What does Intersectional Therapy Mean?

Picture this: you’re walking down the street in downtown Chicago and you see a friend in the distance. As you get closer, you realize it’s not just any friend, it’s your best friend who you know is a mother, a Black woman, a vegan, a lover of the arts, and a caretaker to her aging mother. Suddenly, you realize that your friend is not just one thing, but a complex web of identities, experiences, and beliefs.  Just like your friend, intersectionality is a beautiful, intricate, and layered concept that defies easy categorization.

Intersectionality refers to the ways in which different forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism intersect and compound to create unique experiences of marginalization and privilege. In this blog, we’ll be exploring the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression and why understanding intersectionality is crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable society. So buckle up and get ready for a wild ride through the intersections of life!

What is Intersectional Therapy?

Critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality in 1989 to address anti-discrimination laws’ failure to protect Black women. In that time–as well as today–race and gender were frequently and mistakenly considered to be mutually exclusive. To combat this notion, intersectionality posits that people experience overlapping forms (visualize a chain-link fence) of discrimination and oppression based on multiple aspects of their identities, such as their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and abilities.

Among the many reasons why intersectionality is such a key concept for therapists is that intersectionality-based therapy considers all facets of a client’s identity and views them as contributing factors to their lived experience. Other factors include how they understand themselves, how they are perceived by others, and what influential communities are present in their lives. Each of these factors allow therapists to generate a whole person view of the client and the challenges that they bring to session.

Beyond the ability to better conceptualize clients’ challenges in the context of their lives, intersectionality recognizes the importance of incorporating intersectional feminism and cultural sensitivity into the therapeutic approach. With this in mind, treatment plans are tailored to be meaningful, effective, and relevant to clients’ needs. This approach is especially important for LGBTQIA+ clients as they contend with the impacts of homophobia, transphobia, and–in many cases–racism.  Working with a therapist who is responsive to the impact of these traumas is incredibly important.

What Is Intersectional Feminism and Cultural Sensitivity?

  • Intersectional feminism strives to “center the voices of those experiencing overlapping, concurrent forms of oppression in order to understand the depths of the inequalities and the relationships among them in any given context”
  • Intersectionality takes into account the levels of privilege within different identities
  • Cultural sensitivity requires awareness of and respect for the different cultures our clients are a part of, as well as an awareness of our own biases.  Cultural humility emphasizes the ability to recognize our “lens” in order to avoid making assumptions about other cultures.

Practicing Intersectionality to Support Queer Clients

When working with LGBTQIA+ clients, it is necessary to use an intersectional approach. A transgender woman, for example, might also be Latine and a member of Gen X.  In viewing clients’ identities from an intersectional perspective, we can better understand their lived experience.  This understanding allows us to approach therapy in a more culturally sensitive and effective manner.

At its core, intersectional feminism strives to ensure that everyone receives respect and equitable treatment, regardless of race, class, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. An intersectional approach to therapy means queer clients are given the understanding and support they deserve.

The Intersectional Therapy Difference for LGBTQIA+ Clients

Have you ever experienced anxiety when searching for a new therapist? Have you wondered if you’ll be welcomed, respected, and safe? Do you feel safe being present as your most honest, authentic self? If you’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, you’ve likely experienced similar concerns.  You’ve also likely hoped to find a therapist who honors, understands, and appreciates your lived experiences.

Good news, he’s here at Pure Health Center! We are incredibly delighted to welcome Wesley, our latest queer-affirming and trauma-centered therapist, Wesley Walker! As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community himself, Wesley understands the unique challenges faced by those with queer identities.

“It is necessary to recognize the systemic disadvantages that LGBTQIA+ individuals face in the day-to-day course of their lives, from employment discrimination and violence to poverty and lack of representation. This is especially true for those who are both BIPOC and LGBTQIA+, as they experience disproportionate oppression due to systemic racism.  In my work I strive to help my clients process their trauma and find security in their multifaceted identities.”

Wesley Walker, PURE Health Center Clinician

Wesley hopes to help empower his clients to reclaim their agency in the face of oppression and marginalization. Through this work, he aims to provide a safe and non-judgmental space for his clients to work through their individual healing journeys while feeling both supported and seen. It is his intention to create a space where queer individuals can feel empowered to explore their identity without fear of judgment or rejection.

Keys to an Empowered and Liberated Queer Healing Experience

When it comes to achieving the kind of empowered, liberated queer healing experiences we all want, there are several key elements.  Wesley prioritizes being an affirming and trauma-centered therapist–creating a safe and validating space for all clients regardless of gender identity and sexuality. He continually strives to understand the nuance of each client’s identities and needs.  

Secondly, Wesley focuses on upholding the central tenets of intersectional feminism. He remains mindful of power dynamics in his work with all clients and how societally normalized and enforced power dynamics can lead to lasting trauma.  He believes it is necessary to recognize the unique trauma that members of the LGBTQIA+ community have faced in society throughout history.

Thirdly, Wesley practices culturally sensitivity and humility when discussing client’s identities and lived experiences. He aims to help clients feel seen, heard, respected, and safe throughout their therapeutic journey.  In LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy with Wesley, there is an emphasis upon the importance of bodily autonomy, self-compassion, and emotional regulation–skills that are necessary for every client in their mental health journey.

LGBTQIA+ Affirming & Intersectional Therapy at PURE Health Center

If you’re looking for more information about Wesley or scheduling an in-person appointment in Roscoe Village, you can visit his profile on our website here. He, or any of the therapists at PURE Health center would be happy to meet and walk with you on your healing journey.

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