What does it mean to create an anti-oppressive EMDR therapy practice? It means that EMDR therapists take account of the impact of power, inequity, and oppression on people and actively combat it. How can EMDR therapists offer anti-oppressive EMDR therapy for the LGBTQA+ community? EMDR-certified therapist, consultant, and trainer Roshni Chabra, LMFT tells us how.
- The Trevor Project
- Pray Away Netflix Documentary (Trigger Warning)
- Let’s Talk EMDR podcast EMDR for Vicarious Trauma Episode
- Let’s Talk EMDR podcastEMDR Therapy and Sexual Trauma Episode (Trigger Warning)
- Dr. Stephen Dansiger EMDR Therapy: Phases 1- 7 YouTube video
- Roshni Chabra Core of Earth Grounding and Container Meditation YouTube video
- Dr. Jamie Marich, EMDR Therapy Demonstration: Phases 1-8 YouTube video
- EMDRIA Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Policy
- EMDRIA Client Brochures
- Focal Point Blog
- EMDRIA Practice Resources
- EMDRIA Online Community for Diversity, Community and Culture
- EMDRIA’s Find an EMDR Therapist Directory lists more than 15,000 EMDR therapists.
- Follow @EMDRIA on Twitter. Connect with EMDRIA on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
- EMDRIA Online Membership Communities for EMDR Therapists
Kim Howard 00:04
Welcome to the Let’s Talk EMDR podcast brought to you by the EMDR International Association or EMDRIA. I’m your host Kim Howard. In this episode we are talking with EMDR certified therapists consultant and trainer Roshni Chabra, about anti oppression work within the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s get started. Today we are speaking with EMDR certified therapists consultant and trainer Roshni Chabra to talk about anti oppression work with the LGBTQ+ community. Thank you Roshni, for being here today. We are so happy that you said yes.
Roshni Chabra 00:37
Hi, Kim. Thanks for having me on today. Great to be here with you.
Kim Howard 00:42
So can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an EMDR Therapist?
Roshni Chabra 00:47
Yeah, so I’ve always kind of wanted to train in EMDR since I started out my career in psychology, and I had the opportunity to train in 2017. And I took the training with Dr. Stephen Dansiger. It was a smaller training about 10 of us. And at that time, he said, ‘Hey, let’s stay in touch.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, yeah, cool.’ Seemed like a cool guy. And so cut to 2019, when I joined his company, and we’ve been working together ever since.
Kim Howard 01:21
That’s a good story. Thanks for sharing it. We always like to find out how people heard about EMDR. What draw them to it. So we we like to hear the origin stories. So, what’s your favorite part of working with EMDR?
Roshni Chabra 01:37
I think I’m gonna have to say really just seeing clients heal. Having done this work, and previous to becoming a therapist, I work in the rape crisis movement for five years. And in that time, I earned myself some good vicarious trauma – lots of it. So I think that being that that’s how my career in this field started out. It was difficult seeing the way that there’s so much going on for folks and the pain that’s caused. And I think the really hard part that causes a lot of burnout is the fact that you don’t see people heal a lot. And when you’re not seeing that as much, and you’re sitting with struggling people on the regular, the emotional labor that goes into that is just exhausting at times. And so having worked in the rape crisis movement, having been entrenched in that seeing so many people suffering, not seeing a whole lot of really healing through the criminal justice system, or even restorative justice. Not enough, I would say not enough resolution, even individually for each person. So I think that going into the field, seeing all of that it really gave me a different perspective on doing this work. And being able to see clients actually heal and change the way that they think about and feel about themselves, really is the thing that has made this work most sustainable for me.
Kim Howard 03:19
First of all, I’m sorry that you you went through that.
Roshni Chabra 03:23
Thank you. I think a lot of folks do that work, and it’s really hard work. Yeah.
