience and that of other colleagues who are  helping people of African descent, name, describe, understand and heal, the special pain arising from racism, oppression and the experiences of internalized racism that can  distort lives. It is hard to grasp and make sense of the reality that one is designated for oppression because of one’s  skin color and culture. It is not easy to heal the types of pain that can arise from being an object of contempt, of racial harassment or abuse, of discrimination and prejudice. .

There is a real need for more accessible , relevant tools for therapists to use with their clients of African descent, and for individuals to use in self-exploration. There is a need for more books which  aid any person of African descent to understand the nature of white supremacy and erase its mystification. We need to know   ways to heal from exposure to such toxic hatred.  It is not as if the battles are over, because the fight for social justice wages on.  The struggle against internalized racism, tribalism and intra-racial conflict also, continues.  Yet, even soldiers on the battlefield receive treatment , to fight another day.

We need books that help us to understand internalized racism and the ways in which African people wound one another in conscious and unconscious ways which  imitate the world view of white supremacy. Such books should help to articulate and name the unique stresses and strengths, challenges and obstacles that are part of being a descendant of Africa, in white supremacist societies or former colonies. Ideally, such books could assist the person in mastering and overcoming  the trauma, emotional pain and psychological defenses that can sometimes get in the way of personal growth and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

Too often, books and articles on the psychological and emotional impact of oppression and racism are most interested in describing pathology and are very weak in prescribing and describing healing practices and processes. Although the causes of any injury are important, as a therapist, I find that I am more interested in interventions and techniques that promote healing and give relief from distress.

This book is the culmination of collecting and cataloging some healing questions and intervention techniques, ideas and methods. It is the perfect time in our history to share these tools with other therapists, communities of color, and anyone else who is interested in the work of freeing minds and psyches from complex and long-lasting psychological and emotional wounds caused by racial oppression.

I am aware that there are always those who question whether such wounds exist. It is not the purpose of this book to wage an argument about the existence of these injuries. This book is for those who know those wounds exist. This book is for those who want to help the healing.

I hope I can help to continue to discuss ways to heal  people of African descent,  whether they think of themselves as “African” or “Black” , “Mulatto”, “Bi-Racial”, “Negro”, “Colored”, “African-American”, “Afro-American” —or not. If you are part of the African diaspora, there are parts of this book that may help you understand your self, your family, your people in greater depth.  There are parts that should help you  to articulate, name the pain , externalize it , begin to master it, and then overcome.  It is a book that invites interaction with other people of African descent, in conversation, in self-revelation,  and through journaling.

This book is a collection of practice knowledge that draws on the wisdom of clients, literature I have read, (non-fiction /academic and fictional), personal stories, collected narratives and autobiographies. All case vignettes are composites and not based on any one client for whom I have worked. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental and not intentional.

5 thoughts on “A Book of Healing: Practicing a Psychotherapy of Liberation with African-Americans

  1. Impressive, very impressive… Like you I an working on a book/manual to address the social ills that plague our communities. In addition to structural , institutionalized and systemic racism and oppression, I’m looking to address the psychosocial behaviors associated with prostitution, molestation, domestic violence, poverty, bullying, rape and various other traumatic experiences that take place daily. I’ve developed a series of out-of-the-box therapeutic interventions that have been very successful throughout the different clinical settings I’ve worked in. And I’m looking partner up and lend my skill set to any person or organization looking to promote positive change in our communities.

    1. I would love to hear more about your work. Don’t you find it frustrating that so much of our training addresses two dimensional level challenges that people might face rather than the layered and complex realities that most people live with daily?

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