Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why soldiers in school are an injustice to all

by Kathy Barker

Counter-military recruiting in high schools is “my” social justice issue. It may strike many as a niche issue, an orphan issue, but I see it as a wedge to frame and integrate and confront many of deep and challenging problems of our society.

The USA is one of two United Nations members (Somalia is the other) that haven’t ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. One reason is that an "optional protocol" to the convention ensures "persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces” – and the USA military recruits and signs up minors.

We are wrapped up in two wars for which the military needs soldiers. The draft was suspended in 1973, and the Department of Defense, with its 700 plus bases all over the world, was having trouble meeting its quotas even before our current wars. High schools were the desired hunting grounds, and while many high schools gave military recruiters free reign in the schools, others were not as compliant.

To read entire article click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Socio Cultural Therapeutic Consult Group

TJP's socio-cultural therapeutic consult group has begun. Please consider joining us. It is an open group for now, but it will unlikely stay that way. To participate, contact Anne - annelphillips@gmail.com.

Come and have the experience of expanding your understanding of you and your clients' symptoms through the lens of oppression's impact by paying attention to our cognitive, emotional and somatic minds.

Our next meeting is January 7th. We meet every first Thursday of the month from 9:15-10:45am.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

TJP 2009 Year in Review

As the year draws to a close, we would like to reflect on where Therapeutic Justice Project has been in its first full year of existence, as well as look ahead to plans for next year. Consider this our holiday card to you, our supporters and participants who have helped to get this project off the ground.

I would like to name TJP’s first year the year of Limen. As most of you know, this was the name we started with, and in many ways it perfectly describes our first year. Limen means in between, threshold, and moment of transformation. This was the year we moved between being an idea and being an actual entity; we explored the territory between mental health and social justice; we crossed the threshold into existence and were transformed collectively in the process. Our name has since changed to Therapeutic Justice Project, which so aptly describes the work we want to do together, but Limen was our beginning.

To read entire article click here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where the Limen Things Are

by Stacey Prince

I don’t know how many of you have seen Where the Wild Things Are, but I thought it was a wonderful film and a brilliant adaptation of one of my favorite childhood books. There are many ways to interpret the story. Some reviewers have seen it as a simple depiction of the conflicts of childhood, including loneliness, disempowerment, and sibling rivalry. Others see a Freudian portrayal of Oedipal jealousy (mom, separated from the protagonist’s father, has a new boyfriend and her attention is diverted away from her son Max). Still others see in the story a tale of colonialism and cultural imperialism (the dominant culture sends in a ‘king’ to tame the wild things and take over the land). But all I could think of as I watched the movie was our group, TJP (which as many of you know started out as Limen), and how it related to us.

To read entire article click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cristien Storm's new book

Congratulations to TJP member Cristien Storm who has published a book! Full description is below, and see the announcements column to the right for details regarding her book release party in January.

Living In Liberation: Boundary Setting, Self Care, & Social Change

What happens when a collection of artists, musicians, and radical activists imagine self defense as a revolutionary tool for social justice? What happens when this group, working for social change, holds a variety of collective visions of what safety and security mean that embody the complexity of how privilege and oppression operate? What happens when someone envisions boundary setting, self care and self defense that not only keep individuals safe, but also help energize progressive social movements making them more vibrant and resilient? For the past twenty years, Cristien Storm has grappled with these questions as a self defense instructor, a writer, musician, therapist, activist, survivor, partner, friend and community member.

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Road - A Movie Review

by Liz Goodwin

Last weekend, a couple friends and I took the Light Rail downtown and saw The Road. A couple of us had read the book and knew that we'd either be disappointed by a Hollywood style version of this Apocalyptic tale or we'd really be in trouble. For, if the movie could tell Cormac McCarthy's story even close to the way the book could, it would surely be upsetting. Surprisingly, our hearts were broken - and opened - for yet a second time around as we watched The Road on film.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, The Road is about a man and his son surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Born into the first sounds of chaos and the barren reality of death - the result of what could be a nuclear war or possibly an environmental destruction - the boy follows his father as they escape home and head South on "The Road." As this quote from the book describes: "Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire."

To read entire article, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Celluloid Reflections

by Stacey Prince

The first time I saw my identity as a lesbian woman reflected on film, it was a revelation. It was in Boston, about 23 years ago, the movie was Desert Hearts, and I was sitting way in the back (because the theater was packed) with my girlfriend at the time. I started crying about half an hour into the movie, and pretty much didn’t stop. It wasn’t so much anything about the movie itself (those of you who have seen it know it is not a cinematic masterpiece) but the experience of seeing my own identity reflected on that giant screen was so profound, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I wept with joy, with pain at the uncertainty of it all (I had come out to myself, but not yet to my parents or extended family) and with gratitude.

Last night, watching A Serious Man with my partner and two friends, I had a very different experience. The movie is the Coen Brothers’ latest, and is the first where they have delved deeply into their own Jewish identity, which has been only referenced in their previous films.

To read entire article click here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Talk Therapy

by Stacey Prince

On November 13 I attended the Bent Writing Institute's 2009 Mentor Showcase, an event showcasing 22 poets and spoken word performers, as well as honoring a published writer who was a guest teacher this past year. I have known about Bent, the only queer writing institute in the country, for several years, but have never attended one of their events. Thank you to TJP member Christy Hofsess for telling us about it; it was fantastic and one of the most moving, inspiring and energizing arts events I have attended in a long time.

Right off the bat the fabulous emcee had us laughing. The event was a fundraiser for Bent and he encouraged us to buy treats during the admission, including some non-vegan cupcakes for which he assured us "no animal was harmed, just mildly inconvenienced". Then the lights went down and the poetry began. We were stunned by the beauty, strength, and truth of the words. Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, people of color, disabled, recovering from substance abuse, childhood abuse--all told their stories, stories that don't often get told, in ways that made us laugh, cry, shake, gasp, and cheer. I hope the performers will forgive me for excerpting, out of context and probably not completely accurately, some of the phrases that stuck with me.