Kim Howard 03:28
Yeah, I can only imagine what kind of work what kind of emotions involved in managing that sort of practice. We do have two podcasts that you touched, a subject that you just touched on. One is vicarious trauma. So there is a podcast on EMDR therapy for vicarious trauma, if anybody wants to listen to that, we also have a podcast that we launched back in the spring. Can’t remember the exact title, but it was EMDR therapy and probably sexual trauma. Something along those lines, we have two podcasts that go in depth to both of those subject matters. And so if anybody wants to listen to those, we certainly would welcome you to do that. And if you are a therapist, and you listen to this podcast, please do take care of yourself, because the work that you guys do is so so important to healing like, literally, every person on the planet needs you. And I’m sure that’s kind of an overwhelming thing, when you think about it. You’re like, wow, we’re helping a lot of people out there, right. But everybody needs a therapist who’s there for them. So thank you guys for all the work that you do.
Roshni Chabra 04:33
Absolutely. Thank you. And I’ll have to check out those podcasts to listen awesome.
Kim Howard 04:38
They are very good; I thought so, Roshni, what successes have you seen used anti oppression work during EMDR therapy session?
Roshni Chabra 04:45
Yeah, I’ve seen quite a bit of success around moving the negative cognitions. Around or the oppressive cognitions rather, around the day to day I kind of hate the word microaggressions. Because I think it doesn’t really convey what the impact actually is. When I was first introduced that word, somebody had said, it’s kind of like being poked in the shoulder with like attack all day long, right? Like, after a while, it’s gonna get pretty irritating. But some of those microaggressions really have macro impacts. So thinking about how to address that in day to day life can be really challenging. There’s a way in which you can work with a client on oppressive cognitions doing some of the stuff to move around, oppression, trauma, specific incidents of oppression, and yet someone can step right outside and hear a racist comment, a homophobic comment or transphobic comment. And so there’s no really way of sort of, I like to think of like bubble wrapping this person enough, after doing this work, that going out into the world is not going to still have a huge impact. So I think recognizing that means that the work is slow, and the progress looks different. But what I’m always looking for with my clients, is a shift around how they see themself in this environment, right. So if this is a trans person, and you know, being in a transphobic environment, so if instead of internalizing every time there is aggression towards them, and having that reinforce earlier trauma, when I’m seeing them be able to respond in a different way, when things come up. That’s the piece that to me is successful is if that person is not having to internalize the ongoing aggressions as much as they have in the past. So I think we have to be realistic around successes and define it differently when we’re talking about anti oppression work and really having it comes down to okay, what is the thing that is most difficult around this for this client? How can we ease some of that up even by 1 percent. And as we know, so much trauma is wrapped in racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, you know, so much of the trauma and the way that it’s experienced, and the fact that more vulnerable populations are impacted by trauma more so means that it’s very difficult to unravel those two things, right, the experience of trauma and the experience of oppression as separate things. And so when I talk about oppression, trauma, I’m really starting with what does this person want to shift? What would they like to deal with less of, of course, it’s the whole gamut of things that they would like to deal with less of, but how can I alleviate some of that, in the time that we have together? How can I help to take even half a percent off of that experience for next time?
Kim Howard 08:18
That’s a good segue to my next question, which is part of the reason that we’re here today to talk about anti-oppression work. But we’re also here to talk about working with the LGBTQ+ community. So are there any myths that you would like to bust about working with the LGBTQ+ community?
Roshni Chabra 08:35
How much time do we have, Kim?
Kim Howard 08:37
As much as you want Roshni. You want to give me five things? You want to get a 20 things? If you want to give me 500, well, I may not have time for that.
Roshni Chabra 08:46
Yeah, I mean, I think that as therapists and as trauma therapist, I would hope that a lot of the basics are there of just recognizing each person in their experience and what they’re bringing to the table. There are a lot of myths, unfortunately, out there. And if you there’s actually a pretty good documentary on Netflix called ‘Pray Away’ that talks about the origin of some of these myths. And I think the ones that have always kind of gotten to me are the ones around the pedophilia – child sexual abuse stuff. And having worked in the rape crisis movement, you know, I’m sure you can understand why but there’s a lot of misinformation that is what leads to us having or being in a rape culture, right, where we normalize a lot of these things. So in watching that documentary, it became clear that the Exodus Church kind of was responsible for a lot of these myths. And I think that if we were to break down this one myth around the fact that let’s just say, you know, lesbians have been molested, and so there’s this idea that okay, so you are lesbian. So you turned away from it, your attractions were toward women, okay? And then for men, it is you are molested, and you enjoyed it. So you turn toward it. And so just looking at how these two things don’t even line up or make sense. It’s absurd. And the other thing to know is that this takes away from the reality of the people who are actually out there harming children. Right? It’s a deflection, it takes away from the accountability of that, in addition to just spreading harmful information. And also, folks in the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to having the shame and difficulty of coming out of the closet, who may have experienced sexual abuse, are now having this added layer. And this added lie to who they are. And that’s just not needed. So I think that’s definitely a myth that I like to address. I think when we talk about it, it’s really important to recognize we do not talk about heterosexuality in the same way we don’t ask heterosexual people. When did you realize you were heterosexual?
