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  • Writer's pictureMoss & Fern Counselling

Traumatic Retention and Care with Culture

How traumatic retentions can be confused for personality, familial or cultural identities and options of where to seek more learning and support.

This post is about introducing you to a concept and giving some options of where to learn more as well as options for support. In no way am I wanting to teach this concept since it is not my own and I am unequipped to give a thorough enough definition. Resmaa Menakem, creator of Somatic Abolitionism, termed traumatic retention in his book My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. In My Grandmother's Hands (p.39) Resmaa Menakem writes:

"Unhealed trauma acts like a rock thrown into a pond; it causes ripples that move outward, affecting many other bodies over time. After months or years, unhealed trauma can appear to become a part of someone's personality. Over even longer periods of time, as it is passed on and gets compounded through other bodies in a household, it can become a family norm. And if it gets transmitted and compounded through multiple families and generations, it can start to look like culture.

But it isn't culture. It's a traumatic retention that has lost its context over time."

Again, this is only a glimpse into a much larger teaching on this. If you are interested in exploring this more there is a free intro course where Resmaa covers this and more in his own words that you can find here and other course options here through the Cultural Somatics Training & Institute. There is also an offering of Foundations in Somatic Abolitionism through the Education for Racial Equity website that can be found here.

I bring up Resmaa's work around traumatic retentions because it is often not thoroughly acknowledge in somatic or other psychotherapuetic work (see my blog on cultural appropriation and nature therapy here). If the idea around traumatic retentions resonates with you, in addition to exploring Resmaa's work more, and doing your own work, you may want to seek someone who can hold this aspect in your counselling space as well.

Searching for a Counsellor

Holding space for these bigger conversations that include race and culture can sometimes be difficult for some white bodied therapists. Or you simply might not be comfortable having it with me or other white bodied therapists. There are options though! Here are a few directories to check out and then some additional resources below:

Healing in Color

"Healing in Color envisions a world where BIPOC, in all our intersections, have access to therapy that supports healing and liberation" - from their website. Healing in Color has a directory to search for counsellors with multiple search criteria that includes:

- Direct billing for Indigenous Clients

- Indigenous Identities

- Languages Spoken

- Pro Bono Sessions for Refugees/Refugee Claimants

- San'yas ICS Trained

Inclusive Therapists has a regional search criteria like many directories. Your region might be limited on counsellors that have lived experience or be bodies of culture that may resonate with you. With virtual counselling options you may be able to find a better fit. A few of the category listing for searches on this website include:

- Cultural knowledge

- Focus

- Languages

- Office facilities

- Spiritual knowledge

- Therapist identity

- Sliding scale/low-cost options

BC Association of Clinical Counsellors

Here in what is now known as British Columbia we also have the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (who grants the Registered Clinical Counsellor designation). They also have a directory that in addition to location, areas of practice and modalities, includes search options that specify:

- Gender (transgender, non-binary, woman, man)

- BIPOC (bodies of culture)

- Indigenous counsellors

- Wheelchair accessibility

- Languages

In addition to the above search engine there also exist some locations that are specific with their counsellors and scope of practice. Those include:

- Metro Vancouver Indigenous Counselling - Metro Vancouver Indigenous Counselling offers counselling for First nations, The Inuit, & Métis Peoples Across British Columbia. There are multiple funding options for counselling that includes free counselling.

- Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) - Urban Native Youth Association, or UNYA, has clinical counsellors that offer free individual and group counselling to Indigenous youth ages 13 to 24

- Vancouver Black Therapy & Advocacy Foundation - Vancouver Black Therapy & Advocacy Foundation notes that it "is a nonprofit organization connecting Black community members in need to mental health resources such as free therapy and advocacy services"

- Mosaic - Mosaic: Settlement and employment services for newcomers offers free clinical counselling for permanent residents, migrant workers, refugee claimants and protected refugees, international students and naturalized citizens.

- SUCCESS - SUCCESS offers counselling in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Farsi and English with a focus on helping new immigrants of Chinese and other ethnic origins. Play and art therapy is also available. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income.

- VAST - VAST offers free trauma-focused individual and group counselling for refugees in over a dozen languages.

This is definitely not a comprehensive guide to find the perfect counselling match but I do hope that this opens up your options a bit more so that you can find the support that you need and do the work that you need to do. Seeking culture specific, spiritual specific, ability specific, language specific or other specific lived experiences may or may not be part of something that you are actively working on. If it is, know that there are counsellors out there who are cognizant, have lived experience, and keep it as an active part of their self and professional work. I hope you find a good fit for what you are needing right now.

As always, take care,


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