GUIDELINES FOR CREATING AFFIRMING AND RESTORATIVE GROUP EXPERIENCES
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE AGPA TASK FORCE FOR DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION*
The aim of this document is to broaden the awareness of AGPA members as we work to become a more inclusive and diverse organization. The following guidelines, while neither exhaustive nor fixed, have been created to provide strategies for minimizing and effectively addressing microaggressions and potentially oppressive dialogues and behaviors in groups. As with any change process, AGPA's path toward increased inclusivity is a complex and challenging process that requires patience, compassion and steadfast commitment.
❖ Intersectionality and Increasing Awareness of Power and Privilege
Intersectionality, a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, takes into account individuals’ overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of the advantages and disadvantages they face. Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualizing cultural identity as operating within systems of power, privilege, and oppression. We all have multiple identities: some afford us advantages while others lead to being marginalized or disadvantaged. For example, in mainstream U.S. society, there are numerous identities (depending on one’s context) that typically hold greater privilege than others: White, Heterosexual, Cis-gender (identifying with the gender assigned at birth), Male, Christian, Able-bodied, United States citizen, English-speaking, etc. With privilege comes unearned benefits, which include power and belonging. An individual can (and often does) simultaneously hold positions of privilege and oppression.
It is important to explore and be aware of power and privilege and how this may lead to bias and harm.
Intersecting Axes of Privilege, Domination, and Oppression
❖ Set a Frame for the Group that is Attentive to Safety & Inclusive of Diverse Identities
Many who have identities that have been marginalized, by history, have needed and shown an extra layer of bravery to enter a group. Various clinicians and authors speak to the detrimental impact of microaggressions, exclusion and harm, as well as the necessity to engage in preventative practices.
When crafting participant contracts, whether in written or verbal form (e.g. Participant Agreement, Group Contract, Training Agreement) include items that address safety attentive to the reality of diverse identities.
Set a Frame for the group that privilege can show up in group process as unspoken behaviors (e.g. speaking more than most in a group, defensiveness regarding feedback, etc), and our work as group therapists is to name if there is a socio-cultural pattern within society that may also be playing out in the group.
Set a Frame that our bodies hold sensations/emotions that may get activated in a person or our group when issues of privilege and marginalization are topics of examination. As a leader, invite curiosity versus the tendency to shut down or respond through fight/flight behaviors (e.g. defensiveness, denial, etc).
Set a Frame that talking about dominant and marginalized identities can be messy and that making mistakes is part of our process of growing as individuals and as a group. Our goal is not to fear getting messy but to be willing to work through any ruptures that occur by focusing on impact over intent.
Name the harmful behaviors that we strive to avoid perpetuation of during group (e.g. behaviors that exhibit racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, xenophobia, cissexism or homophobia).
Acknowledge all of us are attached to strings of the systemic bias around us (e.g., racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, xenophobia, cissexism, homophobia, etc.) and may be at different places in our personal identity development, attention to the diverse identities of those in our world.
Acknowledge that it is our personal responsibility to engage in our ongoing labor outside of group settings, as well as attentive to whether these biases may be pulling on our thoughts, feelings, and actions within the group space with openness and curiosity, yet also with attention to self reflection and harm prevention in our behavior and speech.
Name how microaggressions will be handled, including managed with microinterventions (see definitions below).
Include an ‘ouch’ or pause policy that allows participants or the group leader to name when something occurs that feels harmful and allows for a pause to address it.
Include the goal of harm prevention as primary with the supplement of injury/repair.
Encourage members to individually engage in ongoing learning around personal identity development, increasing insight into identities different from one's own, with particular attention to issues of power, privilege, social location.
Encourage group members to engage in restorative, healing, and self care practices outside of group.
Address Power and Privilege Dynamics
⮚As group facilitators it is important to be aware of the power and privilege we hold in order to not abuse that power and reify the oppression that already occurs in society.