Kim Howard 11:17
You know, that’s true. We don’t do that.
Roshni Chabra 11:18
We don’t. We never asked that. So there’s a way in which actually sexuality develops is, we don’t even know, you know, partly, it’s your brain development, partly, you know, it maybe nature versus nurture, nature, nurture that kind of question. But when it comes down to it, who really cares? You know, who cares how it develops? The only reason we would care is to be able to try to remove it, and stop that process and control it. And I think what we’re seeing a lot right now, politically, is a lot of control over people’s bodies, taking away a lot of autonomy, things like that, right. And so all of that at the end of the day is harmful that we know in this field, that choice. And having power and control over your own body and your own self is part of healing and is a necessary part. Because often at the root of trauma is having your power and control taken away.
Kim Howard 12:00
This is very true. And I will link the Netflix documentary that you mentioned in our resources in the description for the podcast episode so that people can access that or look it up. So thank you for mentioning that.
Roshni Chabra 12:32
I will give a trigger warning for that, that it is it has been a lot for most of the LGBTQ+, folks, I know you’ve seen it. And so just treat yourself with care. And you know, take it in pieces if you need to.
Kim Howard 12:47
Roshni Chabra 12:48
That’s how I watched.
Kim Howard 12:49
Thank you. Are there any specific complexities or difficulties combining anti oppression work with the LGBTQ+ community?
Roshni Chabra 12:58
Yeah, I think I started to talk about this. You know, one thing in working with the LGBTQ+ community, that may not be true of other communities that experience oppression is the needing to come out the hidden nature of this. I mean, we do see this with ableism a lot, that there are invisible disabilities, that people make a lot of assumptions around these things. But when you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, there’s really heteronormativity right, and so people will assume what your sexuality is. And some folks stay in the closet of choice, some folks stay in the closet, because they’re forced to. And another layer of that is that you might lose family or people who are close to you. And so there is that added layer of danger in being your true self, which in other instances might not be the case, right? So you might have a family who understands your level of oppression or what you’re experiencing oppression around because they’re experiencing something similar because of class or race or ethnicity or some other shared factor. So there is a lot of work to be done around shame. And I feel that EMDR therapy is extremely helpful. And we’re continuing to see a lot of that in the media politically, as I mentioned, the shame and the reason that people are having to go back into the closet as well for their own safety and sometimes even for survival.
Kim Howard 14:45
It seems like we’ve gone backwards…like you see movies and you read stories about this- and quickly it comes to mind-McCarthyism-you know and the literally the witch hunt he was on-the witch hunt for everybody and anybody. And you think, ‘Okay, that was really horrible. And I’m glad that’s passed.’ Then you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe not so much. Maybe it’s back and you’re like, Yeah, I don’t understand that.’ And and I didn’t grow up that way. I don’t know, I just don’t understand why people obsess about things like that.
Roshni Chabra 15:18
Well, I think it’s a backlash, there’s been a lot of progress. And there is we are experiencing a backlash that is, as you mentioned, sending us pretty far back. So I do believe that we will be able to make forward movement at some point. But right now, it’s just about survival for a lot of LGBTQ+, folks, depending on the communities that you’re in, depending on the level of support that you have access to mental health, as we know can be challenging as well.
Kim Howard 15:51
Roshni, how do you practice cultural humility as an EMDR therapist?