To read entire article click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Centro de Atencion Psicosocial – Roles for a Gringa Psychologist

by Deborah DeWolfe

Stacey Prince asked if I would write a “brief blog post” about my work in Nicaragua. Since it is difficult for me to be “brief” about anything that I experienced in Nicaragua (except for maybe the heat), I offer the following. In the complex situations that we feel compelled to engage with, we all must grapple with “where do I start?” and “what seems most important?” These are my preliminary answers to those questions.

Each morning before 7AM, twenty to forty people line up outside of Centro de Atencion Psicosocial, the public mental health clinic in Leon, Nicaragua’s second largest city. The men, women and children waiting in line suffer from all manifestations of psychological and psychiatric distress – some in acute crisis. Many are accompanied by family members.

To read entire article click here.

For a flyer about Proyecto Oportunidad click here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Courage to Love Retreat 2009

by Liz Goodwin

Every fall, I attend Irene Michon’s Self Relations retreat for healers and psychotherapists: Courage to Love: From the Inside Out. Every year the experience frightens and amazes me. And this year was no different. What starts as the ordinary skepticism and anxiety, with questions like: Will it be engaging? Exposing?, within hours, inevitably shifts into an extraordinary experience.

Aside from a few separate exercises, most of retreat is spent being a therapist or client and debriefing the experience. Each of us joins a pod of three, acts as therapist twice, away from the large group, and acts as therapist or client once in the middle of the group. Irene offers grounding exercises and short talks that teach new concepts and affirm both the difficulty and value of the work. This year’s themes – beyond just the ongoing learning about Self Relations – were: moving beyond hope and fear and shadow work – looking at the positive attributes about ourselves that we are afraid to hold and project on to others.

Here I’d like to share some of what I learned and how it may relate to liberation psychology and TJP. I’ll start with a description of Self Relations.

To read entire article click here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Where the psychological rubber hits the political road: Reflecting on Referendum 71

by Stacey Prince

“What do psychology and politics have to do with one another, anyway?” This question comes up fairly often when I talk with some of my psychologist colleagues about my involvement with various political issues, particularly LGBTQ rights legislation. At this moment it looks like Washington state’s Referendum 71 has been approved. I will use it as an example of the profound ways that psychology and politics are interconnected, and the ways in which psychologists can be involved in supporting social change.

To read entire article, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Yoga Workshop Focusing on Trauma and Resiliency

Upcoming Workshop - taught by Cristien Storm and Jenny Ingwersen

Saturday November 7, 1-3:30

Cost: sliding scale $20-$40

1205 East Pike Street - on Capitol Hill

"We will use yoga and therapeutic techniques to navigate through and around traumatic experiences within the body without being consumed by them. We will focus on developing understanding and control of the inner environment and our relationship to it."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Meditating on the (In)Justice System

By Stacey Prince

On October 13 I attended an event that was organized by Therapeutic Justice Project member Cristien Storm and her colleague Kate Boyd, who together form the organization "If You Don’t They Will". This group trains individuals and organizations how to effectively identify and counter white nationalism and supports communities in reducing and responding to hate. The event, which was co-sponsored by TJP, was a screening of the film “The Dhamma Brothers: East meets west in the deep south” followed by a panel discussion. The film is a documentary first released in 2007 about the introduction of vipassana meditation practice into the rehabilitation program at a high security prison in Southern Alabama.

The film begins by introducing us to several men incarcerated in the prison, and giving us a little bit of background on each of them including descriptions of their crimes (all were incarcerated for murder). It then follows what happens as two outside meditation teachers come into the prison and do a 12-day silent retreat with the group of inmates who choose to participate. There are interviews with each of the men, some of their family members, as well as the warden, psychologist and other prison officials.

Without a critical analysis this film could be viewed in a very positive light. This would be especially true for those living from a dominant social awareness. The prison psychologist talks about two approaches to incarceration: lock individuals away and forget about them, or provide treatment and rehabilitation. Not only was this facility providing some treatment, but it was stepping pretty far outside of the box of traditional rehabilitation, by introducing an approach that is novel and progressive, especially in bible belt southern Alabama. Further, the film depicts the inmates as experiencing many benefits of the retreat and their continued meditation practice, including facing their crimes in a more honest way than they had before, and getting in touch with feelings of grief about losses they had experienced. The tone of the film suggested optimism that prison can be a healing place, and that meditation can be a valuable tool even in this unlikely setting.

However, there is a lot missing from this picture. In their invitation to the event Kate and Cristien highlighted the fact that so often trauma work is conceptualized on a very individual basis. Further, there is little analysis of the societal conditions that can lead to criminal behavior and incarceration and the ways that institutions such as prisons perpetuate abuse and violence. This analysis was starkly missing as we viewed the film: there was only passing reference to circumstances such as racism, lack of access to resources, family and community violence, and trauma that were likely antecedents to the mens’ behavior. Both their behavior and the treatment approach were conceptualized as intrapsychic: the problem, and the solution, lay within. Similarly, problems in the prison (gambling, substance use, prostitution, and violence) were passingly mentioned, but again seemed to be attributed to the mens' moral fiber rather than complex causality and existing in the context of systemic issues. Further, there was absolutely no mention of the prison system itself, and the financial and social agendas that might keep that system in place.

Also disturbing was the portrayal of meditation as almost an anesthetic, making the men more compliant and easier to get along with. There was a suggestion that meditation only got people in touch with the “softer” emotions such as sadness and self-compassion, and there was a lack of exploration of anger, at the injustice of their incarceration and/or the circumstances leading up to it.

