BACP asks for resolutions and motions for their AGM each year. A resolution is a proposal on any matter of business which is put to the vote of all members. If it’s passed by members, the Board of Governors (the Board) is legally bound to implement it, depending on charity and company law and other relevant legal requirements. Members are required to vote on whether these should appear on the AGM ballot paper. Resolutions need at least 5% support from the membership to be on the ballot paper for members vote at the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The #TherapistsConnect team have interviewed the proposers of Resolution 1 about their motivations for proposing their resolution for the 2020 AGM. Their resolution is as follows: Resolution 1: We propose that in the light of Black Lives Matter: BACP should take a more proactive role by setting standards challenging institutional racism in the psychotherapeutic/counselling professions, at training, organisational and individual practitioner levels, with appropriate investment in external, independent monitoring of the implementation of these standards.
To support this resolution you need to be a BACP member and vote before 16th October. Please check your emails for your link to vote or request BACP to resend.
Who are the proposers?
We are a collective of around 40 therapists who got together to challenge racism in our line of work. Annie and Julia being members of the BACP signed the resolution on the collective’s behalf.
Anthea Benjamin - I am an integrative arts psychotherapist and group analyst working in private practice and organisations as a therapist, supervision, trainer, self-reflective staff team facilitator and consult for organisations. After the modern-day lynching of George Floyd, I was both shocked and horrified and this was the last straw in a long line of senseless deaths of Black people, What happened to George Floyd was a result of a prejudiced system and culture that treats Black and Brown people as less than, and this is mirrored in this country throughout institutions. It was clear to me everyone needs to take responsibility for being anti-racist within their sphere of influence for any real meaningful change to take place. As a therapist working with clients at their most vulnerable, it is imperative we are skilled-up to support people who experience oppression throughout society. We are not as skilled as we could or should be as professionals, and counselling and psychotherapy training is not currently providing appropriate skills or awareness to enable therapist to be equipped to address these issues. This resulted in me sending out an open letter to professionals to join with me in creating change within our therapy community to create a more anti-racist culture. As a result, several therapists have joined with me, and we agreed as one of our actions to create change by putting forward a resolution to BACP.
Annie Tunnicliffe (Retired accredited MBACP) - I worked as a counsellor and supervisor in private practice and within organisations for thirty plus years. I retired two years ago when a family medical emergency meant I needed to put my attention elsewhere. I have been in a women’s group for many of those years and we watched Robin DiAngelo’s video “White Fragility” and discussed it. When the opportunity arose to join a group of therapists looking at what action we could take, I jumped at the chance! I am a campaigner to my bones, and this was one cause I wanted to get behind.
Julia Rizzolo (MBACP) - I’m an integrative CYP and adult counsellor working for non-profit organisations, community services (in partnership with NHS Trusts) and the private sector. Working as a counsellor in states school and with Latin American women made me realise the necessity for cultural competency in this field, especially in relation to race and ethnicities. I believe that anti-racism practice – with a focus on Whiteness – is an ethical necessity for those working with diversity and must be at the forefront of our profession.
What is our resolution
Annie - We propose that in the light of Black Lives Matter: BACP should take a more proactive role by setting standards challenging institutional racism in the psychotherapeutic/counselling professions, at training, organisational and individual practitioner levels, with appropriate investment in external, independent monitoring of the implementation of these standards. The phrase "do No Harm" does not acknowledge that harm can be done unintentionally through ignorance and unconscious bias, which is the very definition of institutional racism. There is a unique opportunity right now, in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, to embed anti-racist practice into the profession. We note that both BACP's Ethical Framework and the accreditation criteria for training organisations' core curricula put all the responsibility for antiracist awareness onto the individual practitioner or trainer and do not mention racism specifically. Even in the policy paper on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which appears to be an optional choice for members, we note that the word "racism" is never specifically used. We believe that BACP, as the professional body accrediting courses, services and individual practitioners, has a duty to address institutional racism structurally by integrating anti-racist training at all levels and ensuring that this is delivered across the Board. We believe that in order to integrate anti-racist training and practice, the BACP Ethical Framework, the accreditation criteria for training organisations and the policy documents need to be amended so that they address this by specifically naming racism. Training core curricula should integrate awareness of white fragility/privilege/unconscious bias/ racism. CPD should offer continuation of this training.