Roshni Chabra 15:55
Yea, so, my approach to cultural humility, especially as an intersectional, feminist therapist is really about seeing the person who’s in front of me. So when I’m talking about clients, it’s really about seeing what they’re bringing in that day, what they bring to the table, and also looking at intersectionality, right, none of us are just one part one identity, one layer of privilege, one layer of experiencing oppression, we’re so many different layers, that the intersections of our identity are really crucial in the way that we walk through the world. And I think just seeing that validating that for people is really important. And also acknowledging that these are changeable things, right, we may not always be in a category of privilege, as I mentioned earlier, with ableism, you can have invisible disabilities and ableism is actually one that changes for many people throughout their life where they land between privilege and experiencing oppression, ageism as well, right. So looking at the fact that these things are going to change over time, I think that it can be helpful to just sit and be present with that person to be open to their experience, and to really allow them to lead the process. So for me, that’s absolutely crucial. And giving that control that power within the room to say this is your process in and of itself as healing. We know that choice is healing, I think that there are layers of the way that we can show up the ways that we can show up with cultural humility. And the other layer here and talking about being a trainer is recognizing that you’re talking to a bunch of different people in the room with a bunch of different experiences that one of the things I was talking about at the last trainer day was the importance of self disclosure. So as an intersectional, feminist therapist, I believe that self disclosure is useful at times where appropriate, and I use that in my trainings as well to make things accessible and to help people to understand that it’s okay for them to show up as fully as they possibly can. So it’s often a little bit tricky in our trainings, right, we are asking people to come to a professional training and to also do personal work and practicum. So it is something that I see folks struggle with, with this idea of professionalism being as white supremacy, capitalism, a lot of these things informing informing that and so breaking that down into, you know, there are things that it’s okay to be open about, okay to disclose about, I often will disclose that. I’m neurodivergent I have ADHD, I have chronic pain, and then I get people disclosing to me. Oh, well, thank you for saying that. Because I have chronic pain. And I felt like I couldn’t sit through this and I couldn’t step away from my camera. But now that you’ve said that, I know you’re going to be okay with me asking you for what I need. Or, you know, the acknowledgement of I’m tripping up over my words here. I always say okay, my neuro divergence is loading standby, you know, so kind of just allowing people to fully show up as themselves. There’s, that’s a really helpful cultural humility practice in trainings and across the board with clients also.
Kim Howard 19:34
That’s a good answer. We’ve gotten some, some really good answers on this podcast, but we have not gotten one like that before. Thank you for that original perspective. I think that really matters. I think people need to hear that. My next question was not on our list of questions, but I think it’s important. What recommendations would you say to someone who is in the LGBTQ+ community who is seeking an EMDR therapist or a therapist in general, what should they be on the lookout for in terms of finding the right fit?
Roshni Chabra 20:11
I mean, I know for me personally, I’m looking like when I’m looking for therapists, I’m looking for someone who self discloses that they are within the LGBTQ+ community. And I see a lot of folks who do not disclose that, but they listed there. And then my question becomes, is this a specialty because you have experience working with this community? Or are you going to know what it feels like to walk in my shoes? Are you going to get it on that level? And so that’s not necessary for everyone who’s looking for a therapist, but I think at least to seek out someone who is LGBTQ+ affirming. And the difference between being accepting or tolerating is very different than affirming, right? Affirming bringing that to the forefront of the work that we’re doing in therapy, normalizing the process of coming out, helping a person to navigate through the shame, and really working through the trauma around the oppression that comes along with it. So I think that looking for someone affirming someone who lists that is very helpful. I think just having an EMDR therapist who is willing to be open with you about what is this going to look like? What are some of the possible side effects, you know, a lot of people come into EMDR therapy, and they, they’re like, fix me. And so I tell them, you know, this is not a waving my wand, it’s not a quick fix, I, hey, I would love to wave my wand and take away your trauma. And unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. But to me, EMDR is the next best thing, right? So definitely looking for someone who’s an EMDR therapist, additionally, someone who’s LGBTQ+ affirming, I like to provide referrals for anybody that I’ve trained, because I’ve met that person have talked to them. So I know that’s harder for the general public to do. But I say ask around, you know, ask people because if folks have a good therapist, they will be talking about, that’s true.
