Integrating Social Justice Into Group Therapy

Amongst virtually every mental health discipline, the call is going out for integrating social justice into practice. Many fields such as psychology, counseling, and social work are imploring practitioners to take seriously the task of addressing inequalities and injustices faced by their clientele. As Prilleltensky, Dokecki, Frieden and Wang. (2007) eloquently stated, "if we don't challenge the status quo, we tacitly support it, and if we concentrate exclusively on intrapsychic dynamics, we run the risk of neglecting the social origins of suffering and distress" (p. 20). Tragically, mental health treatment suggests a trend toward neglecting the social origins of emotional distress and shifting the primary emphasis to brain disease (Albee, 1998). Helping professionals have begun to recognize the need to address both our clients' pain and the social injustices that help create it. First, as therapists we need to raise our awareness to how counseling theories and practices serve the status quo of oppression and injustice rather than challenge it (Albee, 2000; Katz, 1985). Second, we need to help increase our clients' awareness of the ways that they are contributing to or being victimized by forces of oppression. Third, we can help our clients articulate how their suffering results, at least in part, from sociopolitical factors. Finally, we may collaborate with our clients to ameliorate injustices in society and, subsequently, in our own lives.

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