Dear EFT Community,
We are living in extraordinary times and the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement are powerful demands for genuine, lasting and systemic change in how we as a society view and respond to black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). The chorus of protests have reached virtually every corner of our society – even around the world. Systemic injustice and inequity are all around us. We are in crisis.
If you have been following the ICEEFT (International Center for Excellence in EFT) listservs you have seen that the larger EFT community is no exception. Many therapists have been voicing their negative personal and professional experiences related to trainings and membership. It takes courage to speak directly and openly when one hasn’t felt seen, understood, appreciated and welcomed for who they are, and we are all indebted to those who have taken the risk to speak truth to power. The vulnerability of naming and asking for core needs to be met has too often been met with defensiveness, misunderstanding and worst of all, silence.
I wish I could say the Chicago Center for EFT (now known as ChicagoEFT) has been different, but we have our own shortcomings. As trainer and president for over 10 years, I have to own my blind spots regarding the experiences of BIPOC, LGBTQ and other marginalized populations. I have thought of our trainings and organizational culture as respectful and welcoming to all, but even to the extent that is true, it isn’t enough. Being a white male, person of privilege in a position of power I haven’t fully understood how difficult it has been for some in our community to speak openly about their concerns and needs. I have gotten the message: We must actively create an inclusive environment.
Tracy Douglas, a Wisconsin therapist who completed Core Skills and several Master Classes in Chicago, recently sent an email to the ICEEFT listserv that captures the experiences of many black and other persons of color. She gave me permission to share her comments here. “…there is always a part of me that scans to look for other people of color as a way of looking to create safety for myself and to assess for what diversity looks like in an EFT community”, and “…you’ve got to excel in everything you put your hand to so you can best represent people of color, don’t let anyone see you struggle, because if you do, you’re showing you’re inferior; and don’t draw attention to yourself by complaining, just push through and let your actions speak for you.” And finally, “…I have a very deep fear – even typing this out brings me to tear – of the majority of white people really not caring about black people/POC at very fundamental levels.”
Thank you, Tracy. Your words are a gift. A colleague once told me that for every person who speaks up about a negative experience there are five more who feel similarly, but don’t say anything. Very sobering.
The ChicagoEFT board, itself lacking substantive diversity, met recently and discussed the action steps we can take to change the face of our membership and our culture, to make ChicagoEFT a place where all feel welcomed and valued equally. We have made a conscious decision not to create a diversity committee at this time because we understand we have fallen short and feel a special urgency to make changes. It is work we must all engage in and we will not relegate the task to a committee. We see a need to take concrete actions to address lack of opportunity, inequity and marginalization in any form it manifests in the ChicagoEFT community.
An essential part of ChicagoEFT’s mission is to support clinicians to become expert EFT therapists. We know from attachment theory that we all need safe, secure connections to take risks, show our vulnerability and be resilient in the face of threat. Taking the steps to learn and practice EFT requires emotional safety and it is the responsibility of our leadership to create a safe environment for all, inclusive of race, sexual expression, religious practice or socio-economic status. We recognize the attachment injury that has come from BIPOC therapists, in particular, being ignored, blamed and marginalized. EFT teaches us that repair and restoration of trust require that the injurer respond with a full understanding of the impact on those who have been injured. As an organization we are committed to repairing injuries and rebuilding trust. We have been given a special opportunity to become more aware of and act to address the pain and suffering around us. We need to begin the repair process.
Below are some initial steps the ChicagoEFT board is or will be taking to improve how we create a more diverse community.
- Increase opportunities to take ChicagoEFT trainings, including scholarships. We have already begun a fund to support that effort.
- Use videos and other training resources that reflect the community around us. We will find ways to provide training videos and other resources that reflect the full range of our clients: BIPOC, all expressions of gender and sexuality, all cultures and all religions.
- Mentor development of a broader range of EFT therapists by providing affordable supervision when needed to therapists from marginalized communities.
- Foster Externship graduates to become more involved in ChicagoEFT activities, including volunteer opportunities that strengthen connection to the community and provide more support to grow their EFT skills.
- Offer introductory presentations to under-resourced mental health agencies in order to provide exposure to EFT.
- Identify and invite BIPOC to serve on the ChicagoEFT board of directors
These efforts are just a start and there is much work to be done. As a board we are committed to creating an organization that changes the face of the therapist community in the Chicago area to become a model for EFT Centers and Communities around the world. Within the next 2 weeks we will hold a listening session to hear more about the needs of those we serve. We need many voices to help us learn. Our mission is to provide all therapists with a safe, supportive and welcoming home and with your help I am confident that we can do that.
Jeff Hickey, LCSW