Domestic Violence: Diversity Matters

From the September 2014 SVPA Newsletter
Ryan A. Cheperka, Ph.D.
SVPA Diversity Chair

In 1981, the Day of Unity was observed by the National Coalition of Domestic Violence (http://www.ncadv.org/). Since then, October has become Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and many cities and towns around the country hold an annual rally and march, called Take Back the Night. If you have ever attended such a march, you may have noticed the diversity in the crowd and the attention speakers often give to issues of oppression and inequality that surround a culture of violence. Some may wonder, “Why talk about racism? This march is about violence against women.” Or, “All domestic violence is just as bad - why does it matter what your background is?” Well, I will briefly attend to those questions here, with hope that the conversation about diversity, culture, and domestic violence continues in your lives and communities.

Sometimes the best way to answer a difficult question, like the examples above, is with another question. To begin, I will list a few questions that Thelma Bryant-Davis poses in her book, Thriving in the Wake of Trauma, that can help navigate a growing awareness of the impact of culture on trauma.

  • How does a woman’s faith affect her feelings about her own anger in the context of domestic violence?

  • How does a man’s sexual orientation affect his sense of safety in the context of being discriminated against in the workplace?

  • How does an adolescent girl’s race affect her body image in the context of being gang raped?

  • How does a boy’s mental disability affect his sense of shame in the context of being physically assaulted on the playground?

These questions are examples of how we approach the topic of diversity and culture when we think about domestic violence and the clients/patients we work with who have such experiences. It is crucial in our work as psychologists to attend to cultural oppression when we are working with survivors of abuse. The ways trauma is experienced is through a cultural framework, where values and messages within one’s family or communities influence how the trauma is processed or understood. Further, the inherent trauma of discrimination and oppression most certainly impacts participation in, reactions to, and processing of domestic abuse and violence.

 

It is important to be attentive to various cultural identities, such as ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, ability status, age, and national origin, and how these and other identities intersect with each other and provide a context within which violence occurs. Rather than explain all of the possible ways that cultural identities matter (there is not room for that), I want to leave you with the notion that humans are complex and that culture is like the dye and the stitching of a quilt, bleeding through all of the shapes and patterns while intricately sewing it all together.

As you continue to gain awareness of these complexities and why they matter in the context of domestic violence, I would encourage you to join Sacramento for the 35th annual Take Back the Night march and rally.

Details below:
Website: http://www.sactakebackthenight.org/
When: October 11th (Second Saturday)
Start Time: Resource Fair & Rally: 5:00pm | March: 8:00pm
Location: Sacramento Native American Health Center, Inc.
2020 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

References:
Bryant-Davis, T. (2008). Thriving in the Wake of Trauma: A Multicultural Guide. MD: Altamira Press.

Psychologists Serving the African American/Black Communities

See my February article in the SVPA newsletter:
http://www.sacramentovalleypsychologist.com/Default.aspx?pageId=1811495#section4

Content Below:

Ryan A. Cheperka, Ph.D.
SVPA Diversity Chair

February marks the salient time of the year when people in the United States focus on African American or Black history. Although history inclusive of all groups is relevant all months of the year, this is a time when intentional efforts to discuss African Americans within the United States history are most public. It is an important month, as racism and a Black-white dichotomy still strongly exist in the U.S., and much of the country still teaches a less-than-inclusive version of “history.”

Black History Month is also a necessary reminder of how much our country’s harsh history and realities, as well as the contributions of historical figures, are relevant to the field of psychology. Both diversity within the psychological community and amongst the clients/patients we serve are huge factors in the work we do and the societies we build. As a white woman myself, I believe in the “not about us, without us” philosophy of not talking about a particular group without voices from that group. Thus, this article will feature the voices of two psychologists in the Sacramento area, Dr. Tiffany Mimms and Dr. Tameka Jackson, who have focused parts of their practices on the needs of the African American/Black communities.

