Am I Doing Good?
Like many clinicians in the mental health sector, I want to ‘help’ and ‘do good’.
But how do I know I am really ‘helping’ or ‘doing good’ in a world structured for inequity?
And can I bear to find out?
As a clinician, I grapple a lot with the concept of ‘doing good’. On the one hand, I think its a good thing to want to make the world a better place, and on the other, its a fraught endeavour for multiple reasons, one of which is understanding that I’m working and living in complex systems of inequity that are hard to see.
This series of seminars is designed for clinicians (but open to everyone), who want to grapple with this question of ‘doing good’, by learning more about some of the global social theories that structure inequity in the mental health profession/system.
The question ‘Am I doing good?’ is a framework for exploration more than an actual question that can be answered. The seminar series aims to grapple with rather than definitively answer the question, in order to help clinicians, especially those from the dominant culture, become more aware of systems of inequity that shape our culture and our profession; how we benefit from them and keep reproducing them, how they manifest in the lives of our clients, and how we might do better at doing good.
WHO IS THIS FOR?
These seminars are open to anyone but are designed for mental health professionals who:
- struggle with not being able to ‘help enough’ sometimes
- want to understand how the larger social systems of oppression are mirrored in individual sessions and the therapeutic relationship
- are deeply interested in the concept of allyship and cultural safety
- want to learn more about global social structures of exploitation and oppression and how they are implicated and replicated in the mental health profession/system
- want a supportive space to grapple with these issues with other clinicians.
The Practitioner Dilemma…
Whilst these seminar topics are focussed on the mental health field, professionals and students from intersecting and care-oriented fields may also find them useful and are most welcome to attend.
The seminars will go for two and half hours, once a fortnight over ten weeks. You can register for all five seminars or come to individual topics – the seminar topics intersect but are designed to stand alone.
These seminars are introductory in nature. They are huge topics so the seminars are designed to give you a basic grounding in the topic and space to think and discuss together the implications of the topic within our professional practice.
One week ahead of each seminar, I will send participants materials to read/watch ahead of the seminar, including easy-to-understand theoretical explanations, critical thinking and critical feeling prompts, links to the key theorists on the topic, and further reading lists for those who want to explore the literature more.
The materials require no more than one hour of pre-seminar preparation time. The seminars are discussion-based learning spaces, not lectures, so engaging with the pre-seminar materials is necessary to fully participate in the seminar discussions and case studies.
In the seminars, I deliberately use a more Western-style of learning because as an Anglo-European, that’s my cultural way. It isn’t the only way, or a better or worse way than other ways, but its important to understand its just one way of sharing, finding and generating knowledge.
The seminars vary in structure and include a mix of discussions, case studies, and critical thinking and critical feeling prompts. We may go into breakout rooms and if numbers make it possible, there will be the option to have some rooms just for people with particular identity characteristics (black, indigenous, and people of colour; LGBTQIA+; non-native English speaking people; and disabled people).
SEMINAR TOPICS: A very brief introduction
Structural Violence – 3 Oct
Structural violence refers to social arrangements – economic, religious, political, legal, and cultural – that cause harm to individuals and populations or prevent them from achieving their full potential. It’s the way in which -isms like racism, sexism et cetera are baked in to our societies at the systemic level.
Western mental health is structurally violent in multiple ways and has always been used as a tool for social control of marginalised groups, particularly through its tendency to depoliticise suffering, turning social problems into private pain.
Considering social, political, environmental, and commercial determinants of health can help us see how structural violence impacts individual and population wellbeing.
Neoliberalism – 19 Oct
Neoliberalism is an ideology that minimizes/eliminates the role of governments in society to enable the proliferation of unregulated private enterprise. It tends to be a right-wing, anti-social approach that strips the ability for societies to regulate against extreme exploitation and promotes extreme individualism. It therefore benefits people, countries, and companies who already have more power and privilege than others and therefore increases inequity within and between societies.
