Anti-Black Racism, Difference and Gestalt Therapy - 17th BGJ Seminar Day with Michelle Billies and Sissy Lykou
The British Gestalt Journal Seminar Day is an annual event bringing together friends, readers, writers, editors and reviewers of the journal.
This year Michelle Billies, an Assistant Professor at the City University of New York and a member of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy and Sissy Lykou, a lecturer at Roehampton University and integrative Dance and Movement Therapist will explore the themes of anti-black racism and difference within the context of Gestalt Therapy and beyond.
- 'How/Can Gestalt Therapy Promote Liberation from Global Anti-Black Racism?’ by Michelle Billies
- 'Globalisation, neo-liberalism and explicit individual differences demonstrated on our bodies: Moving in the sound of silence’ by Sissy Lykou
How/Can Gestalt Therapy Promote Liberation from Global Anti-Black Racism?
Anti-black racism is a pervasive, global phenomenon that has fundamentally shaped the modern era and its liberal institutions, including Gestalt therapy. Examining systemic anti-black racism makes it possible to examine the depth of its embeddedness and ongoing power in liberal societies. As a devotee of Gestalt therapy theory and methods, I question whether Gestalt Therapy has the tools and theory needed to work through the realities of anti-black racism and how it might (further) develop them. This also means exploring what it means to support Black liberation, from the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. to justice for the Windrush generation in the U.K., to ensuring civil and human rights for African immigrants across Europe.
In this talk, I will discuss the importance of:
- examining Gestalt Therapy's role in perpetuating anti-black racism,
- analyzing how one's position in society is shaped by anti-black racism and white supremacy,
- thinking about how racial and ethnic oppression takes many forms, as seen in the immigration crisis and rising populist nationalism across cultures, and
- what Gestalt Therapy has and needs to strengthen its ability to undo fixed Gestalts of anti-black racism.
Examples will include the work of Human Rights & Social Responsibility Committee of EAGT, combined with nascent efforts in two U.S. training institutes.
Biography: Michelle Billies, Ph.D, LCSW-R is an Assistant Professor at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York where they* teach critical multicultural counseling courses. Billies' research centers on racial justice, state violence and proactive civilian responses, and low income, racially and ethnically diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming community issues. Billies has been a Gestalt psychotherapist for over 15 years, and teaches sociocultural theory and practice at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training in New York City. They are also a parent to an amazing 4 year old. *The pronoun "they" is singular for someone who identifies as gender nonconforming.
Globalisation, neo-liberalism and explicit individual differences demonstrated on our bodies: Moving in the sound of silence
In our era of permanent crisis, the need to process thoughts and feelings concerning any kind of difference is profound and pressing. The media continuously highlight what is acceptable and what is not: weight, colour of skin, shape of nose and so on. Those who don’t tick the trendy boxes are effectively silenced.
By stimulating imagination, fantasy and play-in-relationship, Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) facilitates positive and confident attitudes to difference. In this experiential workshop, based on DMP you will be invited to reflect on what you and your clients bring to sessions in terms of embodied and displayed differences.
Through movement and other creative means, the possibilities and limitations of working with people we perceive externally as ‘different’ from us will be explored. We will own how our own biases and blind spots are communicated in the intersubjective field between us and our clients. We will also see how interactions and communications grounded in the body can introduce new ways of thinking and acting in relation to ‘difference’.
Ultimately, the workshop reframes therapy thinking concerning acceptance and empathy in terms of what these therapy values can contribute to real-world politics. And the opposite is also true: we will see how society’s struggles over inclusion and exclusion illuminate all aspects of work in the helping professions.
What will you gain from this workshop?
- To experience how your body expresses your relational responses to others.
- To consider new ways of thinking about the management of difference in diverse societies.
- To learn how to combine non-verbal with verbal dialogue in the exploration of relationships.
You don’t have to be ‘good at dancing’ to enjoy this session. And we will also talk!
Biography: Sissy Lykou is a UKCP and Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy registered integrative psychotherapist, dance movement psychotherapist and supervisor. She was an A.S. Onassis Foundation Scholar. Sissy practices in London privately and in community psychotherapy projects for children under five years of age and their parents/carers. She lectures on several universities and professional training programmes in the UK and Europe, has worked on EU research projects at the Universities of Heidelberg and Athens, serves on journal editorial boards, and has published in books and international journals. Sissy was a member of the Steering Group of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, and has been the clinical community and outreach lead of Stillpoint Spaces London since its beginning.
In addition to a healthy and tasty organic gluten-free lunch, participants are invited to support the British Gestalt Journal by baking gluten-free cakes to share with the community. Savoury food will be provided by Dora Johnston from the Home Grown Catering Company (