Anyone can experience intense trauma. Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) experience racial trauma and microaggressions often. Black men and adolescents experience it much more often. How can clinicians effectively treat this population to help them manage their PTSD? Join us to hear from Dr. Allen Lipscomb, LCSW, associate professor, director of online and offsite programs, director of Minority Male Mentoring (M3), and Student Success Allies to find out how EMDR therapy can help. June is PTSD Awareness Month and it’s Men’s Health Month. EMDR is widely considered one of the best treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has shown that EMDR therapy can be an efficient and rapid treatment for PTSD.
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Musical soundtrack, Acoustic Motivation 11290, supplied royalty-free by Pixabay.
Produced by Kim Howard, CAE.
Kim Howard 00:05
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’re discussing post traumatic stress disorder and racial trauma, black men and us and how EMDR therapy can help. Today’s guest is EMDR therapist Dr. Allen Lipscomb, who’s also an associate professor at California State University, Northridge. Welcome Dr. Lipscomb, tell us a bit about you your experience becoming an EMDR therapist and your experience using EMDR with men who have PTSD?
Allen Lipscomb 00:42
Sure. So my name is Dr. Allen Lipscomb. I am a licensed clinical social worker in the state of California. I also have my doctorate in psychology, clinical psych, so I’m a Psy D, as well, I maintain a small private practice that I’ve had for 10 years now. I became an EMDR therapist five years ago, in 2017, is when I went and got trained in that. In addition to being a clinician, I am also an associate professor at Cal State Northridge in the social work department, where I am the director of the minority male mentoring statistics as allies, and also the director of our MSW online program.
Kim Howard 01:28
But So could you tell me what your favorite part of working with PTSD is,
Allen Lipscomb 01:36
You know, the part that I really enjoy is watching their healing journey, being a part of that process, from the beginning, from that initial session, getting to know who the individual is, and watching them go through that process. And it’s almost like lifting right and lifting off these weights that has been put upon the individual by way of, of trauma. And so primarily at my practice, going back to your initial question, I work with primarily men, specifically men of color, regarding trauma, depression, and anxiety.
Kim Howard 02:18
I’ve heard other therapists talk about how their patients or their clients faces. Well, the relief that comes on their face when they feel like they’ve made progress in their therapy session, and and that stress has been lifted is is extremely rewarding. So I can only imagine, you know, that’s a rewarding experience, I think, professionally, you know, to be able to help people who are having problems and help them, get them solve it. I think it’s amazing and astounding, and I’m so grateful that I work with this organization, and I can see people doing that it’s wonderful.
Allen Lipscomb 03:01
Yeah, you know, we have the front seat to people’s healing journey and process. And like you said, you can visibly see the weight being lifted off of the individual. And that’s one of the things that I love about doing trauma work and working with PTSD is being able to see that and having that first row seat, if you will. And folks in trusting in me too. I don’t take that lightly, as the therapist in working with them. So being selected to be a part of that.
Kim Howard 03:35
Absolutely. What a what a beautiful servant leader approach, I think to to that kind of career path. You know, it takes it’s really a vocation, I think it’s it’s like a lot of of jobs out there that really aren’t jobs. They’re really vocations. So it’s, it’s, it’s rewarding to see people say, stand up and say, Oh, I think I can do this work. And I can help people in whatever the area is fill in the blank. And it’s beautiful. That’s wonderful that people are able to do that. Absolutely. Yeah. What success or value ads, have you seen regarding EMDR therapy, with PTSD in the black male population?