When asked about why serving the African American community was important to her, Dr. Tameka Jackson responded,

“Despite the continual browning of America and the rising mental health needs of African Americans, only 2% of the nation’s psychologists are Black. This statistic, coupled with the stigma associated with mental illness in the Black community, fuel my passion and commitment for serving the needs of this group. While there a number of reasons that Blacks may be reluctant to make use of psychological solutions to emotional hurdles, one is a fear that the counselor may not be fully aware of the social and economic realities of their lives. As a Black female psychologist, my mere presence, for many Black clients provides a sense of comfort and connection and can often demystify the process of mental health treatment.”

The information Dr. Jackson described highlights the need for increased accessibility to treatment and the importance of “mere presence” in various health professions. With a similar spirit in mind, Dr. Tiffany Mimms established the Rosetta Center for Counseling and Wellness: A Place for Health, Healing, and Hope. Dr. Mimms described the center’s services,

“The Rosetta Center offers psychological services such as individual and group psychotherapy, wellness services such as yoga and massage, community outreach events such as mental health screening days and an annual wellness conference, training opportunities for interns, and an ongoing research program.  Although the Rosetta Center is welcoming of all people, it has a specific focus on reaching African American women.”

More specifically, Dr. Mimms highlighted the mission of the Rosetta Center that will help guide the growth of the center and meet a specific community need:

“The mission of the Rosetta Center is to identify and meet the psychological needs of women and their families with a focus on African American women by creating a place of holistic healing and rejuvenation.  It is the goal of the Rosetta Center to empower, educate, and affirm women of color to thrive and live their true calling. The Rosetta Center also seeks to build relationships and collaborate with supportive others (allies, men, other people of color) to build a stronger community and world.”

Dr. Jackson holds her individual private practice within the Rosetta Center as well. Collaboration among professionals is crucial to the center’s goals and allows for a broader shared mission. When asked about her specific interests and passions, Dr. Jackson shared,

“I am especially interested in working with Black women and providing a safe space that incorporates culturally congruent techniques. I strive to empower Black women across their intersecting identities, help them connect to their authentic voices, which are often silenced, and to facilitate a belief that strength is ever present in the practice of vulnerability.

For generations, many black women have internalized messages that they must be strong at all times and be everything for everyone, leaving no space for self-care. It is such a blessed moment each time a Black woman comes into my space and gives herself permission to ‘just be.’”

Some examples of therapy groups held at the Rosetta Center for Counseling and Wellness include an Adolescent Girls Group, Professional Black Women’s Support Group, and Healing from Sexual Trauma Group. The psychological and wellness services, community outreach, and opportunities for research and training provide for a quality holistic approach that is an asset to the Sacramento community. The center’s growth is quite exciting, as Dr. Mimms intends to continue to increase the types of services provided that allow for empowerment and well-being.

For more information about Dr. Tiffany Mimms and the Rosetta Center for Counseling and Wellness, visit:http://www.therosettacenter.com/

For more information about Dr. Tameka Jackson, visit: http://www.drtamekajackson.com/

Substance Use, Addiction, and Recovery

Check out this California Rehab and Addiction Resources site and my interview in the Therapist Spotlight:
http://www.alltreatment.com/ca#362

Copied from the site:

What types of services do you offer? What issues do you specify treatment for?
I offer individual, couples, and group therapy for adults and late-adolescents. My specialty areas include those with histories of abuse or sexual violence, as well as working with the LGBTQ community. I generally work with a broad range of concerns, including substance use issues, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, difficulty coping, relationship issues, and self-worth/self-esteem.

I also provide workshops to businesses/organizations related to diversity, wellness, and conflict/communication.

What therapy modalities do you use in your practices?
I use an integrative approach to therapy, which includes Interpersonal, Relational-Cultural, Emotion-focused, and Psychodynamic theories. I also utilize some strategies from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

When should one seek treatment?
One should definitely seek treatment when managing life tasks and keeping up with daily functioning becomes difficult or out of control. A person might also seek treatment when small changes in relationships, mood, or life events occur. We can often go much deeper in therapy when a person is feeling okay. If one waits until there is a crisis, the crisis will have to be dealt with first. So, definitely seek therapy in crisis, but also when most pieces of life are okay yet some improvement could be made.

