NPI Reflects Newsletter Fall 2020

Page 1


Volume 10: Issue 3

A note from the Chair-elect this issue Dear members of NPI, I moved back to Nashville in February of 2014. I was three months divorced, and the Nashville I had left two years prior felt a lot bigger and a little less like home. I threw up a shingle in Brentwood, thus starting my private practice. For the first two months I had two clients, and I found myself diving into my savings to support my private practice habit. Everyday I prayed my 10 year-old Hyundai Sonata, the only asset to my questionable name, would be able to lurch to and from my less-than-sexy office space atop one of Brentwood’s more popular (though not for cleanliness) Mexican restaurants. Not to be beaten down further by Fate and the rest of her minions, I armored myself with a dazzling GoDaddy website replete with ultra-thick Vistaprint business cards. I attended every “psychotherapisty” sounding luncheon, meeting, coffee, and happy hour I could find. MeetUp quickly became my favorite smartphone app (next to Tinder, of course – I was freshly divorced, y’all). I quickly figured out who had the best (meaning cheapest or free) breakfasts and lunches. If I was lucky, a rehab facility would take me to a dinner. I became, so I thought, a networking ninja. My dwindling Vistaprint card stash clearly pointed that all this beating the streets was going to pay off. I’m not certain how I learned about NPI, but I signed up with a newbie membership and soon attended my first luncheon at the Scarritt Bennett Center. I started coughing uncontrollably during someone’s presentation, then I spilled a full glass of iced tea all over my only decent pair of jeans. My beautiful business cards rendered useless, I left as soon as we were dismissed. I still have yet to stand up at a luncheon and introduce myself as a new member. I was in complete awe, and completely intimidated. Tea soaked jeans notwithstanding, I felt a feeling reminiscent of that first time as a freshman at college, being totally excited and humbled at the same time. I knew a couple of things after that luncheon – don't keep my beverages too close to me on the table, and that I had finally found my people.

Continued on page two 1

What is NPI? The Nashville Psychotherapy Institute or NPI is a 501(c)(6) non profit, professional organization. Founded in 1985, NPI now boasts 300+ members.

Inside this issue: A note from the Chair-elect John Nichols


MHART Call for Volunteers New program forming


I Live in a Jungle Barbara Sanders


What if patient’s partner is resistant... Philip Chanin


The Flaming Barbara Sanders


Board Member Spotlight Sonya Thomas


My not-so-wonderful white world Lindsay Vaughn


2020 Highlights Barbara Sanders


Holiday Happy Hour NPI Featured Member


A note from the Chair-elect (continued from page one) A month later, the Board was looking for volunteers to help work on policy and procedures. I eagerly volunteered. I smile as I remember the thrill of working with my colleagues on this project for NPI and loving every single second of it. A few weeks after that Tara Hinman looked at me and said, “You need to be on the Board.” I was supposed to roll off this year, but now I’m honored to serve as Board Chair in 2021. I love serving on the Board, but I especially love connecting with everyone on it. The most important thing that being a member of NPI has given me is a sense of community, of connection. These strangers I held in awe became my colleagues, and then, more importantly, became my friends. I quickly began looking forward to luncheons and retreats less for the content and more for getting to hang out with my friends and to make new ones. It’s been edifying for me to have a group that I can plug into professionally and personally. Connection is why we’re on this planet. We need it like we need oxygen. When we feel disconnected, we’re willing to do almost anything to reclaim it. It is precious. It is important.

