Implicit Bias and Racial Trauma
Implicit bias is inherent in all living things. Our brains scan for signs of danger or difference, and our bodies respond instinctually to what we sense is safe and to what we fear. Unlike explicit bias, implicit bias is nonverbal and often unconscious, and it usually goes unrecognized. Most therapists have been trained to be ‘color blind’ rather than comfortable initiating discussions on race, privilege, or microaggression and discrimination. Rarely are therapists trained to understand the potential effects of their skin color or educational status on the client. Becoming more aware of our implicit biases is a sign of health, not a sign of being ‘racist,’ and will make us better clinicians overall.
1. Define implicit and explicit bias.
2. Describe what is meant by ‘racial trauma’.
3. Describe the role of race and racial bias in the client’s presenting issues.
4. Give three examples of common microaggressions in clinical settings.
5. Demonstrate how to validate experiences of racism and microaggression.
6. Articulate two practical tools for creating a sense of safety for clients of color.
Janina Fisher PhD,
Post-doctoral fellow, Victims of Violence Program (1991-93); Instructor, Harvard Medical School (1992-1995); Instructor, The Trauma Center (1995-2011); Faculty Member, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, internationally known speaker since 1999 on neurobiologically-informed trauma treatment. Author of Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors (2017) and Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma (2021).