What relationship exists between mental health and substance abuse? What services do you provide for someone suffering with either and/or both?
Mental health and substance abuse are interrelated and have a cyclical relationship. They both impact one another. We may increase substance use in order to deal with mental health issues (life stressors). Increased substance use also may increase life stressors and mental health concerns. I provide services that focus on the whole person and how substances play a role in their broader picture. I can help with readiness for change, harm-reduction, and increasing more effective coping strategies to replace use over time

Awareness of, and Strengths in, Intersections of Identities

Click here to see my article in the January 2014 Newsletter for Sacramento Valley Psychological Association (SVPA)
http://sacramentovalleypsychologist.com/Default.aspx?pageId=1776093#section6

Text below:

By: Ryan A. Cheperka, Ph.D.
SVPA Diversity Co-Chair

After consumption by the holiday season, psychologists and clients alike are reminded of the intricacies of identity and the various communities that we are a part of. Each of our unique identities is associated with our experiences and connects us to others. It is easy to think of our clients in regards to only one or a few of their identities, such as being a woman, a Christian, a person with a disability, or a person of color. We also often categorize people based on singular identities, lumping them with others in that category. However, for those who strongly identify with multiple underrepresented, or “minority,” groups, this singular identity approach can increase a feeling of marginalization. It is important to attend to how a person’s identities intersect and the unique experiences and strengths that are associated with those specific intersections.

Intersectionality can be understood as how identities and associated experiences mutually construct one another; without one, the others would not be the same. Authors like Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Elizabeth R. Cole, and Lisa Bowleg have discussed types of intersectionality, such as structural and political intersectionality. An example of structural intersectionality is how a woman of color’s position at the intersection of race and gender is qualitatively different from that of a white woman. Political intersectionality represents the situation that those with multiple minority statuses face in regards to being affected by political agendas of more than one group, with the resulting need to split one’s political energy described as intersectional disempowerment (Crenshaw, 1994). These concepts are important not only because they highlight how easily certain groups can experience marginalization, but also because they enable psychologists to more fully understand the unique experiences of specific groups and to provide better care.

In the spirit of providing better services to underrepresented and marginalized groups, I focused my dissertation project on the experiences of those who identified as African American or Black, queer/lesbian, and mostly female (one trans* man). The study was qualitative and 12 individuals were interviewed about their life experiences, factors that have had a positive and/or negative impact on them, and about their personal strengths. Psychology literature has historically focused on disadvantages of minority groups, so a strengths-based focus seemed important. If we are able to see a person as a whole and really know what they bring to the world, I imagine we can help them much more by including strengths than if we only focus on what problems they face. Thus, I will discuss some of the important findings from my study, Strengths in intersecting identities: The experience of being Black and a sexual and gender minority (Cheperka, 2012).

Through exploration and processing of information from their lives, participants described a context that both challenged and supported them. The context included the larger society and sociocultural factors, various communities that participants were a part of (e.g., LGBT community), religious and spiritual influences, and connections with important interpersonal relationships. Through navigating both positive and negative experiences in all of these contexts, participants developed various strengths. Atendency toward intrapersonal growth and development was very common, as self-reflection, resilience, and coming to understand one’s identity and worthiness were evident. Perseverance was notable among the group, as each of them were goal-oriented, determined, motivated, or had an impressive sense of optimism. Participants also displayed an admirable sense ofconnection with others, through their expressed empathy, helping behaviors, open-mindedness, and nonjudgmental aspirations. Participants had developed strong coping mechanisms over time, which included use of spirituality and creativity. And lastly, participating in activism was important, as their experiences had led them to embrace advocacy, education, and empowerment of others.

This study is just one example of how important gathering deeper meaning and understanding of intersecting identities can be. Not only within the person, but how our identities as psychologists intersect or interact with those of our clients, is crucial to explore and examine. As was found through this study, relationships and community had a huge impact, and can yield both pain and impeccable growth. The few factors mentioned here may assist both psychologists and clients in recognizing and capitalizing on internal strength.

 

Works Cited:

Cheperka, R. C. (2012). Strengths in intersecting identities: The experience of being Black and a sexual and gender minority. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Southern Illinois Univerisity, Carbondale.

Crenshaw, K. W. (1995). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. In K. Crenshaw, N. Gotanda, G. Peller, & K. Thomas (Eds.), Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement (pp. 357-384). New York: New Press.