John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP

“Connection” is my theme and focus for NPI in 2021. We have a lot going in our country and globally that can make us feel more disconnected that ever. I encourage all of us as mental health care professionals and citizens of the world to do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen. It is my intention for 2021 to help us find ways to connect and stay connected with each other and our community. I invite all of you reach out to me personally with your ideas, requests, and concerns. Let’s lean into each other with open arms and open hearts, and let’s make 2021 our best year as an organization and as a community. Lots of love,

John Nichols

Volunteers Needed for New Program The Mental Health Active Response Team (MHART), is inviting all Tennessee mental health professionals to step forward and volunteer to support our fellow Tennesseans during these most difficult times. As the pandemic has dragged on, more and more in our communities are suffering. We are here to offer them support and healing. We are here to offer mental health professionals, yearning to help, an opportunity to do so. Our initial program, an emotional support line for frontline healthcare providers, actually had more volunteers than callers, which was inspiring. Our second program, an offering of four free therapy sessions for essential workers, risks the opposite problem as it is being offered to a wider base: healthcare workers, front line workers, teachers, emergency staff. Volunteers will be asked to contribute at least four pro bono therapy sessions. To join the Team, please visit: MHART wants to offer our deepest gratitude to those of you who signed up in the spring and summer and helped cover the Tennessee COVID-19 Emotional Support Line for Healthcare Workers. You are the core of this organization, and your willingness to help is what launched us. 2

I Live in a Jungle By Barbara Sanders, LCSW I live in a jungle. I have lived here for most of my life, surrounded by the sounds of insects, amphibians, mammals, birds and trees, all moving, all generating sound, all singing or growling or speaking in languages I may not know. I hear mating cries of passion and see gorgeous, brightly colored birds attempting to attract a partner. I hear warning cries when danger lurks, whether the weather is changing or a predator is actively hunting. I try to understand the calls and responses and I participate myself, trying to help others know when high risk is close. Here I see a monkey, a peacock, a baboon, and a jaguar. Here I roam around not so much with fear and anxiety but I do stay alert for the sounds that accompany me wherever I travel. During my wanderings, I am ushered by animals, birds and even the trees which encompass me in the jungle, especially when I step away from my home. The jungle looks different from the past, now with its millions of people, its cars and emissions, its noise, its air smoky, and foul-smelling, where we hardly have enough oxygen to breathe. The pandemic keeps people in their homes, apartments or on the street but they don’t see me as I move about. I can see them and some of the horrors they experience, the wacky ways they attempt to communicate with each other. I feel the desire of people who just want to be loved and become a part of something bigger or different than they have ever experienced, perhaps a community where everyone knows that they belong, where everyone is fed and the children are taken care of and educated, and where some people pray and some people don’t. A community where it is fine to feel whatever you feel, whether good or bad, angry or sad, troubled or joyful. When there is a struggle, it is named and acknowledged, and support flows into the conflict if the two or three involved cannot repair the damage. We all sit and gaze into each other’s eyes and see the truth behind our facades and defenses. We accept our inner spirits and our beautiful souls along with how we have each made mistakes when we have harmed someone or something without ever intending to do so. And, sometimes we have intended to lash out and harm someone or something, even though we feel such guilt and shame about our actions afterwards. Our jungle is a fertile ground for trying out new and different ways of thinking and living, as if I am not the only person in the universe that I think or care about. That I think about others, plant life, the climate and what I can do to help this jungle become a better world, an easier, more satisfying and healthy place for all people and all forms of life life even though some times get tough. This is the jungle in Nashville, TN, where I live these days. Where do you live? 3

What if My Patient’s Partner is Resistant to Getting Professional Help:

Defining A Bottom-Line Position and Utilizing Leverage By Philip Chanin, Ed.D, ABPP, CGP Board Certified Clinical Psychologist Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center “If you or your partner is struggling with an issue such as depression, anxiety, phobias, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you owe it to yourself and your family to get—or insist that your partner get—help. There is simply no way your relationship is going to get healthier when one of you is in a state of emotional distress…Neglecting to get treatment is your individual choice if you live alone, but once you elect to create a family, getting help is no longer a decision that impacts only your life. It is your responsibility to be the best spouse and parent you can be.” (Real, Terrence. The New Rules of Marriage, p. 95) Frequently in my practice I am talking to patients who are in distress in part because they have a spouse or parent or adult child who needs psychotherapy but is resistant to getting help. We talk in our sessions about what options a person has when a family member continues to resist seeking out help. Terrence Real has written eloquently about why getting professional help is so crucial for anyone in emotional distress who has a partner and/or a family. Real writes, “If you are the one who has been reluctant to get help, understand that your unwillingness inflicts unnecessary suffering on those around you. And if you are the partner of such a person, you should know that a spouse or parent in disrepair affects everyone in the family. You have an absolute right, even an obligation, to insist on health in your family.” Real addresses the fears that patients often have about addressing this issue with their spouse or partner: “Some people hesitate to confront their mate’s emotional difficulties for fear that it will ‘set off’ the person and ‘make things worse.’ That might be true in the short run, but I don’t think you have much choice. It is rare for these conditions to get better all on their own, and in many cases, they only grown worse…It is far better for your children to see healthy argument as part of dealing with a tough issue than for them to watch an adult operate as an emotional drag on the whole family.” Real urges any patient in this position to take any steps necessary to get their partner into treatment: “…my advice is to put principle aside and do whatever it takes to get your partner in front of a mental health professional. Even if you need to make the calls, screen the potential therapists, and make the initial appointment, I suggest you do it…Even if your partner steadfastly refuses to see a therapist individually, that need not deter you. In such cases, you can go ahead and book an appointment for couple’s therapy.” (pp. 95-96) Many patients struggle with the issue of how to get across to their partners how important it is to seek professional help. Often there have been discussions or even arguments about this issue, without any movement on the distressed partner’s part to reach out for help. Dr. Harriet Lerner, in her first book The Dance of Intimacy and more recently in Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up, has elaborated her concept of a “bottom line position.” Many patients have a very negative reaction to the idea of issuing an “ultimatum” to their partners about getting help. Lerner’s articulation of a “bottom line position” suggests a more nuanced and palatable way to think about taking a stand in our relationships. In Marriage Rules, Lerner writes, “…a bottom-line position evolves from a focus on the self, from a deeply felt awareness of what one is entitled to, how much one can do and give, and the limits of one’s tolerance. One clarifies a bottom line not to change or control one’s partner (although the wish, of course, is there) but rather to preserve the dignity, integrity, and well-being of the self. A bottom line is about the ‘I’: ‘This is what I think.’ ‘This is what I feel.’ ‘These are the things I can and can’t do.” (Continued on page 5) 4

(Resistant, continued from previous page) Lerner continues: “There is no ‘correct’ bottom line that fits up all. While there is no shortage of advice out there, neither your best friend nor your therapist can know the ‘right’ amount of giving, doing, or putting-up-with in your relationship, and what new position you are ready to take on your own behalf. The rules in this chapter cover a range of ‘bottom lines,’ from those that come up in the dailiness of coupledom (‘You have to clean the kitchen’), to voicing the ultimate (‘If these things don’t change, I don’t think I can stay in this relationship’).” (p. 182) Often a patient despairs, after trying repeatedly to get her partner into psychotherapy, as to whether she has any leverage she can bring to bear to get across to her partner how important this is, to her and to her family. Terrence Real, in a lecture at a national Couples Conference in San Diego in 2009, addressed this issue of leverage. In this talk, he identified the “blatant” partner as the one who continues to transgress in the marriage or refuses to get help. He identified the “latent” partner as the one, often (but not always) the wife, who backs down and does not push hard enough for what she wants. In this lecture, Real acknowledged that frequently the wife has “a very real fear that if she sets limits, she may lose her partner.” Real stated, “She has to be willing to risk the relationship if she wants change. In order to have a healthy relationship, one has to be willing to risk it, often multiple times. Adults don’t give other adults unconditional love (We do give it to children.) Your leverage needs to make the blatant more uncomfortable doing what he’s doing…on any level.” Real lays out five (5) “Levels of Leverage” that the latent can bring to bear on the blatant. These levels are as follows: 1) Stop acting happy; 2) Withdraw affection in an explicit way by moving into a different bedroom and not having sex; 3) Go on strike and stop doing things for the partner, including going out socially; 4) Separate; this can be either an in-house or an out of house separation; 5) Leave the marriage.