Allen Lipscomb 04:14
You know, one of the things I’ve seen that’s been a value is, I don’t ever have to know specifically what happened to you by way of trauma, right? I don’t have to know that specific. There’s a lot of shame. There’s a lot of stigma. There’s a lot of guilt that I see specifically with black men as they’re carrying their trauma, race based trauma, I do a lot of research and clinical work with race based trauma. And so to come into a space where that can be acknowledged, validated and lifted, where it’s not going to take away racial experiences and racialized experiences. No, but some of those traumas that stay with individuals, specifically black men. It’s pretty rewarding to see how they’re not carrying that weight as much as they were before. You know, I often say in doing trauma work with black men, they they get to heal enough, right heal enough to keep living, but you can’t 100% heal if it’s still happening, right if it still exists in our society, right, right and systemically, right, we have to deal with a larger mezzo macro problem as well. And so, in the political realm, I can’t take that, right. I can’t fix that in and of itself. But I can validate and recognize and acknowledge those experiences, and also build a trusting therapeutic relationship so that you trust the work that I’m going to be doing with you. And even honoring those experiences that you’ve had related to trauma, race based trauma, traumatic grief, etc.
Kim Howard 05:51
So given your experience working with black men and youth in the mental health area, can you touch on how PTSD impacts them?
Allen Lipscomb 05:58
Yeah, so I was touched on this a moment ago. But to come back to that point, it’s the same with men, right? In general, we’re around PTSD and folks in general who have PTSD, I think the part that’s different is how it shows up what it looks like and how we view it. I think in our society, we don’t see hypervigilance the same way in black men, when we see their behavior and youth, we see it as paranoia, or we see it as aggressive, right? We pathologize those behavior, we criminalize those symptoms, and we don’t see it as such, because it shows up differently, or it’s worn differently in our society. And so we have to be careful as clinicians to not jump to the conclusion that they must be this they must be aggressive, upset, etc. It could be related to PTSD symptoms and trauma.
Kim Howard 06:55
Alright, sort of like that thing about angry black women? Absolutely. Because a woman says something that’s not pleasant doesn’t mean that she’s angry, it just means that she doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t make her an angry black
Allen Lipscomb 07:07
woman. Correct? Correct. You know, and one of the things I found in my clinical work and in my research with black male grief and trauma is the the acceptance, the force, I call it force, cultural acceptance around trauma and grief. And so there’s even language that we hear from from black men and youth when you say, so tell me about what happened, or what did you think about that? You’ll hear things like, oh, it’s whatever it is what it is, it was what it was, I’m good. I’m clue I’m straight. Right? So there’s even language around keeping it going and don’t burden anyone with it, who’s gonna care anyways, this is the way life is right? It is what it is type of thing to around that. And so understanding even having to put on the face, that you’re okay. And or we don’t have the capacity as a society to honor your grief experiences, your trauma experiences to
Kim Howard 08:03
Well, and there’s also this whole male, I don’t know what the word is maybe the persona in a public way where men are supposed to be strong, absolutely need help, and they’re not supposed to go. And so I think that prevents a lot of men from seeking the help that they would need to help them manage their mental stress.
Allen Lipscomb 08:21
Absolutely. Well, you know that the pandemic coupled with racial injustice is that we were forced to pay attention to in 2020, turned that upside down, where we saw an increase and black folk in general, but black men reaching out for mental health for the first time, in those large numbers.
Kim Howard 08:44
It’s It’s sad that something like that had to make that happen. But it’s something positive, I guess, came out of it. Because more people are reaching out to get help that they need. That’s not a bad thing.
Allen Lipscomb 08:55
Absolutely. And I think for our profession, we’re paying attention to it more as clinicians as EMDR therapists, it’s like, wait, oh, this is a thing, or this is still a thing that we need to pay attention to. So on both sides, we’ve seen a shift in our profession, but also in the society and the culture to
Kim Howard 09:14
You may have already touched on this, but I’m going to ask the question, in case of anything else you want to add? Are there any myths that you would like to bust about EMDR therapy with PTSD with black men and youths?