Neoliberalism is implicated in psychological tendencies that are reinforced by Western psychology such as seeing oneself as a development project or in need of fixing, prioritizing and prizing functionality and productivity, and a hyper-individualised concept of self. The increased commercialisation of mental health is also indicative of the influence of neoliberalism.
Settler-Colonialism – 31 Oct
Settler-colonialism is a racialised political structure driven by territoriality and is inherently characterised by a process of eliminating Indigeneity (this can mean directly eliminating actual people and eliminating identity and cultural ways of being which also impacts on biological wellbeing and longevity). Modern settler colonial states include Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada and USA.
The Western mental health sector participates in the elimination of Indigeneity through a variety of processes including the imposition of Anglo-European constructions of self, universalizing what is normal irrelevant of culture, and assuming the Western construction of the nature of reality is the only real or correct construction.
The Therapeutic State – 14 Nov
The concept of the therapeutic state explores how psychology and the state intersect to shape society and individual psychology and how the state uses the therapeutic ethos to justify increasing ‘involvement’ in people’s lives. The current insistence of government to appear to implement trauma informed practice everywhere is one example. The Politics of Feelings/Emotions is another way psychological tools are used by the state by using feeling-based/psychologised rhetoric to influence political outcomes.
It’s not to say that people aren’t suffering or in need of help, but prompts many questions including why the state doesn’t invest more heavily in strengths-based, community-directed preventative approaches?
Mental Health Industrial Complex – 28 Nov
The concept of the industrial complex is used to analyse the way sectors of society that are supposedly working for the good of the population become profit-making and profit-driven, and develop a conflict of interest whereby they profit the most by not achieving their stated goal of helping society.
The mental health sector can be viewed as an industrial complex for several reasons including this same kind of conflict of interest, the increasing commercialisation of the sector, and the harm the sector causes to those it claims to help.
What these topics have in common…
SEMINAR FACILITATOR: LIZ SCARFE
I’m a psychotherapist and I’ve been fascinated by the idea of ‘doing good’ and how it intersects with privilege for many years.
My studies in critical medical anthropology have particularly given me the opportunity to deeply grapple with the complexities of trying to assess ‘doing good’.
My passion for this seminar series is to support clinicians, including myself, to not only learn together new ways to critically analyse our work, but to expand our capacity for self-critique as a sector such that we can do better.
Read my full bio and qualifications here.
Seminars will be held online on Zoom on Tuesday evenings from 6-8.30pm AEDT (Melbourne time) on the following dates:
Structural Violence – Tue 2 Oct – find the date and time for your time zone here
Neoliberalism – Thu 19 Oct – find the date and time for your time zone here
Settler-Colonialism – Tue 31 Oct – find the date and time for your time zone here
The Therapeutic State – Tue 14 Nov – find the date and time for your time zone here
The Mental Health Industrial Complex – Tue 28 Nov – find the date and time for your time zone here
The seminars are online via Zoom. The Zoom link will be sent prior to the beginning of each seminar. Participants should plan to have their videos on if their bandwidth allows.
The seminars will be recorded for those not able to attend live, or to watch again for those who want to study the discussion in more depth.
The recordings will be available to watch (not download) for two weeks after the seminar. Please see the registration form for more information about recording, privacy, and confidentiality.
Seminar cancellations with seven or more days’ notice will receive a full refund.
Cancellations with less than seven days’ notice will not be refunded.
You are welcome to sell your registration to someone else. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you’re doing this.
Seminars are $110 AUD each, with a 20% discount if registering for all five.
For participants joining from regions with significantly different economies, please contact us at email@example.com for a rate adjusted to your economy.
ANZPOP acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands we live and work on, the Aboriginal Australian, and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the Maori First Nations peoples. We pay respect to their elders across time. We give thanks for the Indigenous knowledge that has informed the Process Work approach. We honour the courage, resilience, and spirit of First Nations peoples to counter the ongoing impacts of colonisation on their culture, well-being, and sovereignty.