"Outcasts United" Book Review

In 1997, Luma notified her parents she was staying in America. She came here at the age of 21. Her father was not happy with her decision. After graduating from college, she was determined to make it on her own.

In 2002, she got a job coaching girls’ soccer at the local YMCA in Clarkston, Georgia. She stumbled upon boys playing a street pick-up game of soccer and felt she could make more of an impact with them. She quit her job and committed to starting a team with these boys. They named themselves the “Fugees”.

Clarkston was initially resistant to the refugee newcomers. White people left and those who stayed were not welcoming. The police and mayor tried everything in their power to keep them in their place.

Over time, a few people began embracing diversity. A local grocer took advice from a Vietnamese girl who suggested he begin stocking the store with ethnic foods. A church renamed itself and welcomed all the groups. A new police chief righted wrongs. In 2009, the mayor’s term ended.

Luma got an assistant named Tracy. The writer, Warren St. John shared their story. They got donations and hired two teachers to work with the team tutoring.

This book took a while to read because it went into the history of situations each of the players had come from. It does remind us of the difficulties refugees face. If we were in the same position, we would hope for kindness from someone.

I was blessed to have made a friend in 1999 with one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan in Phoenix, Arizona. My daughter-in-law is from Sudan. God knew in 1999 when we met our friend that my son would marry a girl from that same country when he grew up.

In uncertain times, fear keeps us at a distance from the unfamiliar. Sometimes, events are out of out our control but we can miss out on opportunities by not getting to know refugees in our communities.

I love reading stories of people who made a difference in the lives of others. That kindness can have a ripple effect and multiply. Sometimes, it may be years before we find out how. I’ve witnessed it in my life. I hope to see more.

I thank God for those I’ve met and those I have yet to meet. Best wishes to everyone in this story.

Ethics in Psychotherapy Part 1 – Personal Philosophy

For as long as I can remember, throughout my many lives, I have been a counselor and a friend, offering acceptance and encouragement to those around me, especially those who have been emotionally, physically, socially, environmentally or spiritually- wounded. Moreover, I have long been a counselor-friend to myself, learning to accept myself (my changing self, for nothing is constant), cheering on my own heart to grow, allowing for my own wounds to heal, and challenging my soul to reveal itself to my conscious, that I might be aware of my individuality and my motivations. I seek to live with purpose and passion, with oneness with others and the environment, and my professional orientation is humanistic. Furthermore, as a helping professional and a wounded healer, I seek to provide services from a holistic and phenomenological perspective. My orientation maintains an optimistic, hermeneutic-constructive view of humans and our capacity to be self-determining.

I have learned from my years as a helping professional that no one is as good as their best moment or as bad as their worst, and there is no such thing as perfect. I continue to learn that each and every person is unique, regardless of shared characteristics or contexts, and I embrace multiculturalism. Moreover, I believe that multiculturalism is a subject that every helping professional should thoroughly explore before setting off to provide therapeutic services; this is one of my identified biases. Therapists should begin by identifying their own cultural values, biases, beliefs, and world view, before they try to explore or analyze another’s. This is an ongoing process, since cultural identity is dynamic and fluid.

Subsequently, we should be curious about current theories of counseling and psychotherapy, seeking to understand where they may have fallen short in their attempts to recognize cultural diversity… perhaps even contributing to encapsulation. We need to seek relevant cultural knowledge/awareness in multicultural settings and participate in multicultural training that will develop competencies. I feel this is our ethical/moral duty, that is… if we sincerely intend to help without harming.

Perhaps, cultural factors are more easily understood and responded to in terms of values and respecting diverse value systems. Professional values ought to include respecting human rights and dignity, ensuring the integrity of therapist-client relationships, enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application, alleviating personal distress and suffering, increasing personal effectiveness, enhancing the quality of relationships between people, appreciating the variety of human experience and culture, and striving for fair and adequate provision of counseling and psychotherapy services. These are the values that I personally choose to embrace. Additionally, I believe that it is essential that we recognize how being “human” limits our ability to provide “flawless” treatment for the clients that seek our services. Our humanness, or our inability to be omniscient, can be both our greatest reward, in terms of discovery, and our greatest source of stress, in terms of the unknown.

As therapists, we seek to understand our client’s clinical needs, but there may be factors that are unknown to us, making it difficult to make the appropriate assessment. In addition, there may be competing obligations that pull and/or push us to a course of action that is incongruent with our personal sense of justice, and yet, we must take responsibility for all of our actions and frequently, our inactions as well. Although codes of ethics can provide us with appropriate boundaries to guide us, we cannot expect the codes to tell us how to process our feelings, formulate our responses, nor do our thinking for us. Every client represents a new experience; their unique situation based on their individual context and their subjective view of the issues that bring them to therapy can never be exactly replicated. The fact that there are no absolute answers and no one-size-fits-all formulas to meet the vast and often complex needs of the client, can and will cause the caring therapist to struggle with professional judgments. Therefore, being committed to the individual client and being committed to working ethnically requires balance and consultation from professional sources.

Achieving this complicated equilibrium is even more essential when doing research in psychology. In our research in psychology, I believe all research participants must be treated with respect and in a way that maintains their rights and dignity. As I seek to develop research ideas, I will consider the perspective of the participant. Besides taking all necessary steps when to ensure that the participant’s psychological and physical dignity, health and safety are preserved, reciprocity will be a key issue to address. Further, the principles of participant consent and participant information are paramount. Participants should be fully informed of the study, its aims, objectives and their role, prior to giving consent, as well as being able to withdraw at any point in the research. In terms of research methodology, I have developed a curiosity for research that focuses on understanding, rather than predicting or controlling phenomena. As I seek to understand, I will honor my responsibility to be a trustworthy clinician, maintain respect (for self and others), continue to grow my capacity for self-awareness, and consult-consult-consult; only then can I consider myself to have the makings of an ethical practitioner.

A Book of Dichotomise: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Just as Janus was depicted seeing into the past and future at once so too is Ceremony, a novel by Leslie Marmon Silko. A face, half shown in the light and the other in the dark, stares defiantly out from the front cover almost daring me to open it and delve into the depths. Later, I realize the face is both a stark reminder and unconscious revelation from where this story springs. Silko, born in Albequerque MN, is of Laguna ancestry herself and weaves the story of a young native american haunted by the horrors of being a soldier during WWII and of his own cousin killed in action during the conflict.

Interwoven between flashbacks of war and Tayo’s struggle against alcoholism, poverty and post traumatic stress; the author breathes life back into the young man’s existence with traditional stories and myth. The story is as much about the dichotomy that occurs between life on and off the reservation – as it is about war and its lasting effects. Each eating at the soul in their own way.

Tayo finds he must travel the path of his ancestors and the vision quest to retrieve parts of himself that had been torn away bit by bit. The story culminates in Tayo finding himself whole and well, with the help of through reclamation of himself on a physical, mental and spiritual levels.

Aptly named, Ceremony was released in 1977, embraced by many during the post-Vietnam war era. The novel was both critically acclaimed and criticized – yet another interesting polarization. For me, it was a very thoughtful book and one that I did not read lightly. Each turn of the page was filled with layer upon layer of meaning. Reading this book is like peeling an onion to reveal yet another Janus-like implication.

Read more about post traumatic stress.