⮚ If individuals are discussing their marginalized identity or identities, monitor others’ responses (emotional, physiological, cognitive) that suggest defensiveness.
• Center the group member’s experience and avoid comparisons to your identities as a facilitator or to other marginalized identities, as this can be invalidating to the group member.
⮚ If a group member has a certain identity, do not assume they speak for all people who share that identity; nor expect them to educate the group about their identity.
⮚ Be aware of who is speaking in groups:
• Are members with privileged identities taking up more space in the group?
• Is the group dialogue oriented toward a privileged or singular perspective?
• Be intentional in making space for diverse voices.
⮚ Be attentive to cultural assumptions and stereotyping. Facilitate open discussion of and feedback about assumed norms, values, expectations, etc. (for example, the assumption that adult members who live with their parents are doing so because of some shortcoming, rather than following cultural norms).
Be curious to understand the purpose of culturally normative behaviors rather than pathologizing a “right” way (e.g., smiling as a way to show respect to authority or avoid fear of persecution is adaptive, not resistance). Engage in learning to increase insight into the range of methods diverse identities may use to creatively adjust to the interpersonal dynamics.
⮚Be attentive and invite exploration to protective responses and indicators that those holding marginalized identities may be experiencing harm:
Using humor to avoid expressing anger, sadness, or fear more directly when harmed.
Noticing silence from marginalized identities within the group process.
Overly apologizing to other members of majority identities if confronted for expressions of sadness, anger, or fear.
Check in on members to inquire about safety or any experiences of harm.
⮚Be attentive to the range of forms of harm relevant to those with minoritized identities:
Colorism (e.g. those who are lighter in complexion receiving better treatment than those darker in complexion)
Exoticizing (e.g. treating a Black person with an accent or newly immigrated to the US as unique vs a Black person who has forebears who have been here for generations, or treating or romanticizing, fetishizing, objectifying an Asian American Woman)
Tokenizing (e.g., acknowledging identity differences briefly to “check a box” that one has been considerate to that part of a member in future conversations, asking a group member to speak for everyone in their identity group)
Assumption of intellectual inferiority
Assumptions of dangerousness or criminality
Casteism (e.g., bias towards those of a difference caste system)
Endorsement of religious stereotypes
Supremacism (e.g., the belief that some particular group or race is superior to all).
Best Practices for Facilitating Difficult Dialogues
A number of clinicians have identified best practices for facilitating difficult dialogues that can assist group leaders in addressing issues of race, as well as other cultural identities. Sue et al. (2009) provided the following guiding principles
⮚ Discussions regarding race are necessary.
Create spaces that promote safety and bravery, recognizing that for members who hold more dominant identities, brave space is often a more necessary growth step.
Recognize that safety is experienced differently depending on dominant or marginalized identities that members hold.
⮚ Support members who take risks to share their experiences of oppression and marginalization.
⮚ Validate the experiences of People of Color and additional marginalized identities.
⮚ It is important that white- identified group leaders and members understand and accept that people of color will likely have a different racial reality than they.
⮚ Be careful not to assume who is a Person of Color, as multiracial people can often be mislabeled as a result of their dominant characteristics.
⮚ Recognize that a direct approach in managing and discussing racial dialogues is helpful.
❖ Use a Universal Design model when shaping norms and rules of the group
⮚ Many disabilities are unseen. Therefore, not all disabilities are obvious or have clear guidelines. That's why it is vital to center body diversity and lead with accessibility in mind.
⮚ Ask about access needs before the date of the event, before the event start time, and even during the event. During an event, access needs may change due to technical difficulties or fluctuating bodily needs.
⮚ At the start of your workshop or institute explain that, in an effort to create an inclusive group culture, you want the environment to be as accessible as possible and encourage participants to let you know if there is anything you or the group can do to facilitate access or comfort. Be aware of factors such as physical access or other ability issues. This may include, but not be limited to, being aware of the location of the nearest bathroom and elevators. On virtual platforms, this may include checking on sound, lighting, turning on live transcription, and/or being prepared to provide additional technical assistance to navigate the platform when needed.
