Comfortable in your own skin: becoming a trainee therapist of colour in the context of internalised racism
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The thesis explores how internalised racism and a sense of professional identity of a therapist of colour affect each other when starting counselling practice with white clients. The fundamental concepts of the research are race, internalised racism, racial identity, professional identity and the dynamic of racial identity and professional identity in therapy. Autoethnography is the methodological approach that is used to comprehend experiences of internalised racism and professional identity. The autoethnographic approach is used in multiple ways through a layered account that moves back and forth in time, and inward and outward between self and culture, demonstrating how early encounters with racism during childhood in Thailand interact with the experience of starting therapeutic practice with white clients in Scotland. The goal is to facilitate readers’ understanding of, and empathy with, the experiences of a therapist of colour who has internalised racism. Frantz Fanon’s (1952/1991) work on internalised racism and the psychodynamic concepts of transference, countertransference and projection are the main conceptual resources employed to analyse the experiences narrated. The thesis demonstrates that internalised racism influences a therapist of colour to perform whiteness, collude with white clients in denial of racial difference, avoid challenging racial issues in sessions, require white clients’ reassurance to prove the therapist’s competence, and try to disprove white clients’ prejudgements about the therapist due to the therapist’s race.