What motivated you to submit this to BACP?
Anthea - As committed therapists, we want our therapy community to reflect the values that enable us to offer service where equality and trauma are met appropriately. We live in a complex world and the ability to separate politics and society dynamics from interpersonal experience is no longer possible – and I would question whether it ever has been. We are just as powerfully shaped by our social context as we are by family systems. Therapists all have a responsibility to ensure we offer a safe clinical space that does not cause further harm. This resolution is very much in line with ensuing good practice.
Annie - As with many of us, I was feeling helpless about what we could do to tackle institutional racism. Then I was invited to join a group to look at the issues. I realised there was something positive we could do within our profession to progress awareness of (White) unconscious bias and embed meaningful structural change. So, we got on with it!
Julia – For me, it was the realisation that as a White person, regardless of the field in which we work, we are the ones who need to advocate, to challenge, and do the antiracist work. Racism is White people’s problem and it’s time we take responsibility.
What feedback have you had from members around your motion/resolution?
Julia - As soon as the resolution received the green light from the BACP, our collective began to spread the word through social media and other professional connections. One Tweet that called for BACP members to vote was enough to generate over 8000 views within hours, and a huge level of engagement from therapists. Therapists Connect on Twitter played a huge part in helping to spread the word among the therapy community. I was overwhelmed by all the positive comments and encouragement regarding our resolution. Other members of our collective also received positive feedback from their contacts via Facebook, LinkedIn or group emails. It seems that a huge number of therapists in the UK believe that antiracist practice needs to be implemented across all levels, from training to practice.
There has been recent controversy with recent articles and letters within BACP’s Therapy Today. Many members have criticised Therapy Today for platforming racist views. If your resolution was agreed by members what impact do you see it having on issues such as this?
Anthea - I hope there would be a greater sensitivity to these issues and awareness about the unconscious bias that often takes place within all institutions due to the structurally racist system we are all part of. The challenge is that this often leaves people blind to these power dynamics, and results in unconscious re-enactments of racist views and communication. This in turn perpetuates the likelihood of Black and Brown people being dehumanised. I would hope we would have a platform to respond to these issues by thinking with like-minded practitioners. This needs education and dialogue rather than shaming and blaming. My personal preference is to openly address and challenge racist views, and wherever possible bring them into relational dialogue. But this must be done at the right time. To include those views within an issue addressing issue of systemic racism was undermining. We would never include heterosexual criticism about LGBTQ+ issues within an issue celebrating issues of sexual diversity, so why do this with race?
All views need to be heard, and trying to stop these views being expressed – however hurtful – is not always the best way, as it can become a form of suppression. However, what we need is a robust way of responding to views expressed so they can be thought about and challenged. The reality, whether we like it or not, is that those views are held within our therapy community, and we need to create spaces to think about this together then raise awareness. Change often does not take place in vacuum, it takes place through relationships as we are hard-wired for relationships. I would be willing to engage in these much-needed dialogues to make sense of the many varied views about power, privilege and racism, in order to build a bridge of shared understanding. Part of working with difference is being able to hold spaces where different truth and reality can be shared and hopefully understood.
How can members go about supporting you with this resolution? (voting but anything else you suggest they do)
Anthea - The number one way within BACP is to vote for resolution 1. But they are many ways people can help. The main one is for people to reflect on their own racial identity and read about White supremacy or explore internalised racism, and to understand how we are all socialised within a racist society. The other particularly important thing is to be talking about race, and more importantly to keep thinking about and talking about race, and not fall asleep to the reality of the racism that operates in society all the time. Everyone has an important role to play in this much needed cultural shift.
Annie- Remember that the deadline for this stage is October 16th and that this vote is only to get the resolution to the AGM. If we get the 5% pass for the AGM, be sure to vote for the resolution in December, either live on 4th at the AGM or beforehand online. Circulate reminders to everyone on your social networks and keep an eye out for updates!
Anything else you wish to add?
Anthea- We are all excited this resolution has gone through, and passionately hope members of the BACP will vote for this important and timely resolution to help create much needed cultural change for our community.
Julia – I’m hopeful for change this time, and grateful for the huge participation from colleagues on this matter. Thank you TherapistsConnect for this shoutout!