⮚ Member’s self care needs may take precedence over attendance or punctuality. It can be helpful to be flexible and to avoid pathologizing.
❖ Low Vision
Low vision is broadly an unseen disability. A person with low vision does not need a special tone of voice but does need accessible spaces.
⮚ When on-screen, verbalize the names of speakers and their descriptions, verbalize the content of slides, and use verbal and written image descriptions. Use terms like "next slide," "the diagram shows blue bars with corresponding numbers that are 10, 4 and 5" and so forth.
⮚Ask if attendees would like pdf copies in advance.
⮚Ask if attendees would like a text version for a screen reader (assistive technology that converts text and images into speech or braille).
⮚Assume everyone is using a screen reader, and proceed with best-screen reader practices.
⮚When in-person, verbalize the names of speakers the content of slides and use verbal and written image descriptions. You may also introduce yourself as you approach a person in an ordinary respectful way.
⮚ Chat is visually inaccessible. Provide a written transcript or do not use this feature as your low vision attendees may miss important content, and the Group will miss out on valuable participation.
⮚ Offer assistance but do not insist on helping.
⮚ If you are offering a seat, ask the individual for permission to place their hand on the back or arm of the chair so that the person can locate the seat.
⮚ During introductions, the leader may want to describe themself (e.g. I am a white cisgender female, with white hair slightly below the shoulders, wearing a blue shirt, jeans, and black boots) and encourage others to do the same.
❖ Communicating with Members who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing
Each individual is unique and brings about their own set of needs and preferences based on the setting and purpose of the interaction.
⮚ Directly ask the deaf or hard-of-hearing person directly about the best way to communicate.
⮚ In group settings, consider turn-taking gestures, allow more time for breakout groups, and share information via text, email, chat box, etc.
⮚ Look directly at the individual while speaking, avoid standing in front of a light source, speak clearly, in a normal tone of voice, and keep hands away from your face.
⮚ Use open ended questions to allow both parties to check each other’s understanding of a topic.
⮚ If there is an interpreter present, speak directly to the person speaking or using sign language and not directly at the interpreter.
❖ Communicating with Members with Mobility Disabilities
⮚ If possible, put yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level, or take a few steps backward so the other person does not have to “look up” at you.
⮚ Do not lean on a wheelchair or any other assistive device.
⮚ Assuming that an individual with a mobility disability needs your help is a microaggression that you believe they are helpless. Before opening a door or pushing a wheelchair, offer assistance first and respect their response.
❖ Communicating with Members with Diverse Language and Communication
Prioritizing spoken English over communication and connection is rooted in privilege.
⮚ If you do not understand something being communicated, refrain from pretending that you do; ask the individual to repeat what they said and then repeat it back to confirm your understanding.
Be patient. Take as much time as necessary.
Consider writing as an alternative means of communicating, but ask first.
⮚ In the situation that an individual has a speech disability, avoid assuming the person’s disability invalidates other aspects of their lives, i.e., never assume a person has a cognitive or intellectual disability when they have difficulty with speech.
⮚ Refrain from speaking for the individual or attempting to finish their sentences.
❖ Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Considerations
⮚ Don’t assume all group members identify on the gender binary, as either men or women
• Some members may identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, or
• As a leader, consider sharing your pronouns with the group during your introduction.
• Invite members to share their pronouns during introductions.
• Use “they” versus “he or she” if unsure of someone’s pronouns.
• Understand that some members may be exploring their gender identity and are
unclear how they identify.
• Do not pressure anyone to “choose” a gender identity if they are not comfortable doing so.
⮚ Expect diverse sexual orientations will be present among members of your group
• Use the term “partner” instead of wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, unless/until a
member uses a specific term for their romantic partner or partners.
