Are therapists political beings??

As we are faced with ever increasing challenges of discordance, disharmony, destruction, and death, where do psychotherapists sit. Working with couples who may be exercised by the current wars we are all facing, watching, and reading about, perhaps personally impacted, distressed, or traumatized– how do we manage our own processes? There is much written and spoken of when we explore social justice within the field. Is this debate within that or outside of it? Not least the publication Social Justice in Counselling Psychology published in 2019 by Sage in the Journal Counselling Psychologist. Another significant publication edited by Divine Charura (LDPRT faculty member) and Laura Ann Winter is The Handbook of Social Justice in Psychological Therapies: Power, Politics, Change.

Furthermore, as stated in The Society for Psychotherapy (USA)

If, indeed, the personal is political and the political is personal, where does that leave psychotherapists—whose profession is intensely personal—when clients voice strong political views counter to ours or when their political stress resonates with our own sense of a rending of the civic and cultural fabric of the country? 


 Our role as psychotherapists is to help clients explore their values and beliefs and to use these values to help clients solve their problems. Yet the current climate and our clients’ responses to its present us with some ethical dilemmas. What do you do when a client states as fact something heard on talk radio or seen on social media that is verifiably false? What is our role in educating clients about politically related facts? Is this a question of identity or culture or is it evidence of the need for reality testing?

So where indeed does this leave us as PRT practitioners. Do we have a specific demographic, faith, culture, socio economic group that we work with? If so,how were they attracted to us?

Robert Matherin, Psychology Today mentioned:

Like any other diversity characteristic, it is important that clients and therapists match on the things that are important to them.

To what degree you agree with this is a matter for the reader and their supervisor. Do you as a practitioner disclose or make obvious your political views or do you make an attempt at neutrality? Can this ever be truly achieved? Do therapists have biases? How is this dealt with in your work. And if a couple present in opposition politically where does that leave the practitioner?

Dr Laura Ann Winter from Roehampton University has said:

………and argue that we need to become as comfortable talking about politics as we are with talking about social justice.

She added (from her research)

Overall, analysis suggests that participants viewed politics as both something inherent to therapy and something external that exerts an influence on the work they do. 

An interesting article is

Thus, as a therapist,you will need to navigate your own position, and decide whether you state your political position and whether this can be done without fear or possible recrimination from clients or maybe colleagues.  Is being neutral even possible in the therapy room, the somatic exchange and nonverbal communication as we all know speaks reams, to say nothing of the art work or ornaments you may have in the room.

This is evolving and as sex and relationship therapists we need to consider where and how we stand, whilst sustaining our integrity and honesty.

Judi Keshet-Orr, Founder & Course Director LDPRT

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