Kim Howard 22:26
And we do have that option on our membership profiles, people can select all kinds of practice areas, populations. So if you go to our Find an EMDR Therapist Directory, you can click that option. It’s there’s drop down menus. And so you know, not only can you find somebody who’s in your physical radius, where you are, where you live, but you can select all kinds of things. And then a second step is what I recommend to people is go to their website. You know, if you’re looking for somebody who specializes in an area, and they don’t have it listed on their website, I don’t know why they would list it right. And so make sure that you’ve done a little bit of homework before you go. And I know that’s kind of hard to do if you’re in a crisis situation, or if you really, really are trying to get connected with the therapist. But in the long run, it’ll benefit you if you do just a little bit of homework ahead of time so that you don’t get the wrong person, and then have to start all over again.
Roshni Chabra 23:19
Definitely. I think that is the reason that I often will send people to the EMDRIA website, because I know that my values align with EMDRIA as well. So I know that you guys have all of the checkboxes, and it’s easy to find people that you’re looking for, unlike some other search engines that have not done things in the most, let’s see, in the most up and up ways. So a lot, some a lot of them have participated in forms of oppression, racism, things like that, and not really addressed. So I do always love to send people to the EMDRIA website because I feel like there’s so much in there already on oppression that if someone got lost in there, they were only going to find things that are helpful to them. Yeah. And that’s another thing I love about EMDR is there’s a lot of transparency. So that makes my intersectional feminists in me very happy where I’m just like, you know, anything I know you can know, right? So you know, there’s no person behind the curtain.
Kim Howard 24:26
No Wizard of Oz.
Roshni Chabra 24:28
Nope. No Wizard of Oz.
Kim Howard 24:29
That’s right. It’s all there. This is all who we are.
Roshni Chabra 24:32
Kim Howard 24:33
That’s a good analogy. Do you have a favorite free EMDR related resource that you would suggest either for the public or other EMDR therapists?
Roshni Chabra 24:40
Dr. Steven Dansiger has some good videos on YouTube. I will share with clients as well some demonstration videos. I do have one meditation video on my YouTube, my channel is not robust. So that’ll be some goals for 2024. But also the Institute for Creative Mindfulness has demonstration videos as well, that can be helpful. So I think if a client is really anxious and they want to see what it’s going to look like, start to finish that I would rather send them to a specific video and then let them go down the You Tube rabbit hole and end up somewhere that I’m like, okay, self EMDR? Not so much. It’s not really that.
Kim Howard 25:23
No, we don’t we don’t want you to do that. What would you like people outside of the EMDR community to know about anti oppression work as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community?
Roshni Chabra 25:32
I think there’s no more important time than now to be a real ally to the LGBTQ+ community. And if you’re not sure what that means, definitely find out look into it. There’s a lot of resources out there. And the Trevor Project has tons of stuff on their website that’s useful. And also just thinking about being an ally, meaning openness to see how can I support and how can I help? I think that this ally label feels big, it feels enormous. Sometimes it feels like you need to throw a pride parade in order to be an ally, not the case. You know, it’s it’s small things. And it’s being open to learning information, and changing the way that you think about it. And better understanding individual people’s experiences so that you can support the people in your life who are in the LGBTQ+ community. I mean, folks in our communities are being killed. Now more than ever, it’s gone on for a long time, especially in the trans community. Unfortunately, people are being empowered to murder others with these acts that are passing in multiple states and hate being on the rise is bad for all of us. It is not okay, we need to value life, we need to value people’s choices. So stepping up to be an ally can simply be how can I support your community right now with what’s going on? I think when we think about having privilege in certain places, so if you have a heterosexual privilege, or cis privilege, meaning that the sex that you were born with, aligns with the gender that you identify with, which we don’t know that word, you know, cis much, because I think it’s very normalized. So being a cis person being a heterosexual person stepping in and just asking the question, how, how can I support you? What can I do today? What websites can I look at what Instagram pages can I follow to be more in the know, just taking simple small steps, I think makes a big difference. And that’s for all communities that you can be an ally to. And also I think one of the most important things about being an ally is willing to get it wrong. It’s okay. Just know you’re gonna make mistakes, you might say the wrong thing, a simple apology and correcting yourself. And moving on educating yourself is the best way to be an ally.