After the film, a panel answered questions posed by both the event organizers and the audience. The panel consisted of four community activists with expertise in bringing a critical sociocultural analysis to healing work. It included: Sooja Kelsey, founder of the Race/Knowledge Project; Nathan Shara, social justice therapist and community educator (and TJP member); Shamira Shirdel, who works in anti-domestic violence advocacy for immigrant women; Elaine Waller-Rose, who does interreligious and intercultural work around overcoming racism. Much of the discussion centered on the prison industrial complex, including the need for a radical rethinking of how society deals with those who commit egregious crimes. The community accountability model was mentioned as one such alternative. We also discussed the need to link individual trauma work with radical social movement, in this case the prison abolition movement. Criticisms of the prison system include the fact that it has become a privatized, profit-driven industry more interested in making money and suppressing social problems such as racism, classism and poverty than in rehabilitation.

I had thought that the discussion would be focused primarily on the prison system and the lack of analysis in the film, but it actually ranged far beyond that. I very much appreciated the discussion of integrating individual healing with social movement work, and the idea of “self-care” as so much more than “going home and taking a bath with scented candles” so you can return to the movement. People shared ideas about how not to get frantic, stressed and overwhelmed in social movement work, including the importance of long-term visioning (Generation 5 being one great example of a group that is looking at what changes need to happen over 5 generations to end childhood sexual abuse), paying attention to our bodies and our emotional and physical needs, and bringing playfulness and joy into our work together.

We also talked about how trust building and the interpersonal work that goes on in groups is just as important as the work that gets done in the world. This last part was especially helpful to me, as I had very publically expressed some grief and frustration at our last retreat that we are spending so much time building our foundation, and not yet able to put our feet on the ground and do some work together. It is slowly sinking in that the work we are doing together —by building a trusting, cohesive group, one in which challenging discussions can take place around privilege and tokenizing and representation and leadership—is not separate from the work that we will do together out in the world, and this event’s discussion helped to solidify that.

The organizers of this event are "If You Don’t They Will," and I found myself musing about their name, what it might mean and how it relates to this film. If you don’t what, they will what? Some thoughts I had are that if people and systems who are marginalized don’t name and define yourselves, your self-worth, and your lived experience, they (society, authority figures, parents, schools, the justice system) will. And if you don’t focus on your own empowerment and work to change things for the better, they will work to maintain the status quo. And if you don’t work toward addressing systemic inequities, they will work toward maintaining privilege and control. Cristien and Kate, I don’t know if that’s what your name means (and I will ask you in person the next time I see you) but I want to thank you for bringing us together to share such a stimulating and supportive evening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Name change and other retreat highlights

Thank you to all of you who attended retreat four. It was dynamic, as usual, and, at least we hope, enriching as well. A detailed narrative is available here. Some highlights from the retreat are:

- Our group has a new name! We are now Therapeutic Justice Project. We feel this name captures well what we are trying to do, including infusing healing work with a social justice and anti-oppression focus, and bringing therapeutic healing to social change work. The name was unanimously approved by the group present at the retreat. If you weren't in attendance and have any objections to it please write to one of us, and in the future we will be sure to present major decisions to the entire group in advance of retreats, so you can give us feedback and your thoughts and feelings can be represented at the meeting if you are unable to attend.

- Note that you can now download a general TJP flyer, as well as a consult group flyer, directly from the blog (right-hand column under the vision/mission statement). We hope you will find the blog to be a place for connection, resources and information.

- A socioculturally focused psychotherapy consult group will begin in December, every 1st Thursday of the month, led by Anne Phillips, at her office, sliding scale $25-$50. For more information contact Anne at 206.297.5929.

- Starting in 2010, TJP will have annual dues of $5-$500 pay what you can. Dues for 2009 are also welcome.

- Decisions will continue to be consensus based and will typically involve the leadership council presenting a decision to the larger group for discussion. Your vote will count if you attend retreat (or register your thoughts with us beforehand, if unable to attend) and are a dues paying member. Your thoughts and feedback prior to a meeting will always be welcome and considered, regardless of attendance and dues status.

- We will be starting a new Leadership Council to steer the group and everyone interested in being part of the council is welcome to join us in the first meeting to determine the size, membership, and scope of this group. Our next step is to set the first leadership council meeting. Please let us know if you would like to attend and, if so, what are generally good times for you during the week.

We look forward to seeing you and/or hearing from you over the next couple of months. Please let us know if you would like to participate in the consult group, join the leadership council, or have any other questions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sister Helen Prejean Visits Seattle

By Mara Collins

I attended a dinner where I heard about some on-the ground organizing taking place in the Northwest and the Rockies. To me it seems there appears to be some lack of communication about what work is happening and where it overlaps. That this may speak to the disengaged culture of this region. The Social Justice Fund, which used to be called A Territory Resource, recently joined forces with the Western States center to fund grassroots projects which have already proven they posses the momentum to change and implement policy. The schools were built, the predatory lenders were made to be accountable, etc. The funding of these groups is intended to build on the momentum generated by the election. We got to see a movie about the 9 regional organizations’ work. It was very cool to even know what is being done to eradicate poverty in Washington, specifically. And it was also very cool to learn about what is happening in Oregon, since that feels like my home more than any other place, even though I live in Seattle.

And then they served us some cheesecake and Sister Helen Prejean came up to the podium. I got the sense that people loved her immediately. Sister Helen is the main character from the movie Dead Man Walking where Susan Sarandon became close to a death row inmate during the months before his execution. She continues to do this work and has more recently written a book called Death of Innocents.