Allen Lipscomb 09:24
Are there any myths? I think the the myth that we’re going to fix it in like one session, right? We’re going to take it away, it’s going to be done and over and the myth that they’re not going to experience any further racialized trauma in the future because of this treatment. You know, a lot of the work that that is done with black men and youth on the front end, right, like phase one, you know, history taking, etc with EMDR. It is that building that relationship with them. and trust. You know, I have, I remember one of my black male clients that I was working with some years back said to me when I was explaining, you know, EMDR what it is? And he said, So are you trying to take me to my sunken place? Sunken place is from the movie, get out the film get out that came out several years back. And so there is this idea myth that therapy means we are shifting your brain that we are trying to erase memories and do all this mad scientist stuff, right? I think there’s still that that image out there. And rightfully so. Because within mental health, we also have health. And there’s a lot of stigma, the mistreatment of black and brown folks and health and research and mental health. And so there is this fear out there. I think also the myth that if I’m coming for therapy, then I must be crazy. I must be stupid, I must be weird. That’s the common things that I hear initially, when they’re coming in and starting services.
Kim Howard 11:05
Or if I read it in a book or heard somebody say it, but they somebody commented that, you know, therapy is only for crazy people. And the other character said, I mean, the other person said, well, actually, the more normal you are, the more therapy that you need. And the more than it helps you. You know, and I thought that was that was pretty insightful. And I felt like it was a fiction book that I was reading. But I was like, wow, that’s, that’s a good way to what, especially now in 2020. To write it, there’s so much that we have experienced that we have lived through just the past two years, that to have a space in place where you can process and unpack, just life alone, I think is beneficial for those who are open and ready for that type of the pandemic is one thing that has literally impacted everybody on Earth, whether somebody got sick or didn’t get sick, or whether someone you knew died, or that it’s impacted every single person that walks around the Earth.
Allen Lipscomb 11:59
Absolutely. Everyone has been touched by COVID pandemic, absolutely.
Kim Howard 12:03
Are there any complexities or difficulties with using EMDR therapy, and PTSD?
Allen Lipscomb 12:08
There is. I would say one of the major things that I have to be mindful of is pay attention pay attention to is around the stuff that can come up outside of our session after we’ve started, right? Bilateral stimulation, right? I’m concerned that the activation things that get stirred up how other folks in society might experience them, if they are having these flashbacks or whatever. So I try to ensure that I am building in mechanisms to help them continue not only to process, which is part of our training, when we got trained in EMDR, things that they can do journal write down thoughts, etc, emotions, body sensations, etc. But also I started to do an audio reflection. And an audio reflection journal is optional. And what I mean by that is they can choose to share it with me, they can choose not to they can delete it after they record it, but I want them to have an avenue that they control. So there’s autonomy here, but they can express themselves verbally, and just get it out. Right. And so they express it, they get it out. And that has provided a lot of rich clinical information for those who were willing to share it back with me and our work together as well. And so there’s some complexities around being mindful of how they’re continuing to live their life being black men and how folks are seeing them while they’re also addressing their trauma as well.
Kim Howard 13:43
Great idea, though, to have them verbalize it. Because some people, they’re not writers. So if you ask them to write it down absolute journal, you know, they don’t want to really do that. And it taps into
Allen Lipscomb 13:53
the brain differently, right, when we’re verbally expressing ourselves as well. Yeah. And everyone has a device, right? Everybody has a phone? Correct.
Kim Howard 14:00
And almost everyone has a recording option on it. That’s right. Yeah, this is true way to do like a little memo. Absolutely. Great way. That’s a great idea. So how do you apply into your therapy and PTSD to a multicultural population?
Allen Lipscomb 14:15
Well, I think first you have to recognize that there isn’t a one size fits all for a diverse population that you are working with. I think you have to begin with the individual and who they are, and recognize what are things that are true for them. intersectionally speaking, and this is through like practicing cultural humility, right? So we’re moving away from this idea of cultural competence. That one day, I’m going to be fully competent and all things cultural, multicultural, etc. That’s a fallacy, right? We’re waiting to get there, right? Cultural humility says you’re not going to ever get there and that’s okay. Rather position yourself to be curious, to be earnest To be honest, to be honest. Stan honoring their experiences that are uniquely theirs based on race based on gender based on cultural beliefs, etc. So I think in order to provide EMDR, effectively to multicultural population is to begin with them. And don’t overgeneralize just because you’re working with this one individual who identifies as XY and Z, that everyone who comes in to your office or that you’re seeing through telehealth, you treat them the same. That’s not true.
