A vast majority of clients who seek my help struggle with experiences which I tend to conceptualise as consequences from minority stress. Minority stress is an exposure to chronic stress over extended periods of time where identity defining characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, disability or religious beliefs are used to marginalise people. As a child of muslim, middle-eastern, immigrants growing up in a majority christian, white, cis- and heteronormative Germany, the consequences of minority stress were all-too familiar throughout my life and therefore this phenomenon is close to my heart. My own experience of minority stress enables me to attune and empathise with clients who experience minority stress. Even though my lived experience informs my therapeutic practice, it is important to note that I still put my own experience aside when I see clients to really understand their own, unique experiences which are highly likely to be different to mine.
Clients with a history of minority stress often arrive in my practice with increased anxiety, low mood, low self-esteem and a sense that there is something utterly wrong with them. The capacity to relate to oneself or others is somehow compromised by a deep sense of feeling flawed, or broken. Therapy is often their last attempt and hope that something or someone might ‘fix’ them. Let’s start with the bad news: Neither my therapy nor I can ‘fix’ or undo the wounding experience of minority stress over a lifetime.
The good news is, that speaking to someone about these experiences who doesn’t minimise and further marginalise your experience can be alleviating of your stress responses. In gestalt therapy we speak of confirmation which means to confirm that your experiences are valid. Therefore, my approach to working with minority stress is informed by gestalt psychotherapy and relational contemporary trauma practice, which means once we agree on the problem we spend some time to see what works for you therapeutically. It’s like an experiment where we try things out and see how you respond/feel. I draw from mindfulness when appropriate which is proven to effective in stress management. It doesn’t mean we sit in silence for 50 minutes, but it is a conversational exploration of what kind of mindfulness works for you.
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