Obviously, these steps are very difficult to take. One takes them as a last resort, when one has tried repeatedly and over time to get a distressed partner to seek professional help, and they have steadfastly resisted. These are actions one takes, when one has exhausted all verbal efforts at persuasion. And these actions are taken, as Harriet Lerner has written, “to preserve the dignity, integrity, and well-being of the self.” The toll that an untreated partner takes on a marriage and a family cannot be overstated. Not taking a strong enough stand can lead one to a lifetime of resentment, loneliness, and despair.

THANK YOU! 2020 Jules Seeman Fall Workshop Sponsors


The Flaming By Barbara Sanders, LCSW ———————

Thundering music flares

Wondrous wind, lifting ashes aloft

Electrifying the paint horse’s body

Floating, swirling up, up, up

Challenging her muscles to

Into the atmosphere,

Churn, burn, gallop, sailing westward

Moving from living body to air, rising

Flying through sacred lands of

Higher and higher

Natives and immigrants,

Into the sky, red, dark heat.

Birds, animals, plants, water, and Mother Earth.

Fire clearing away debris, brush, Beasts, limbs, leaves, trunks of trees,

Initially, the woman was a passenger

Crispy blood sacrifices of bones and beaks,

Enthralled with the mare's magnificent power

Claws toasted, roasted

Soaring over land, rivers, and sand.

Wiping away all sin, all ego

Then, horse and woman began to merge

All of life that lived

Whirling into one being,

Before The Flaming.

Powerful thighs racing toward The setting sun,

After the fire blew itself out,

Immense strength, energy, passion.

The horse emerged, then lay down on The charred forest floor, her journey

Music reverberates, a cacophony of sound,

Complete as she pushes her foal from her womb,

The woman is lying on the flushed earth

Forward into life

Rooted to the underworld

Full of majesty and light

Deep within the forest.

Unscarred by the forest's fever.

Crackling, pops and swooshes

Mother licking baby, soft and sweet

Of heat flow by and then,

The foal comes to life, breathing in

She witnesses the fire

Clear air, damp smells of birth

She is becoming the fire

Opening her eyes to a new world of

She is the fire

Peace, pain and delight

Sparkling, rippling,

Joyfully flexing unused muscles,

Prickling and plundering, gobbling up

And flawless, fresh skin.

Every morsel of dryness possible

With her mother’s help

Flaming, burning, crinkling, torching skin, Bits of bone, wafting with the

She stands for the very first time.

Artist: Ben Griffith 6

Board Member Spotlight Our board member spotlight this month is more of a “retrospective”. Outgoing Past Chair, Sonya Thomas, is completing her second term as a member of the NPI Board of Directors at the end of this year. Sonya first served on the board from 2014-2016 and was nominated for a leadership position a few years later, serving again on the board from 2018-2020. During her first term on the board, NPI began the multi-year process of implementing the recommendations made by the NPI Design Team. Leadership was restructured, moving from a dual chairperson position serving one year, to a single person serving a three-year term as ChairElect, Current Chair and Past Chair. Sonya was the third person in the inaugural class of the new leadership structure and expresses bittersweet feelings at saying goodbye to serving on the board, which has been so much a part of her professional development and service over the past half-decade, plus.