She talked about her experience of becoming politicized, about moving from the distant place of being a nun, separate, praying for people-to being with people and connecting with their suffering. That experience woke her up. She saw her friend’s child killed by a neighbor and said, “My mom never had to worry when I went out to play or my sister or brother whether I would be killed”. And how when Black people get killed there is no mention of it in the New Orleans Picayune, but when white people are killed it makes the front page.

She talked about the victim’s family getting ensnared in the politics of what was being called justice. Killing the perpetrator, the prosecuting attorneys said, was somehow to get justice for the lives lost. But how does that bring anybody back? she pointed out. I mean we all already know the death penalty is awful and off base, but she told it so well, it sunk in even deeper. She has a great way of moving so easily back and forth between story and message.

And then she talked about the experience of being the one person in the death house who looked at him with love as he was being executed. She was, to him, the face of Christ as the guy died. They do it in private, she told us, a private ritual of justice killing. And then she brings it home by –get this - making the link how our compliance with the death penalty just tills the soil for the cruel and inhumane torture of inmates at Guantanamo. We all just took it in the gut. She really nailed it beautifully. There is so much more, but that’s the gist.

She said that it might seem too overwhelming to imagine having to fix the whole machine, and hearing that definitely helped me. I for sure spin out into the idea that it’s all too big. Grab the rope where you are and start to pull, she told us. But I am not sure. Are we pulling our end of the ropes just by being therapists who utilize a sense of social justice? If we are politicized, but not lack a developed analysis, do we run the risk of doing more harm than good? How do we know whether we know enough to act? Do our gaps in knowledge give us permission to not take risks?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ally is a Verb

by Stacey Prince

In couples therapy there is a cliche that gets thrown around that "love is a verb, not a noun". Trite though it is the phrase does capture an important principle of relationship satisfaction, that to love someone requires repeated actions (internal and external) that are loving and that love is a process, not a commodity. Similarly, I am learning (and relearning and relearning) that to be an ally is a verb, a process, not a static quality or status that I possess. This learning can be painful and humbling but is so worth it.

My best (and hardest) learning takes place when it is interpersonal, especially in relationships that I care a lot about, and in this context it is so much more than book learning or theory. I come up against it when I say or do something in my interactions with people of color, or someone with a disability, or members of other marginalized groups that is unintentionally hurtful or offensive, or in which I am negligent to my own privilege. Sometimes I don't understand what is pointed out to me right away; at other times I understand immediately. Either way, my immediate response is often to feel embarrassed and exposed. As a well-educated ally I of course like to think of myself as not making such blunders (and even more important, not having the underlying attitudes the blunders may represent). I like this quote from some readings that were given to me at a recent multiculturalism training:

Racism takes many forms. To perpetuate racism, I don't have to make derogatory comments, exclude someone, or believe in a common stereotype. I can abhor personal expressions of overt racism, but still overlook covert racism, especially my own, especially if I'm not vigilantly working to spot and root it out of my system.... If I don't want to perpetuate racism, I have to consciously and diligently reshape my assumptions and instincts, because even though I reject the idea of white superiority, it is how I was socialized and it still fills the air I breath (Margie Carter).

Like this author, sometimes I am easily able to name those more public expressions of overt oppression, but overlook some of my own blind spots. There are many examples of this. For one, my education and training as an academic psychologist causes me at times to present my thoughts in a way that can be distancing, naming the experiences of people with target membership in a way that sounds like a research study. The biased world view of researcher and study subject is one that I am still trying to unlearn. For another, I sometimes make assumptions about the internal experiences of people different from myself, rather than simply asking and listening. Third, I am quick to spot examples of personal oppression (both internalized and external) but am not as attuned to systemic oppression. Fourth, my efforts to be inclusive can be unintentionally tokenizing, especially if they are not backed up by really moving the center of power to the individuals I am trying to include. Finally, seeing the patterns is not enough; I need to take steps to change (or at the very least not participate in) the systems that support continued oppression. As an agent, naming the inequities would mean changing a system which gives me automatic privilege, and acknowledging that I am a part of that unjust system, and both of these are difficult.

It is something, but not enough, to notice the patterns. My privilege allows me to not see those things, to look away, to walk away. Once seen, my privilege allows me to ignore, or not to acknowledge. Once acknowledged, my privilege is to not do anything to change the structures that hold these inequities in place, because by changing those systems I put at risk the privilege those systems bequeath to me. People who do not hold dominant social memberships do not hold those privileges, and if I am to truly be an ally I need to be vigilant to the ways my privilege blinds me, makes me inactive, and makes me withdraw from the hard work.

Sometimes this work reminds me of running. When I go for a run, I am usually a happy camper as long as the terrain is level, and the weather temperate. As soon as I hit an incline (or it's too rainy, or too cold, or too hot, or my legs hurt) I want to slow down. Or walk. Or not head out in the first place. In my work as an ally, as soon as a blind spot is pointed out to me, or a blunder made (no matter how unintentionally) there is that reflexive part of me that says "this is too hard," or that retreats into a place of defensiveness or shame. Yet truly what I want is to be open, to learn, to be able to make mistakes in my relationships with friends and colleagues with different social memberships than mine, to be an effective ally. So I keep trying.

So, what I pledge to do as an ally is this: acknowledge the inequities I see (don't look away), say them out loud (don't be afraid to have a voice), engage in discussion around difference (don't be afraid to make mistakes), and work actively toward shifting the center in the groups and organizations I am a part of (be willing to give up privilege).