❖ Microaggressions and How to Intervene (Microinterventions)
Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or hurtful messages to someone based only on that person’s membership in a marginalized group. As a response, microinterventions are “the everyday words or deeds, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate[s] to targets of microaggressions (a) validation of their experiential reality, (b) value as a person, (c) affirmation of their racial or group identity, (d) support and encouragement, and (e) reassurance that they are not alone” (Sue et al., 2019, p. 134).
Microinterventions incorporate four major strategic goals:
1) Making the invisible or implicit visible or explicit
2) Disarming the microaggression
3) Educating the perpetrator
4) Seeking external reinforcement or support
➢If you commit a microaggression
• Notice the urge to defend yourself-- recognize that, despite your intentions, group leaders need to attend to the impact of harming words and actions.
• Assume a position of responsibility and curiosity when alerted to your mistake.
• If you are sincere, apologize as soon as possible, and invite everyone into the conversation, welcoming constructive feedback about the impact of your microaggression.
• Describe what you think you learned while self-monitoring your need for praise or forgiveness, in order to avoid placing further expectations or burden upon the person who was impacted by the microaggression.
• Understand that, despite the benefits of rupture and repair, injured group members may not be ready to forgive.
• Do your research - read and learn more (consider this a life-long learning process).
⮚ If you witness others making a microaggression
• Consider utilizing strategies of “Opening The Front Door” (Ganote et al., 2015).
o Observe: Describe clearly and succinctly what you see happening
o Think: State what you think about the microaggression
o Feel: Express your feelings about the situation
o Desire: Assert what you would like to happen
• Be careful not to shame either party, but to invite reflection on potential conscious and unconscious bias, as well as the contrast between intent and impact.
❖ Personal Learning of Group Leaders
To create affirming group experiences, it is important that Group Leaders engage in ongoing learning and labor in addition to facilitating groups. This work is aimed at furthering personal identity development, increasing insight into identities different from one's own, and gaining a greater understanding of issues of power, privilege, social location. This learning can include:
Joining affinity groups that specifically address these topics.
Engaging in ongoing personal examination of bias, privilege, social location.
Participating in DEI-related CE activities.
Undergoing individual and/or group therapy.
Reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts.
Cultivating relationships with diverse colleagues who are involved in similar labor.
Immersing oneself in activities in one's personal life that allows engagement with people who hold diverse identities.
Staying current on terminology that is important to people of diverse identities.
Examining how aspects of your identity impact how you engage with others, as well as how others engage with you.
Practicing ongoing self care, restorative, and healing activities.
Be vocal about the importance of these items when engaging in personal, professional, and institutional settings.
*These guidelines were developed and updated by the AGPA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force co-chaired by Sophia Aguirre (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Wendy Freedman (email@example.com ) in conjunction with the Health and Medical Issues Special Interest Group Co-Chairs. The mission of the DEI Task Force is to promote the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization in the areas of leadership, training, policy, research, and practice.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Members:
M. Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D., CGP, FAGPA (Co-Chair); Aziza Belcher Platt, Ph.D.; Li Brookens, LCSW; Shemika Brooks, Psy.D., CGP; Vincent Dehili, Ph.D., CGP; Marvin Evans, LCPC, MBA, CGP, CSOTP; Wendy Freedman, Ph.D., CGP (Co-Chair); Stef Gentuso, MA, LPCC; Paul Gitterman, LICSW, MSC, CGP; Latoyia Griffin, LCSW, CGP; Craig Haen, Ph.D., RDT, LCAT, CGP, FAGPA; Phillip Horner, LCSW, CGP; Michele Ribeiro, Ed.D., ABPP, CGP, FAGPA; Tony Sheppard, Psy.D., CGP, FAGPA; Ann Steiner, Ph.D., MFT, CGP, FAGPA; Marcée M. Turner, Ph.D., CGP
Health and Medical Issues Special Interest Group Chairs
Leslie Klein, Ph.D.; Leah Murphy-Swiller, Ph.D.; Linda Williams, PhD, CGP
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