Sonya Thomas, LCSW

Sonya came to the board feeling a degree of shyness and uncertainty, wondering what she would have to offer NPI. Along the way, she found her footing and her voice. Some of her prouder accomplishments include negotiating a rate that was in budget to secure Stan Tatkin as one of our more popular Jules Seeman Fall Workshop presenters; writing several well reviewed articles for NPI reflects, including a moving memorial to Prince, and starting the NPI Meetup group, which at its height had 180+ members. She was instrumental in co-hosting several well attended book discussions, and pulled together a slate of CE presenters that consistently drew large luncheon crowds. It was emceeing the CE luncheons that Sonya literally found her voice, doing something she never imagined herself being able to do; speaking publicly in a room full of esteemed colleagues without fainting or being loaded up on benzo’s. The opportunity to work on her fear of public speaking is something that she will forever be grateful to NPI for providing her. Sonya is most proud of her efforts, along with Jamie Kyne and other brave colleagues, in implementing the NPI Viewpoint Diversity Project in 2018. This project was formed with the purpose of creating safe spaces to have conversations around provocative topics, with a commitment to nurturing heterodoxy. Jonathan Haidt’s “Moral Foundations Theory” was used as a lens through which to try to understand different views on such topics as assault weapon and the 2nd amendment, the racial wealth gap, and the actual limits of viewpoint diversity. Given that our membership skews heavily progressive, Sonya and Jamie believed it would be a project worth undertaking to try to understand viewpoints quite different than those that are native to most therapist’s. She believes this remains, now more than ever, a worthwhile aspiration, given the hyperpolarization and tribalism that has become endemic in our world. As Sonya says good-bye to serving on the board of NPI, she remains committed to the organization, and very much looks forward to the time when we can all be together again. In the meantime, she has begun shifting the focus of her volunteer work to assisting in making sure retired racing greyhounds find loving, forever homes with the Nashville chapter of Greyhound Pets of America. When not working at her private practice, helping couples create transformational change in their relationships, she can be found spending time with her wife and their two recently adopted greyhounds, Bette and Ursula. If you are ever on the Shelby Bottom Greenway or at the Riverside Village Pub, you may run into her and the fam. If so, please do say hello.


My Not-So-Wonderful White World By Lindsay E. Vaughn, Psy.D., HSP, CST Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Founder and Director of Hazel House Holistic Healing When I was four, we got a new puppy. She was the cutest, sweetest little black lab you’ve ever seen. She was my best friend, and she was perfect, except for one thing. Her name was Nigg. Yes, you read that right. We had a black dog and my stepdad thought it would be cute to name her Nigg. I cringe as I write that, feeling the painful combination of anger, fear, and shame that are probably quite appropriate in this moment. It’s awful, it’s vulnerable to share, and it’s the truth. Fast forward about ten years. I was spending some time with my biological dad and we decided to go to the corner store for something one night. He goes in, gets whatever he came for, then comes out, gets into the car, and drives away. But instead of going home, he drives to the elementary school across the street and parks the car, killing the headlights. Of course, I ask him what he’s doing, so he explains. “Two black guys walked in there as I was leaving. I’m going to make sure they don’t rob the place,” he says. They didn’t. I feel certain that the two memories described above are not the only examples of racism that I was exposed to growing up, but they are the most memorable. I do know that my maternal grandmother relied heavily on “the help.” When my mom and I watched the movie by the same name together, she commented on how similar it was to her experience of growing up, white and wealthy, in Hendersonville, TN in the 1950s and 60s. Just like the movie character, my mom was practically raised by the black nanny, Alice, who also cooked and cleaned, of course. Later, throughout the 1980s, I remember that Betty Sue was always there at my grandmother’s house when I visited, tidying up and doing whatever needed to be done inside, while James worked dutifully outside. Later, after my grandmother had died, Betty Sue’s sister, Mary Lou was the housekeeper for my home. James, who maintained my grandmother’s farm, was a kind older man with very dark skin. It was obvious to me that he was different from me and my family, even at four or five. Still, I liked him, and he liked me. I always smiled when I saw James and enjoyed saying hello to him. I don’t remember his death, specifically, but I think it was pretty early in my life. Then, before I was even in middle school, a neighbor, who was my parents’ age, starting telling me that James died by hanging, on my grandmother’s farm. As an adult, I don’t believe that’s true, and I don’t believe he did either. He just thought it was funny to freak me out. Obviously, there’s nothing funny about it. We didn’t have any friends of color. I went to schools that did not include many black people. The private school I attended from Kindergarten through third grade didn’t have a single black person, if I recall correctly. We did have one Jewish student, however, and I remember that it was a big deal. Even the public school that I transferred to in fourth grade had very few black people. One of them I befriended, and I remember that she felt like a full-grown adult to me in fifth grade, because she was wise beyond her years. While my memory is fuzzy, I think I assumed that she was wise and weathered because of her family life. But truth be told, she had probably acquired much of her wisdom and resilience from having survived in a white suburban area where people with black and brown skin were discriminated against, judged, feared, and sometimes hated. I have a vague memory of wanting to invite Tamika over to my house, but I never did ask my parents. After all, no black person had ever been to our house, save for Mary Lou. I feel certain that if you asked any of my three parents, they would explicitly tell you that they are not racist. And I actually think they would believe it. Racism, to many people, is narrowly associated with extreme and cruel actions. My parents were never overtly cruel. In fact, they were quite kind to most people, including black people. Also, they trusted Mary Lou enough to leave their youngest daughter in her care while they went on vacation. How in the world could they be racist? I tell these stories not to crucify my parents. I happen to believe that they fully intend to be good people who do no harm in the world. Rather, I tell these stories to explain the context into which I was born, my parents were born, and many of you reading this were likely born, especially in the South. I, like many white people, grew up thinking that black people were more likely to steal, rob, and enact violence, and that I better keep my eyes open when they’re around. Those were the messages I got, not always covertly, and regrettably, I didn’t have very many black people around me to challenge those stereotypes. I also remember thinking as I was growing up, “If black people want to be accepted and integrated into mainstream (read: white) society, why do they act so different?” Continued on page 9 8