In our group, I hope we can continue to create an atmosphere where we can have respectful dialogue with one another about difference, to reflect the world that we want to see in the microcosm of our group. Racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of personal and systemic oppression are factors in our group. Especially in the areas where we have social privilege, we will not see everything, but we can support each other in seeing and naming as much as we can, and trying to understand more. We can only feel safe in a world/group/family/relationship where we don't feel we will be censured by naming difficult truths and where we trust that those truths will be held with respect.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Understanding the Anxious Mind

In this last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Robin Marantz Henig explores the possible genetic, biological predisposition to anxiety. The article refers to studies done by developmentalists like Jerome Kagan who have used homogenous samples of, for example, White, middle-class babies and traced their experience of anxiety in longitudinal study, across the years. What this author seems to conclude is that our brains may, in fact, get hard-wired to worry. "Born with a lower threshold for arousal", there are just certain people who tend to "stay on guard, anxious, and wired, even when the situation is not threatening (Henig, 2009)." In these cases, she explains, there is a hyperactive amygdala, the place in the brain that responds to novelty or threat (Henig).

I was moved to post this after reading it and feeling that gut-level sense that there is a lot missing in this piece. For example, although parenting is mentioned as a potential factor in the anxious behaviors of babies, young people and adults, it is considered difficult to study and inconclusive. Similarly, the article is approaching the issue from just one position, the scientific view, rather than a systems perspective or personality typology, for example. Also, what does it mean to think that using a sample of White, middle class people will somehow result in a conclusion about human behavior overall? Obviously the intention is to eliminate environmental differences, but what does that ultimately do to the relevance of the research? These are some questions I have. But, check it out and tell me what you think, too.

To read, click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Models for Healing - Indigenous Survivors of Historical Trauma: Theory and Research Implications

Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhD
Friday October 9, 2009, 7 p.m.

Dr. Yellow Horse Brave Heart's presentation will describe historical trauma for Indigenous Peoples and the historical trauma response, present an intervention aimed at facilitating healing of this trauma response among American Indian adults and parents, provide preliminary research findings on the intervention effectiveness as well as new data on mental health problems and the suggested role of historical trauma, and suggest areas for future work.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ethical Borders: NAFTA, Globalization, and Mexican Migration

This book takes on many great angles of eurocentrism, including the hypocrisy of blaming Mexicans for coming north for work when the US took their jobs in the first place. As the author sums up in an article he recently wrote (click here to view full article), "At the end of the day, economic investment in Mexico is what’s needed to solve the undocumented migration challenge." Two other great websites on this topic are www.racewire.org and www.lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration.

How does does this book relate to us? It challenges us to think about how we and our clients consciously and unconsciously blame others for taking their "rightful" piece of the pie by working to increase their security, stability, and happiness. We have the powerful and often difficult task of opening people's intrapersonal and collective awareness to the costs and inaccuracy of blame. "Illegal" immigration is a literal and metaphorical example of the ignorance of blame.

- Submitted by Anne Phillips

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summertime Limen---ing

This summer's been busy for The Limen Group - even as we all took a break from retreats. Anne, Stacey and I met with Karma, organizational consultant from the Center for Ethical Leadership, for a discussion about decision making process. We also met with Leticia Nieto for a lively session about addressing and challenging racism and other areas of social inequality in our decision making, representation, objectives, and style. Additionally, many of you met with us about how the group is developing and areas where we might improve in use of time, vision, approach and activities. These meetings were invaluable. Finally, this last weekend the three of us met for a day long retreat to discuss our upcoming retreat, ideas that have come up in our individual meetings with you all, organizational structure, and the overall vision of Limen. It's been a busy and exciting time for the project and also a time of recharging. We look forward to building on this energy and seeing you all in October.

Domestic Partner Rights at Risk

In May of 2009, Governor Gregoire signed into law the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill. This bill granted same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual, unmarried seniors, the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual, married spouses.

Now those new rights are at risk. Those who oppose granting increased rights to same-sex partnerships created Referendum 71, which will put the new law up for public vote in November's election. Backers of Referendum 71 obtained enough signatures to have their initiative appear on November's ballot. The public vote in November will either uphold, or repeal, the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill.

Things you need to know about Referendum 71:

- You are voting to uphold, or repeal, a law that was already voted on by our legislators and signed into law by Governor Gregoire.
- The rights granted in this law give gay, lesbian and senior couples the same legal rights that heterosexual, married couples already possess.
- Voting YES on Referendum 71 means you want to UPHOLD the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law, while
- Voting NO on Referendum 71 means you want to REPEAL the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law.

How you can help:

Healers and mental health professionals can play a special role in this type of situation. We have the interpersonal and group process skills to be able to hold differences and facilitate difficult conversations. We have the knowledge of empirical data to support domestic partner relationships and refute discriminatory messages. We also know that contact theory suggests that the best way to reduce discrimination and prejudice is to have personal, 1:1 contact between individuals who hold prejudicial beliefs and those in the target group. Therefore, we are asking you to personally be a part of the effort to VOTE YES on 71.

Equal Rights Washington and Washington Families Standing Together are hosting community meetings throughout September in communities all over Washington. These meetings will give people the information, materials, and support we need to go out into our communities and talk to people about the importance of this law and how it affects same-sex and senior partners on a daily basis. You can visit their website at http://approvereferendum71.org/ to find materials, talking points, and information to help you. The more people go out into their communities and talk about Referendum 71, the better. Their schedule of community meetings appears here (you will need to contact them directly to RSVP).

This is an urgent and time sensitive issue, as mail-in ballots will be sent out to voters in less than 6 weeks. While asking for your support on this issue, we also recognize there are many ways to be a family that Referendum 71 does not include, such as being non-monogomous or polyamorous, and that the rights granted in this legislation are rights that ALL families need, regardless of relational status. Knowing that change is slow and incremental we choose at this time to tackle Referendum 71 while recognizing the bigger picture needs. We hope you will stand with us in supporting domestic partner rights for same-sex and senior couples.

Submitted by Stacey Prince

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Illegal Aliens"

Most of us are, with the exception of Native Americans and Africans forced into this country. Believing in the power of mixed media for education, below are two videos: "The Great Immigration Debate of 1621" and "How to Solve Illegal Immigration" found on YouTube. I am sorry to say that they are not closed captioned and therefore exclude the Deaf.