Kim Howard 28:04
Yeah, we’ve talked about this on the podcast before and at a previous job, I had several friends who were gay. And my children were younger at the time, much younger. And they’re young adults now. And I asked my friends at work, how did you come out to your family? When did you know just all the questions, I think people who are heterosexual and don’t really have a large gay community of friends would ask initially, and they would tell me stories and how they came out. And I just remember my one friend, he and his partner got married a few years back. And sadly, his mother refused to come to the ceremony for religious reasons. And I do understand and respect her feelings about that. But I my thought to myself, ‘This is your son, how can you not go to his wedding?’ And when I looked at that, and they asked us questions, I asked them, because these are my children. And I want my children to be comfortable enough with me to share things with me. And if they ever came out to me, how am I going to respond? And how am I going to support them, because they’re my children. That’s the bottom line, I would never leave them, I would never banish them, I would never do that. I don’t care, you know, what my religion is or what I believe, I’m not going to do it. And also your comment about hate being on the rise and how that harms us all. There’s that old adage of you know, treat others how you want to be treated. You know, if this were you, how would you want other people to treat you? And if you’re not treating somebody with respect, and as much caring and compassion as you can, then shame on you, because you shouldn’t be doing that with other people. The world would be a lot better if we had less hate in it.
Roshni Chabra 29:43
Absolutely, and I think across the board, that is the message from every religion is love each other, respect each other. Don’t kill anybody, you know, love thy neighbor. Right? Turn your cheek. Yeah, so it all comes down to love. So when there is an interpretation that is hate, then I think, you know, we have to ask the question, is that religion? Or is that ego? Right? You know, is because love dissipates that ego. So like you said, if that’s your kid, then that’s always going to be your kid, you’re going to want to protect them from everything. And you shouldn’t have to be something that they need to be protected from. Yeah.
Kim Howard 30:25
Exactly. So I always liked this question because it can be fun or it can be serious. Roshni, if you weren’t an EMDR therapist, what would you be?
Roshni Chabra 30:35
Well, I wanted to be a lawyer for a while. And I’m really glad that I’m not probably would have made in my life, a lot of stress and knowing the criminal justice system and how challenging it is to navigate and the word justice lacking in it. I’m really glad that I didn’t go that way. So I think I might have ended up working at our family business, which was a preschool and kindergarten like a daycare. So I worked there a lot growing up, I never was like, Okay, I’m going to be a teacher. But here I am teaching EMDR therapy. So it is not to children, just not to children. Do you love the little ones, but I think I’m probably much happier here where I am.
Kim Howard 31:20
That’s really cool. For several years, I work with lawyers. So yeah, it’s a really high stressful job. I, I look at them, and I think, ‘Oh, I know, there’s no way I could do that schedule, and do that deal with that kind of stress.’ So any lawyers out there listening, thank you for all the work that you do. And if you need an EMDR therapist, you know where to find us. Is there anything else you want to add?
Roshni Chabra 31:48
I just want to reiterate, I think just you know, be willing to take chances on people. The interpersonal work that we do with people is so important. And that doesn’t just stop when we stop doing therapy in the room or virtually it doesn’t end there. So yeah, just being willing to take chances willing to make mistakes.
Kim Howard 32:11
That’s a good way to end the podcast. Thank you, Roshni.
Roshni Chabra 32:14
Thank you, Kim.
Kim Howard 32:15
This has been a Let’s Talk EMDR podcast with our guest Roshni Chabra. Visit www.emdria.org for more information about EMDR therapy, or to use our Find an EMDR Therapist Directory with more than 15,000 therapists available. Like what you hear, make sure you subscribe to this free podcast wherever you listen. Thanks for being here today.
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Howard, K. (Host). (2024, February 1). Anti-Oppression EMDR Therapy for the LGBTQA+ Community with Roshni Chabra (Season 3, No. 3) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
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