White World, (continued from page 8)

I felt like they were going out of their way to be different, to set themselves apart, with music, dress, and speech, for example, and then they complained about being treated differently. I found that to be confusing, and frustrating, and I was pretty unconcerned with finding ways to bridge the gap. My child-mind obviously didn’t understand the difference between wanting assimilation and wanting equality. I’m ashamed now to think that this was my mentality, but how could it have been different at such a young age, with very little exposure to a different way of thinking about things? But I for sure was NOT racist. No, I was a nice person, and I considered Tamika a dear friend, after all. After living in suburban Tennessee for my whole life, I moved to a relatively diverse South Florida town at the start of eighth grade, where I stayed for three years. We lived in a relatively wealthy area, and still quite suburban, picturesque even, but it was certainly different from what I was used to. I found many Jewish and Latinx friends, and friends whose family had originated all over the country, and in other countries, too. During the first few months of school there, as I introduced myself as being from Tennessee, I was routinely asked if we had running water, if we used outhouses, and if we wore shoes. As if eight grade isn’t hard enough socially. Even with this newfound diversity, there were very few black people around, and while I don’t specifically remember it, I suspect that racism was prevalent. You’d think that oppressed groups of people - religious minorities, immigrants, women and girls, etc. - you’d think that they would understand what it feels like to be oppressed, and that they (we) would all fight for equality. But somehow, it doesn’t work that way. The paucity of black people meant that, again, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to challenge my own stereotypes and biases, nor to benefit from the inclusion of black culture and black people in the tangible world around me. At the start of 11th grade, I moved from Florida back to Tennessee, where I attended a small, Christian, private school. Upon graduation, we had one black boy and one black girl in our class of 95 teenagers. Can you imagine being the only one? I wish so badly that I had realized then what they must have experienced being the only person around who looked like them. I don’t recall any black teachers on staff either. How lonely it must have been for my classmates of color. I moved from one white world to another, and another, and another. My college years, also spent in a Tennessee suburb, consisted of more straight, white, Christian experiences. I know that there were people of color around campus, but I don’t recall very many interactions with my black peers. As I previously mentioned, I was acutely aware of the self-segregation, but I was ignorant to the context within which it occurred. My privilege had me completely unaware of the lack of psychological safety experienced by my black peers in a southern, suburban school. I do remember one professor, an older white man, who taught me sociology and consequently challenged everything I ever thought I knew about people, about prejudice, about justice, about bias, and about how one-sided my prior learning had been. I couldn’t tell you now, twenty something years later, anything specific that he said, except one thing. He told us that people often use the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” to support their bias against interracial coupling. However, he said, the reason they do is because birds of a different feather are birds of a different species. He was using science to challenge a common idiom and the racist ideas underlying it. It may have been my first experience like that, and maybe that’s why I remember it. And maybe, though I can’t say with any certainty, that one statement changed the course for me. My future experiences would build upon that one moment. By the time I got to grad school, I was married, 23 years old, still somewhat attached to the values of my childhood, and still fairly uneducated in matters of social justice, in spite of having a four-year degree in psychology and sociology. I was in for quite the challenging first semester. Back in south Florida, I was surrounded by a more diverse community again, and while I did not have any black people in my cohort, or as professors, as far as I can remember, I was still surrounded by a more diverse crowd, and one that was much less bound by southern mores. I don’t remember which came first, but I was to have my racist and my homophobic beliefs challenged, right off the bat. My Diversity class professor, Dr. Lewis (in fact, his name was John Lewis, but he wasn’t the same man who was a civil rights activist since the days of MLK). This Dr. Lewis was a bit of an odd man – white, short, loud, a yankee by Tennessee standards - but very likable, nonetheless. I remember that he gave us an assignment, pretty early on, which asked us to examine our own history, the messages we received about people who were different from us, internalized racism, etc. Continued on page 10 9

