Colonization and white supremacy culture have had (and continue to have) profound implications on the wellbeing of all peoples–oppressors and the oppressed alike. Decolonizing mental health care is central to the mission and values at Dream Life Out Loud because at the root of decolonization is love, whereas the root of colonization is fear. Where there is love, there is a natural arc toward anti-oppression and liberatory praxis. Unfortunately, fear begets control, and control is oppressive. A decolonized approach to mental health care offers a sustainable path toward radical growth and healing. After all, love is what nurtures development and growth.
What is Decolonized Mental Health?
Traditional mental health care is not void of the vestiges of colonization. The therapeutic relationship tends to be one sided, wherein the client is directed by an all-knowing therapist who is educated and trained to be as objective, evidence-based, and put together as possible. Much of this education and training is of course biased toward white-Eurocentric cultural and developmental norms. A decolonized approach to mental health care has the value and goal of mental health prior to colonization. Decolonized mental health care at its core, then, is authentic, kind, reciprocal, and trusting–the ingredients of love.
Dream Life Out Loud’s approach to decolonizing mental health care involves the following throughout the entire care process:
- Transparency, consent, and collaboration
- Authenticity and accountability with a particular focus on the impact of actions rather than intentions
- Interrupt and challenge white supremacy culture, especially competition, perfectionism, and urgency
- Incorporates culture and history into evidence-based interventions
- Incorporates intersectional identities with emphasis on identities most marginalized
- Relational attunement and repair of ruptures
Brave Spaces > Safe Spaces
Safe spaces are an ideal and do not exist in most contexts, especially for people of color. To state a given space is safe implies individuals in that space will not feel any emotional discomfort and no emotional risks are needed. This is why in the context of spaces that promote social justice, brave space is the preferred term, not safe space. Brave spaces implies a need for bravery because there will be emotional discomfort and a need for emotional risks to be taken. How is the concept of a brave space relevant here? Well, therapy inherently involves emotional discomfort and risk taking. It would not be therapy otherwise. To suggest therapy is a safe space rather than a brave space also implicitly undermines clients’ power. We here at Dream Life Out Loud want to engage collaboratively with clients bravely throughout the therapeutic experience to reach the ideal of a safe space as close as possible, and this is in keeping with the values and goals of decolonizing mental health care.