How could a therapist/counselor even attempt to understand magnitude of issues presented by clients in their totality? How could I even begin to work with issues that are inevitably rooted in a social-cultural experience, that unavoidably have historical implications? We, therapists, speak of approaching issues “holistically”- usually we are referring to the mind, body, and spirit balance. But for me, it implies much more than that.
As I deepened my private practice with clients, I became aware of the stigmatization of how victimization crept into my clients’ issues. While we hold that each individual is unique in their own right, we must also be caution of the expectation of a “full” or “complete” recovery. The fact is that the idea of victimization is rooted in society. If we, as a counselor, are not able to recognize those issues, we would be blaming the victims inadvertently; we would be perpetuating these systemic stigmas.
I felt that I must be willing to take a hard look at how these systems shape personal worldview and critically evaluate the confluence of societal policy, procedures, law and quality and types of counseling services we provide and to whom. Privilege is a theme that recurs in social justice counseling. We live in a world in which the lack of justice in the education, health, career and legal systems are realities that our clients face on a daily basis. To ignore these realities denies clients’ experiences, therefore would be a failure in the “holistic” approach. With that awareness, I saw my work extending well beyond the bounds of my office.
Striving for social justice is the responsibility of society as a whole.
I feel that counselors or therapists have a special role. To work toward all aspects of my clients’ lives must be inherent in my ethical code. To work actively toward a better world through education and activism is an overarching theme for what therapist must do. That is the true meaning of the “holistic” approach.