White World, (continued from page 9)

He instructed us to title the paper, “Who Am I?” Without having to go back and read it, I remember that I wrote about not being racist in any way, having had black friends and black housekeepers, whom we all adored. I also talked about my experience as a woman, and the fact that I never felt oppressed, held back, discriminated against, disadvantaged, etc., because I was a woman. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, as they say. My professor didn’t reprimand me or give me a bad grade for my lack of insight. Instead, he assigned a grade that was fitting for the effort and the quality of writing, and then probably proceeded to teach what he determined I needed to know, along with the rest of my classmates who probably had varying degrees of awareness. I’m sure I wasn’t the only racist, sexist, homophobic person with little self-awareness in the class. Surely. I remember one other specific thing from that class. One day, during a lecture, Dr. John Lewis said, “A lot of people say that black people act like we OWE them something.” I was on board at this point, because that seemed to ring true for me. He continued, with passion, “IT’S BECAUSE WE DO!! WE DO OWE THEM SOMETHING!! IT’S CALLED REPARATION.” He had my attention. As he continued, he offered something that led me to understand things from a different perspective. I don’t remember the details of what he taught that day, or in the weeks to follow, but I know that it changed me. Maybe the fact that I was still young and impressionable made a difference. And I was there to learn, after all. I felt honored to be a part of this cohort of people, all forging ahead toward our own doctorates. I’m sure I was more open to new information than I might have been otherwise. Still, Dr. Lewis was pretty persuasive, and what he taught… Just. Made. Sense. I’ve been fortunate since that time, twenty years ago, to have a lot of exposure to black and brown people, as well as members of many other minority groups. My stereotypes and biases have been challenged not only by reading books, but also by making friends. Through my professional and personal experiences over the years, I have learned to open my eyes and my heart to the pain of others in our community, to hear their voices, and to try be helpful in some way. Certainly, I’m not perfect; I have a lot to learn. Even in writing this article, I fear that I’ve exposed something dreadful about myself to all of my respected colleagues, as I’m aware that this is such a sensitive topic and that it’s easy to blunder. I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that I am not responsible for my upbringing or for the actions of my relatives, and that you, the reader, will know that, too. I also have had to reassure myself that my intent will be known, and that I can bear to receive feedback, and learn from it, should any come my way. These are the pep talks we must give ourselves so that we don’t just do the easy thing by resting on our privilege and letting our awareness of systemic racism fade into the background. We must keep the conversations going, no matter how scary, and no matter what we have to lose. In spite of my fear and embarrassment, I chose to write this article because my childhood experiences are not uncommon, and there are a lot of people walking around who share the perspectives of my younger self. My college and graduate school experiences were less common, though, and I feel grateful for those. I have spent a lot of time in recent years wondering whether some of the racist people around me would see things differently, too, had they learned some of the same things I did. I’ve also spent a good deal of time pondering how I might share information with them, now, that would penetrate the long-entrenched ideas about what it means to be black in this country, as I understand it, as well as what it means to be white. I want to share the things I’ve learned about modeling, trauma, epigenetics, and confirmation bias, and how each of those relate to systemic racism. I want to believe that racism is born out of ignorance as often as it is out of hate, and that people’s hearts and minds can open to new ideas when they are challenged, just as I was twenty years ago by Dr. John Lewis. Of course, I know that some people do not want to be changed, and they are not as open to new information as I was in my early 20s, when I was pursuing a doctorate in psychology. And if I assume that everyone is open to being challenged and changed, I will surely be disappointed. But if I assume that everyone is not, or that it’s fruitless to have conversations about race with people who disagree with me, we all stand to lose a lot more. Because then, I would miss out on potential opportunities to make the world a little safer, one person at a time. So, I’ll just keep having these uncomfortable, imperfect, sometimes messy conversations. I’ll keep fighting for what is right, and I’ll do my damnedest to present things in a way that is palatable to those who don’t yet get it. After all, our attempts at persuasion do no good if they are rejected at the door. I hope you will keep having these conversations, too, since you never know how one statement might change the trajectory of someone’s life, and the ripple effect that might cause. Take it from me. 10