The first video takes a satirical look at colonialism and tells the story as if people indigenous to this land had the power when Europeans immigrated here. Not only do they tell the story as if Native Americans had the power but also as if the Native Americans ruled like White people do/did.

In the second video (please do not be fooled by the cartoon or the cats) a serious education is offered about what truly happens in this country regarding immigration abuse and all the ways lies are told as if they are the truth. I highly recommend any Pinky Show video.

"A lie told often enough becomes the truth." - Vladimir Lenin

submitted by Anne Phillips

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wise Words

Tim Wise, a white anti-racism activist, wrote an article that was printed in the July, 2009 issue of The Sun. It addresses the myths that racism has been dismantled because of President Barack Obama being elected into office. He speaks to the hegemony and systematic racism that is going strong regardless of a few people of color in leadership positions. He even states an interesting argument, that it is easier to become the president of the United States as an African-American man than to become a CEO of a company, due to the fact that a few white leaders will make that CEO decision and therefore perpetuate systematic racism by choosing fellow white leaders.

One quote I found useful in the article is: "One reason white Americans deny their white privilege is that most people want to believe they are living in a just society. Another is that to acknowledge the truth would call upon us to make some tough changes, and people are afraid to give up their advantage. It can also be psychologically harmful to confront the fact that one is benefitting unfairly from the system."

Tim Wise has a new book out, called Between Barack and a Hard Place: Race and Whiteness in the Age of Obama.

Submitted by Anne Phillips

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just Noticeable Difference

Our third retreat took place on Sunday, June 7 at Entre Hermanos. The focus at this third meeting was to continue relationship-building, as well as to discuss our name, vision, and decision-making process. Click here for a narrative of the retreat, and see postings below regarding the name and vision statement discussions.

Over the summer we plan on taking a break from retreats, but the work behind the scenes will continue. Liz, Anne and Stacey plan to meet with both Leticia Nieto and Karma Ruder. Leticia Nieto is the founder of the Beyond Inclusion model of anti-oppression work, and we will be speaking with her about a possible training in the fall as well as other collaborative efforts. We will be consulting with Karma Ruder from the Center for Ethical Leadership regarding decision-making and identifying processes that are likely to be most effective for our group. In addition we hope to have 1:1 meetings with many of you, to discuss your experiences thus far and what you envision your involvement with the group to be in the future. We also hope that you will all join in the electronic dialogue by posting to the blog.

In the fall we will hold a one or two day retreat, on October 10 and/or 11. One day will be devoted to finalizing decisions regarding our group’s name, mission and vision statements, and decision making processes. If enough people are interested in attending, the other day will be a full-day workshop with Leticia Nieto, where she will present her “Beyond Inclusion” model of anti-oppression work, tailored specifically to the goals and needs of our group. We hope by this fourth retreat to really be able to “launch” this project, with a clear sense of our purpose, vision, membership, and long and short-term goals.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in a name?

As we all know, a lot! Our discussion of a name for our group began at our first retreat, and continued into retreat 3 where we went into more depth about some of the possibilities. Following is a summary of that discussion.

First, we discussed where the name “The Limen Group” came from in the first place. It was actually a word that Stacey saw at an art exhibit, and went home and looked up. As she explored its various meanings, she felt it was very fitting for the work this group is endeavoring to do. The primary meanings we have found are:

• In psychophysiology, the limen (also known as Just Noticeable Difference, or JND) is the threshold between unconscious/imperceptible and conscious/perceptible. For example, if the intensity of a light source is increased in tiny increments, the moment when a human observer is able to notice the change is called the limen. The tie-in to our group is that part of what we are trying to do is to make conscious or perceptible the connections between an individual’s struggles and a broader societal context or problem: for example, when someone recognizes the connection between internalized oppression and institutional discrimination.

• In geopolitics, limen means the margin between two powers; because it is the space between powers but having allegiance to neither, it is thought of as a neutral but powerful space for intercultural dialogue and negotiation. This is exactly the kind of space we hope to create with our group—a space where challenging intercultural dialogues can take place, and where people feel both safe and free.

• In a variety of fields ranging from gender studies to anthropology to physics, limen refers to “the space between”. It is a way of recognizing differences without assuming a hierarchy. We in this group are working in the space between psychology and social justice work, and we work with other between spaces as well—for example, when we talk about intersectionality or space between two target memberships.

Despite all of these nice resonances to the word, members of our group have raised some concerns and objections to it. These include:

• The feeling that it is elitist because some many won’t know its meaning without looking it up.
• Even if not elitist, the name may not draw people in or entice them to learn more because it doesn’t say anything about who we are or what we do.
• Some are OK with Limen, but don’t like the word “group,” feeling that it has too corporate a sound, and have suggested alternatives such as “collective”.
• Some are not comfortable with the use of “social justice” in the by-line, feeling that the phrase has been much used and in some cases misused in the media of late.

Below are some alternatives that have been offered, along with the problems associated with each:

• Limen Collective or Limen Community (these still hold all of the problems associated with the word Limen)
• PsychEquality (promotes equality as a value, which sometimes is read as the goal of bringing marginalized groups into equality with the dominant group, a problematic message we do not want to propogate)
• PsychAdvocates (has a nice double meaning—we are advocating for psychology as well as for individuals and society—but implies that our primary action is advocacy, which it is not)
• Northwest Center for Liberation Psychology (or, just Center for Liberation Psychology) (many people like this—it is very compelling, says what we are doing to a large extent, and has the added double meaning of liberating psychology itself from some of the strictures we all have noted. If we do decide to use it, we will want to do some further research to make sure that we are justified in using this label which refers to a well-established movement based primarily in South America.)

