When Therapist’s Position of Power Gets in the Way of Therapy
This is the second meeting from the lecture series “Untwisting Power Asymmetries Through Accompaniment”. In this lecture series we will question the ways that we—in our already powerful roles as clinicians, activists, educators, lawyers, and other positions of status—are prone to repeating the powerful/powerless dynamic with the individuals we otherwise hope to serve. Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of power is particularly helpful here as we attempt to understand our power-laden positions. Can the promise of radical and liberation-based theories such as “accompaniment” be used to work more effectively within these asymmetrical power dynamics? These questions will be explored from the perspective of working with asylum seekers.
16th of May, Part II: When Therapist’s Position of Power Gets in the Way of Therapy
We will review findings based on 11 interviews with clinicians in the United States discussing their work with survivors of torture. Among other questions, we will explore the following: How does the therapist’s position of power disrupt the therapeutic process and what can be done about this? Does an awareness of cultural diversity provide us with the tools to mitigate these challenges?
This lecture series is intended for those concerned with asymmetric power dynamics in their clinical work, political activism, humanitarian efforts, social work, or volunteer efforts with survivors of torture or other marginalized individuals. Students of mental health, social work, and psychology fields are particularly valued as audience members, as much of the original research I present here is based on students’ critiques of their education and training.
Jessica Harbaugh, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist from New York City, now living in Berlin. She completed a training year at the Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture and collected original data from students in various mental health fields throughout the U.S., who worked with survivors of torture as part of their training experience. Jessica has also worked extensively with LGBTQ individuals and underserved adults presenting with complex trauma. She has worked as a clinical supervisor for psychology practicum students in underserved areas of New York City. Her theoretical orientation is psychodynamic and is heavily informed by a queer, feminist, humanistic paradigm. Her dissertation research is entitled “Power, multicultural competence, and trainees’ preparation for treating survivors of torture: A qualitative inquiry”.