A year ago, we were making plans for an incredible year of programming and events including The Connection Retreat at St. Mary’s of Sewanee, a full calendar of relevant topics and impressive speakers for our monthly CE luncheons, a student recruitment program and a fall workshop boasting a national presenter. In spite of the personal and professional challenges experienced in 2020, NPI has continued to bring people together to learn, restore, educate, advocate, and network. From the Enneagram to Ethics, from Microaggressions to Mindfulness, from Somatic Therapy to SelfCompassion, we have covered a lot of topics this year! Whatever comes next, we hope you will join us!


NEW on the website! “FEATURED MEMBER� As you scroll through the pages of the NPI website, check out the smiling faces of our members. The Featured Member is randomly selected, so make sure your directory listing contains a profile picture!

Need help updating your profile? Email


Nashville Psychotherapy Institute

P. O. Box 158626 Nashville, TN 37215

2020 NPI BOARD OF DIRECTORS Cathy Yarbrough, PhD; Chair John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP; Chair-elect/Development/Newsletter Sonya Thomas, LCSW; Immediate Past Chair Lindsay Vaughn, PsyD; Hutton Historian Glenn Sheriff, MA ; Treasurer D. Kirk Barton, MD Robert DeSalvo, LCSW; Website Bobby Bracks; Student Member Emily Ector-Volman, LPC-MHSP (temp), NCC; Communications Kristin Finch, LPC-MHSP (temp), NCC Linda Manning, PhD; Social Justice Patrick Nitch, LPC/MHSP; Fall Workshop/Speaker Research Hannah Reynolds, LPC/MHSP; Fall Workshop/Social Justice Melissa Vickroy, MS; Executive Coordinator

WANT TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN THE NASHVILLE PSYCHOTHERAPY INSTITUTE? We have several committees that you can join! If you are interested in becoming a more active member of NPI, visit our website at or email us at

NEWSLETTER CREDITS Editor: Layout & Design: Printing:

John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP Melissa Vickroy, MS PrintNetUSA; ISSUU publishing

***Editor’s Note: The content and opinions expressed within this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute, the Board of Directors of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute, or the Editor of the newsletter. 14

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.