Social Work with an Activist Heart:
Compassionate Practice for Radical Healers
“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” -Alice Walker
bell hooks has wisely said that ‘shame is a tool of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy because it produces trauma which often produces paralysis.’ As activists-healers and witnesses-to-the-unjust, we approach our practice with an engaged presence, noticing how and where this truth lives, intimately affecting the lives of oppressed communities, lurking in the structural foundation of institutionalized systems of care.
This is a call for radical social workers (and other radical healers) in clinical practice. How can we work in systems organized around clinical pathology, diagnosis and person labeling while using our privileges and positional power to honor folks’ lived experiences, contributing to personal and community wellness? What does anti-oppressive practice look and feel like in community social services agencies and what is the span of our influence in re-shaping how folks with high unmet needs can be better understood and experienced in the mental health system?
This workshop is a combination of embodied learning, skill-sharing, dreaming and calling-into-being. Drawing on the rooted wisdom of radical mental health, liberatory health, consciousness raising, anti-oppressive practice, sustainable critique, narrative approach, interpersonal neurobiology, trauma-informed care, change theory and compassionate communication, we will diagnose the system!, remove our consent from oppressive practice, reinvigorate our justice core and find ways to co-create a culture of healing while challenging injustice and dismantling oppression.