Race-based traumatic stress takes a toll on our mind, body, and spirit.
If you are a Person of Color (POC) working for or navigating a white institution, it makes sense if you feel exhausted. People who experience race-based traumatic stress are exposed to constant threats and racial microaggressions. POC face continuous exposure to inequity, injustice, and invalidation at home and at work. This includes being dismissed or undermined by coworkers who expect you to do more work than them.
Race-based traumatic stress is different from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Race-based traumatic stress is specific to surviving experiences of racial discrimination, threats of harm and injury, humiliation, and shaming events that occur to you and to other POC. These experiences add up over time to deplete your energy, making it difficult for you to create the life you want to live.
It can also activate being in constant survival mode.
Signs of Race-Based Traumatic Stress:
- Hypervigilance. Constantly scanning for threats, feeling on-guard, and amped up.
- Anger and rage.
- Guilt and shame
- Helplessness and hopelessness
- Feeling numb and checked out
If you are a Person of Color experiencing race-based traumatic stress, counseling can help you recover.
Discover a validating space focused on your healing.
Your counselor will create a supportive space centered on your healing. This means taking time to understand and validate the reality of race-based trauma. Your counselor will affirm your lived experience that may be dismissed, invalidated, or discounted in white institutions.
Identify effective strategies to navigate institutional barriers.
White institutions include banks, universities, religious institutions, and places of employment. Even when organizations say they are committed to antiracism, you may experience the opposite in your day-to-day reality. Our counselors are trained to help you find the most effective solutions to negotiate problematic institutions. We are here for you as advocates to help you get your needs met. We share frameworks of analysis with our clients to help them identify opportunities for agency.
Identify and interrupt negative internalized messages.
Any Person of Color in the United States who makes it to adulthood has been exposed to constant, negative messages about who they are and who they are capable of becoming. To survive in a racist society, many of us handle these negative inputs by internalizing negative messages. Counseling can help you identify these negative messages and develop the strategies to reject them.
(Re)connect with and honor your ethnic identity.
Research suggests connecting to one’s ethnic identity is a key protective factor against the toxic effects of race-based stress. This includes connecting with our ethnic communities, practicing rituals and customs of our ancestors, and familiarizing ourselves with the history, strengths, and wisdom of our respective communities. Counseling can help you connect with restorative, healing practices available within your ethnic community.
Discuss experiences of racism without having to educate or comfort your counselor.
Many of the POC counselors on our team understand directly, through our own therapy, how damaging it is to work with a white therapist who puts a client in the position of educating the therapist on the realities of racism. We understand that it is even more damaging when a therapist demands that their client comfort them on the difficulties of living in a racist society. We believe that the therapy space should be focused on your healing - not on our education. We take time to educate ourselves and do our own work to ensure we are aligned in our antiracist practice.
Reclaim your time and honor your energy.
POC face constant demands in white institutions to perform unpaid, underappreciated emotional labor. Counseling can help you identify opportunities to step back to restore your energy. Discover sustainable practices and ways you can stay engaged in what matters most to you.
Race-based traumatic experiences include:
- Hate speech, microaggressions, threats, and intimidation. Perpetrators of hate speech employ racial slurs against POC, with direct or underlying threats of assault or death.
- Police harassment, body searches, physical assaults, and incarceration. Black, indigenous, and Latinx POC are disproportionately subjected to search and seizure, physical containment, incarceration, and surveillance compared to white and Asian American citizens. Black, indigenous, and Latinx men face a greater lifetime risk of being killed by police than white men.
- Workplace discrimination, bigotry, and bias. POC deal with coworkers, managers, and peers who express overt or covert bias that favors white workers while devaluing the contributions and potential of POC. Some POC work with coworkers who threaten physical assault in the workplace.
- Community violence and government abandonment. POC in Chicago live in segregated communities due to redlining, housing policies, and banking policies. Police interact with people differently in POC neighborhoods (e.g. increased surveillance, military tactical teams, treating community members as prisoners), where past and present experiences of police hostility and government abandonment have led to lack of trust. Members of POC communities witness disproportionate violence while having few institutional resources to help their community heal and repair.
- Medical trauma and invalidation. POC who interact with hospitals, healthcare systems, and medical providers disproportionately experience discrimination and invalidating providers. This leads to medical mistreatment and inadequate care.
- Immigration difficulties, deportation, and citizenship threats. Immigrants face physical assault, exploitation, and legal threats during and after the process of immigration. Children of undocumented immigrants witness abduction of family members, separation from parents by law enforcement, and constant threats of family separation.
What makes our team of POC and white therapists different?
- We understand that racial wounds are real. Too many therapists either ignore their client’s experience of racism, or create harm for their POC client by making them educate the therapist on the realities of racism.
- We name when our clients are being gaslit, dismissed, and invalidated, while offering a direction forward. If you are in relationships with white people who are engaging in emotional abuse, we will identify when this is the case. We offer solutions for reducing harm to you while collaborating with you on how you can break the cycle of emotional abuse.
- Our team of POC therapists and white therapists are committed to antiracist practice. This means each of us takes time not only to continue our own self-work, but also through collaborative group processes to ensure we are practicing with integrity.
Frequently asked questions about Racial Trauma Counseling for People of Color:
Q. What happens at my first Consultation?
Your first consultation is 80-minutes in length. Your counselor will carefully review your intake paperwork before meeting with you. The first part of the meeting will focus on understanding your goals and values. Your counselor will then spend time assessing relevant background information. In the final part of the meeting, your counselor will offer you a menu of options based on your goals. Your recommendations will include a variety of options, including continuing with counseling, trying out strategies on your own, or pursuing other behavior change resources.
Q. Why should I heal myself when the problem is systemic racism?
White Supremacy is inherently inequitable and unfair. We also believe that the most radical thing People of Color can do in the face of White Supremacy is heal, resource, and restore. As People of Color, we are better equipped to dismantle oppressive practices when we are healthy. You do not need to become an activist in order to dismantle oppressive practices - simply by being healthy, clear, and equipped, you can begin to find freedom while changing the world you live in.
Q. I’m white. I feel traumatized by systemic racism. Can race-based traumatic stress counseling help me?
If you are a white person who is struggling to navigate systemic racism, we recommend you review our Allyship Counseling service to see if this is right for you.
Q. Can you help my friend or family member become less racist?
We often work with clients who are in relationships with people who engage in problematic behavior. Our job is to help you discern whether or not it is safe to confront your friend or loved one based on your unique situation. Depending on each situation, there are strategies we can recommend that might help.
Q. You talk a lot about alcohol abuse and addiction on your website. Why do you offer race-based traumatic stress counseling?
Our antiracist group practice is dedicated to helping people break free from the cycle of self-destructive behavior. Addictive behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, are self-destructive behaviors. We believe that White Supremacy is the ultimate self-destructive behavior - one we unknowingly participate in as individuals, even though it creates substantial harm. Helping our POC clients heal from race-based traumatic stress is one of our most important service offerings.
Q. How do I get started?
You can schedule an appointment by calling (312) 715-8234 ext. 1. Our Intake Coordinator will answer your questions and match you with the best counselor to meet your needs.