Kim Howard 15:30
Could you talk a little bit about a favorite free EMDR related resource that you could suggest either for the public on PTSD or for other EMDR? Therapists on PTSD?
Allen Lipscomb 15:42
Absolutely. So myself and my colleague, Dr. Wendy, Ashley, we wrote an article titled and folks can Google this write up the folks in the public and clinicians as well. It’s titled A critical analysis of the utilization of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing psychotherapy with African American clients. So that’s a good resource, you can just Google it. It’s a free article, you can download it. There’s another one that’s also available, it’s for free. It’s with go with that magazine, titled addressing racialized trauma, utilizing EMDR and anti racist psychotherapy practices. Also, you can Google that. And so those are some articles that are readily available good resources that I think folks can conduct me access. In the fall of this year, around September, October. The second edition of Mark Nicholson’s book titled “Cultural Competence and Healing, Culturally-based Trauma with EMDR Therapy,” myself and Dr. Ashley has written a chapter. The chapter is titled strategies for implementation of an anti racist, anti oppressive intersectional lens in EMDR therapy with black clients. So that’s another resource for EMDR therapists, again, look out for that coming this fall around September, October.
Kim Howard 17:05
What would you like people outside of the EMDR community to know about treating black men and adolescents?
Allen Lipscomb 17:11
I love this question so so much, because it’s not specific just to EMDR. Folks, it’s, it’s for anyone in the clinical world. I think there’s three things that I want to stress to folks who are providing services to black men and youth. And the first one is, do not infantilized them, do not treat them as if they are developmentally younger than they are, do not treat them as if they do not understand. One of the things I noticed when I’m observing clinical interactions, if I’m supervising someone, or doing studies and research around this, is they often treat them as if they’re the parent of them, especially with our black youth. And so mindful of our transference and countertransference reactions becomes important because what it can do is stifle their clinical growth, and them sharing and opening up. So that’s what I think the second one is rescuing behavior. Do not rescue do not serve as a savior. No one needs to be rescued by us as clinicians, be mindful of your power, your privilege and who you are in the therapeutic space and own it. But don’t use it to rescue be an ally in this space, especially for my non black clinicians and my non clinicians of color. The final one is do not ignore, do not ignore their racialized traumatic experiences. Sometimes, because we’re uncomfortable talking about race. It’s not that we’re intending to minimize it. But because we’re uncomfortable, we just skate right over it. We don’t name it in the place in the space. We don’t acknowledge it. We don’t explore it. So lean into that. Be comfortable talking about it, because you cannot work with a black male and not look at who they are racially speaking in those experiences. So i are i right and void infantilizing. Avoid rescuing and avoid ignoring.
Kim Howard 19:11
Great, thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, for those that are interested, again, just clinical work in general, and that’s specific to EMDR clinicians. There are two books that I have. The first one is blackmail grief reaction, that trauma, a clinical case study of one man’s mental health treatment, and then more of a clinical like practice guide that you can use regardless of the clinical approach that you are using. It’s titled The broad approach to therapy and other related services with African American men in youth. And the breast stands for the B stands for bonding. The R stands for recognition. The U stands for understanding and the H stands for healing because that’s what we’re doing in working around PTSD, trauma, race based trauma, etc. We’re trying to address it and promote healing and understanding
Kim Howard 20:03
this has been the let’s talk EMDR podcast with our guest Dr. Alan Lipscomb. Visit www.emdria.org for more information EMDR therapy or to use our funding EMDR therapist directory for the 12,000 therapists. Our award winning blog focal point, offers information on the MDR in this resource. Thank you for listening.
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Howard, K. (Host). (2022, June 15). EMDR Therapy, PTSD and Treating Black Men and Adolescents with Dr. Allen Lipscomb (Season 1, No. 2) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
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