The American Academy of Psychotherapists Statement and
Commitment to 
Anti-Racist Practice in Psychotherapy

June 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts black Americans, police brutality toward the same community continues to occur with minimal accountability. In the face of these recent reminders of the longstanding injustices in our country, we, the American Academy of Psychotherapists (AAP), acknowledge the deep pain our black colleagues are experiencing. We emphatically state that Black Lives Matter. Further, as an organization composed of psychotherapists, we unequivocally resolve to challenge ourselves and our organization to become fully anti-racist.

We deeply value diversity but recognize that we have yet to establish strong ethnic and racial diversity in our organization. While we yearn to create a diverse community, our ongoing efforts to foster a growing membership of black, indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have fallen short of reaching our goals. Therefore, in addition to actively seeking to invite, recruit, and retain BIPOC therapists, we are also confronting our individual racism, implicit and explicit, and our white privilege, as well as critically evaluating our organization.

The Academy’s Mission Statement reflects what we are most proud of: our collective aim “to invigorate the psychotherapist’s quest for growth and excellence through authentic interpersonal engagement.” We value the healing that comes from interpersonal authenticity and view the acceptance of this authenticity as the foundational core of mental health. With that understanding, we also know that no relationship can be healthy or genuine if it contains unexamined dynamics of abuse, or remains blindly immersed in systemic frameworks—such as white supremacy—that consciously or unconsciously assume the superiority or normalcy of one group’s preferences, customs, beliefs, or socio-economic realities above any other. In addition, we know that systemic racism and the culture of white supremacy foster and enhance the intergenerational trauma that has been negatively impacting the mental health and well-being of BIPOC people in America for hundreds of years. As mental health practitioners, we know that we must work actively and aggressively to ensure that our attitudes, behavior and language with patients aim to heal, and not perpetuate, this trauma.

We acknowledge that this work must be done by the white members of our community as we cannot put the burden on our fellow BIPOC members and scholarship recipients to continuously challenge gross and subtle forms of racism and ‘educate us’ about our blind spots.

To that end, we resolve to:

  • self-examine and stay open to change

We invite ourselves to strive for excellence in working to be anti-racist and take responsibility for our own learning and growth in the anti-racist practice of psychotherapy.

We invite our white members to participate in the workshops provided at our conferences that focus on anti-racist work and encourage them to engage in their own psychotherapy and/or supervision around these issues.

We will seek out advice from leaders and experts in this arena where we lack knowledge. When approaching BIPOC for assistance with these matters, we will appropriately compensate them for their time and energy.

  • promote self-compassion 

We acknowledge that an open examination of anti-blackness, white supremacy and patriarchy within ourselves and our community will raise painful feelings and defensive impulses. However, the goal of such work is not to vilify “the racist” or induce guilt and shame, but to identify and confront our conscious and unconscious biases that perpetuate the status quo and foster division.

We must create a space where differences can be held, respected and celebrated.

  • create an Anti-Racism Task Force as an extension of the Anti-Racism, Diversity and Equity Committee of AAP to:

—Proactively examine the foundational history and evolution as well as the current practices and policies of the Academy through an anti-racist lens in order to inform the working of the Executive Council.

—Regularly write, solicit and publish articles on anti-racist principles/themes in the Academy Newsletter and in Voices, and make the inclusion of such articles standard in these publications.

—Consult national meeting program chairs in recruitment of plenary speakers and/or workshop leaders who focus on anti-racist principles in psychotherapy to present at the Academy’s annual conferences. We will assist in editing conference manuals to include our focus on these issues.

—Write an annual report on recommendations made to the Executive Council which will be available to the community.

—Provide resources and support to members who wish or need to increase their understanding of white supremacy or anti-racist practice (see examples below).

  • honor the individual and the community 

We acknowledge that there can be no relational authenticity among people without examination of white supremacist and patriarchal systems of power, and that we cannot fully know, hold and honor one another’s reality, history or personhood without dynamically advocating for an anti-racist organization.

Some useful resources:

Compiled by Alpert Medical School of Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (DPHB), who has graciously agreed to share them with us.

On White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh:

A discussion on moving from cultural competence to anti-racism by Dr. Thelma Bryant-Davis:

A document of Anti-Racist Resources for White People and Parents: Anti-Racist Resources for White People

A syllabus on Institutional Racism:

A selection of anti-racism resources:

“Race and Racism,” Voices: the Art and Science of Psychotherapy, Vol 52, No. 3, 2016

Compiled by 

Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Resources for Therapists