After laying out these points, discussion and brainstorming ensued, and no final decision was reached; instead, our name discussion flowed naturally into an exploration of our decision-making process. We hope to finalize both of these important decisions (what our name is, and how we make decisions) by the fall retreat. In the meantime, if you have thoughts about the name question, please post here!

Vision Statement

At retreat #3, we spent time exploring our vision statement. Unlike a mission statement, which describes the purpose of an organization, the vision statement is more about our destination: what we want our organization to look and feel like, and the change we want to create in the world. It is big picture (3-5 years out) and aspirational. Stacey led us in an exercise where we all wrote a vision statement for Limen that answered these questions: What is your long term and short term vision of this group? How is this group different than other groups you give your time and energy to? What do you want to see happen with the group--personally, in the organization itself, and in the world? Participants thought and wrote about these questions, then shared their proposed vision statements with the group. The results were compelling. Here they are. Please add your thoughts, questions, or additional statements to this new dialogue.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Noticeable Difference

In psychophysiology, Limen refers to the moment when a small increment of change becomes noticeable—for example, if a light source is increased in tiny increments, the limen is the moment when someone can perceive the change. This is also known as the “just noticeable difference”. In this section we will highlight work and activities of the Limen co-founders between retreats. Sometimes this may feel to us (and perhaps to you, our readers!) that little progress has been made—but actually we are all inching forward and at some point our progress will become noticeable!

Our first retreat took place on February 13,2009 (click here for a summary of that meeting). Since our February retreat Liz, Anne and Stacey have been meeting, thinking, processing and talking. None of the above will come as any surprise to those of you who know us. Our first task was to process the flood of input that came from our first retreat. We had 42 people in attendance, and the day was stimulating, exciting, and confusing at times. We discussed feeling as if the process of the day was a success, with diverse voices being heard and opinions being expressed in an environment of support and respect. On the more confusing side, many issues were called into question including the different levels of the Limen model, whether we should be a non-profit, and even whether there should be an actual physical center versus virtual meetings and face to face consultation. We summarized the retreat in a memo so that those who attended as well as those who were unable to would have a narrative of the day.

We also wrote up the notes from the numerous afternoon breakout groups at the retreat. These notes were rich with ideas and gave us much to think about. We plan on offering the notes as a shared, working document to all Limen Group members, some time after retreat #2 or #3 (once we feel we have a better shared understanding of our mission), so that all in our virtual group can continue to work together to develop the different levels, goals and foci of the project.

One of the themes that became clear to us right way was the challenge of truly putting collective leadership into action. How can we hear and be responsive to many diverse opinions while still being able to make decisions and move forward concretely with plans? Dan Rosen summed it up well at the retreat, stating that he likes to be up in the clouds discussing lofty ideas, but also wants to have his feet on the ground and be “doing the work”. We feel the same way! In order to get some guidance about this we consulted with Karma Ruder at the Center for Ethical Leadership. CEL provides consultation locally and nationally to organizations who are striving to manifest an ethical, collective leadership model. Karma was enormously helpful to us, and some of her ideas will be evident in the work of our second retreat, where we will focus on relationship building and identifying our common, core values. Please note that the Center for Ethical Leadership is offering an upcoming workshop in June on creating “gracious space”; see “Announcements” section of the blog for a description.

We held our second retreat on Saturday, May 2 at the beautiful, newly renovated Filipino Community Center (click here for a summary). With a small group we were able to share an intimate space and our work focused on relationship building, making meaning of "social justice work," and identifying core values. We also discussed some possibilities for initial "feet on the ground" (as opposed to head in the clouds) work that we can do together, including forming some workgroups and/or consult groups around particular topics.

A very pragmatic issue has been to find dates for future meetings that work for as many people as possible. With everyone’s busy schedules we know it’s not possible to find a date that will work for all, and we hope you will find this blog, other email correspondence from us, and smaller group meetings to be useful ways to stay in touch and keep the momentum going between retreats. We have already heard from several of you that you have followed up with someone you met at the first retreat, and couldn’t be happier about this outcome of our first retreat.

Mission Statement

Among our other objectives for Retreat #3, we would like to work on developing a mission statement. Our mission statement should be short but pithy enough to communicate important information to others right away about what our group is all about, and what we are trying to accomplish. We will also work on developing some specific, short-term goals and objectives. In preparation for this work we would like to start a conversation here. Below are some guiding questions to begin to get us thinking about our mission and objectives:

- What are the relationships between psychology and social justice that you are interested in exploring?
- What are we trying to do that's different than what's already out there (i.e., why do you want to spend some Saturday afternoons with us, and not with all of the other wonderful groups we are all a part of?)
- What are you hoping to get out of this personally? Out of the many objectives that we might have, what are your personal priorities?

When you answer these questions, keep in mind that we are developing objectives for right now--these will likely change over time. Our mission statement, on the other hand, should be able to encompass our values, objectives and activities for a longer period of time (many organizations revisit their mission statement every couple of years).

Please feel free to post comments to this and/or to begin your own topic of conversation.


During the first year of developing our ideas for the Limen Group, Stacey, Anne and Liz met with over 40 people who we thought might be interested in Limen, want to participate, and/or have ideas to share with us about how to make the project as effective as possible. This was such a fascinating array of people and meetings that we have decided to make a column out of them. In subsequent blogposts we will offer a description of some of our meetings with these individuals, who they are, what they contributed to the development of the project, and how we might want to work with them in the future.

Marsha Botzer, MA (meetings with Stacey, January 15, 2008 and April 7, 2008)

The very first meeting I had, when this idea was just a spark in my head, was with Marsha Botzer. Marsha is a transgender activist, consultant, and speaker who has led and/or been a part of numerous local and national LGBT rights organizations. She founded Ingersoll Gender Center here in Seattle, a meeting and resource center for transgender individuals, as well as WTAP, an organization supporting transgender legal rights. She has been on the board of Equal Rights Washington, The Pride Foundation, and the National LGBT Task Force. She also co-chaired “Obama Pride,” the LGBT branch of Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign.

