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JUNE 24 - 26, 2021 / WORLDWIDE




11.45 - 12.00


Schema Therapy for Racialized Trauma

with Lorraine Gordon

In the Wake of the Brutal Murder of George Floyd, What can Schema Therapy Contribute to an Understanding of how we can Heal Racialised Trauma?

Fundamental to schema therapy is a theory of identity development as an explanatory framework for human emotional dis-ease [Young, Klosko and Weishaar, 2006]. Theories which underpin schema therapy broadly encapsulate notions central to the understanding of how interpersonal interaction in early life forms the templates by which individuals perceive and understand themselves, the world and others. As time lapses, unmet core childhood needs become activated in relationships and individuals find themselves repeating harmful patterns of relating to themselves and others which have their origins in childhood. The year 2020 was one like none other in living memory. Not only did minoritised ethnic groups in the U.K. and elsewhere disproportionately suffer severe illness and death during the global pandemic of SARS Cov2, highlighting systemic health inequalities faced by Black and Brown people [Gordon, 2020], but the brutal racist murder of George Floyd by law enforcement officers in the USA was a reminder of how people of colour have been dehumanised and their bodies violated for centuries.

Psychological trauma can be understood as a response to a substantial threat to self or that of a significant other person [Grey, 2007]. Racialised trauma is a product of the impact of social, cultural and political forces empowered by structural racism where a race in a given position, discriminates against racialised groups with an intergenerational history of slavery, servitude or colonisation. Doll studies [Powell- Hopson & Hopson, 1988] both depict the acculturation of children leading them to internalise critical messages relating to people of African heritage, and the possibility of intervention to bring about change and healing in those same children of African descent.

Internalised racism as a result of assimilation to a structurally racist environment lends itself to be viewed as similar to the critical messages one might receive from a punitive parent in early childhood and also go on to internalise. The Traumatised African Child encapsulates unmet needs around disconnection and rejection and associated feelings. The African Affirmative Adult is the integrated Healthy Adult mode which soothes, protects and gives hope to the Traumatised African Child mode and subsumes a Healed African Child part. Figure 1. is a mode map depicting the Vulnerable Child mode incorporating the Traumatised African Child and the Healthy Adult mode as taking an African Affirmative Adult position incapsulating the Healed African Child. The premise being postulated here is that the therapist can model an African Affirmative position using all of the tools available to the schema therapist, even when working trans-culturally, to heal racialised trauma.

Figure 1. Mode Map Depicting the Traumatised African Child and the African Affirmative Adult


About the Presenters

Lorraine Gordon


Gordon, L. [2020] Everyone should feel uncomfortable about the number of BAME staff dying from covid, Health Service Journal article Accessed 13 February 2021.

Grey, N [2007] Post-traumatic stress disorder: investigation. In Lindsay & Powell The handbook of clinical adult psychology 3rd Ed. Routledge.

Young, J. E., Klosko, J. S., Wieshaar, M. E. [2006] Schema Therapy a Practitioners Guide. Guidford Publications: The Guildford Press.

Powell-Hopson, D., & Hopson, D. S. [1988] Implications of Doll Color Preferences among Black Preschool Children and White Preschool Children. Journal of Black Psychology. The Association of Black Psychologists. Sage Journals. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00957984880142004 Accessed 13 February 2021.

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Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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