During our first meeting I told Marsha about my nascent ideas which at that point consisted primarily of integrating political activism/advocacy with psychology. We discussed ways that therapists could get involved in political activism, including testifying in Olympia on relevant legislation, providing clinical and empirical materials to legislators, and organizing grassroots efforts to have other mental health providers call their legislators when relevant bills were being considered. Although I did not have very specific ideas to discuss at this point, her enthusiasm for the overall concept was the first of many positive responses that seemed to provide a confirmatory, “you are going in the right direction with this” kind of feeling. Marsha has been involved in activism for many years, and she knows well the support, determination, and stamina that are required; she seemed to feel that providing this for mental health professionals in an organized way was a good idea.

During our second meeting in April, my ideas were somewhat more formulated. I had expanded my thinking to include integrating political activism into psychotherapy, and had begun to look at Liberation Psychology and the work of a few psychologists around the nation who were beginning to do so. I was still very much focused on LGBT rights, although this would change shortly. At our second meeting Marsha took me to meet Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington. He too was very enthusiastic about the Limen project, and offered several additional ways (writing op-eds and letters to the editor, asking clients or colleagues to tell their story regarding gay marriage rights using ERW’s on-line story telling tool and/or by testifying in Olympia) that both clients and therapists could get involved.

Marsha’s other profoundly significant contribution to our process was that she suggested having a “mini-retreat” once a core group of interested people was formed. As you all know we had our first retreat in February, and are planning our second and third in May and June. Thank you, Marsha, for this fabulous idea as well as for all of your tremendous support, enthusiasm and wisdom as we have developed this project!

"Limen Group, I hope for..."

We placed this opening to a sentence or a thought on large sheets of paper around the room at our first retreat, hoping that people would finish the sentence with their ideas and hopes for Limen. We only got two responses (probably because people didn’t know enough yet about what the Limen Group really is!) but they were so great we wanted to include it here.

“Limen Group, I hope for many long, messy conversations that explore those places we all fear to tread.”

“Hanap Buhay – to find life work”.

Thank you! Please feel free to contribute your own endings to this sentence by posting here.

Margin to Center

One of the goals of the Limen Group is to support systemic change through legislative and public policy work. Whereas psychotherapy can be thought of as making changes from the inside out--working from the individual outward to the systems (family, school, city, nation) in which we live--systemic change is making changes from the outside in—changes in law or policy that filter down to the individual and can have a huge impact on our day-to-day lives. In this column we will highlight ways in which individuals can impact systemic change, including tips on how to get involved, stories of successful political advocacy and alerts regarding current legislation that is relevant to our work to reduce oppression. Individuals often feel disempowered by the political system, feeling as if their voice or vote does not count or will not be impactful. Here we want to highlight the ways that one voice from the margins can reach the centers of power and be a part of structural change.

In this issue we simply want to provide an overview of some of the many ways that individuals can get involved in political advocacy. The options are varied and run the gamut from doing grassroots work to organize support, to writing opinion pieces, to meeting face to face with legislators. The important thing is to identify the modality in which you feel most comfortable and confident, and to find an area of advocacy that you feel passionate about. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of advocacy activities:

o Lobby in Olympia (or Washington, DC)
o Testify in Olympia (or Washington, DC)
o Use the internet to organize friends and colleagues to call their legislators in support of or opposition to a particular bill
o Help gather relevant empirical evidence for “amicus briefs,” documents that are submitted by legislators in support of particular bills
o Help gather relevant clinical anecdotes for legislative hearings
o Write op-eds or letters to the editor
o Write to and/or arrange a face to face meeting with your local legislator
o Donate money to the “PAC” (political action campaign) of an organization you are a member of
o Deliver “PAC” checks to your local legislator
o Get involved with your state and/or professional associations; most have public policy committees or other positions that involve policy work

In addition to the “how” of political advocacy, sometimes people are unsure of the “what”—what topics are out there to advocate for? Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of potential areas of focus for mental health and social justice advocacy:

o Treatment of specific populations (e.g.., returning Iraqi veterans; mental health treatment for substance abuse offenders who are in the criminal justice system)
o Human rights / social issues (e.g., death with dignity; family leave for birth/adoption of children; LGBT rights; immigrant rights and immigration laws; torture)
o Reducing healthcare and mental healthcare disparities (e.g., lack of affordable health insurance for individuals and the unemployed, disparities in access for target groups)
o Protecting clients’ rights (e.g., mental health parity; HIPAA)
o Advancing mental health professions (e.g., restoring funding cuts for Medicare reimbursement; reducing barriers to licensure)

In future issues we will provide more in-depth how-to’s on each of the above strategies, and down the road we would like to provide face to face trainings on political advocacy skills.


In this section we hope to explore the many meanings of the word "limen". Though we realize the name of our group is still up for discussion, we wanted to share with you why it holds such appeal. Here we will post definitions, uses of the word from a variety of fields of study, etc.

Artist Kurt Brereton's statement about his painting titled "Liminal #2":

"Psychologists call 'liminal space' a place where boundaries become indeterminate. We stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we might become. That is, this is a space or field of transformation between phases of separation and reincorporation. This painting is my record of finding myself inside a liminal space - in a period of ambiguity, of marginal and transitional state. This is a very common experience of shedding baggage and travelling lighter between stops. In post-colonial studies, liminality relates to the concept of cultural hybridity, describing complex untidy trans cultural spaces, trans geographical or trans gender states etc. Every transition is also an opportunity to redefine fixed viewpoints."