person s left hand

The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) Launches a Misconceived Ideological Training Initiative

BAATN is a well-established UK-based organisation whose primary focus and area of expertise is to support people from minority heritages in the UK (namely Black, African, Asian and Carribean). It has just launched a training initiative in the form of an Introductory Certificate In Counselling Skills For Antiracist Therapeutic Practice. This training product  delivers a concrete example of the direction that the therapy professions appear to be taking and, as such, is worthy of some critical commentary here. Before we consider its ramifications here is the verbatim description published on BAATN’s website below.

Specifically, the focus is on gaining competence in working with people with a legacy of European domination, such as slavery and colonialism, primarily within the British context. The course is open to all. Over 10 weeks, you will learn about listening in a skilled way which is often an important step in finding solutions to relational difficulties in the workplace and in personal life. The course is also a preparation for training as a counsellor or psychotherapist and developing supportive frameworks and relationships for your potential journey into the Eurocentric world of the therapy profession. 

Now a kneejerk reaction would be just to dismiss this training certificate; anything that positions itself as explicitly antiracist is hopelessly enmeshed in Critical Race Theory and, as CTA has been pointing out, these Critical Social Justice theories are by their very nature antithetical to the therapy endeavour (for example see Sherwood and McMillan’s discussions of their book chapters on CRT; Jon Mills on white supremacy and professionalism).

But maybe, in terms of a critique, it might be more productive to take a charitable view instead and assume the best possible intentions for the course designers; it is a good faith attempt to support the specific needs of potential trainees (and their clients) from minority cultural heritages in the UK. So the question would then be: Is it likely that this course will deliver on its own terms? In order to answer this question, let’s try a thought experiment and imagine ourselves as the newly signed up course (likely young) attendees recruited presumably because they are troubled by ideas of systematic oppression and attracted by the possibility of entering a profession that might make a difference. What would they get?

Well, firstly, they would have signed up for a training which does the exact opposite of what would usually be expected of an entry level training course. Instead of being introduced to well-established foundational principles of therapy and some practical skills applicable to all, they would be inducted into a very narrow one-sided understanding of therapeutic practice without empirical evidence for effectiveness. They will be inducted into an approach oppositional to mainstream therapy and harnessed to political ends. They will learn how to use listening skills manipulatively in order to refocus conversations on the therapist’s agenda (anti-racism). Presumably, they will only be taught skills appropriate to be used with members from the non-majority population. So, how on earth is this certificate going to be a helpful start to a potential therapist’s professional journey?

And what about the potential clients of these trainees? They will be served just as poorly. They will not be treated as unique individuals but rather as avatars of particular identity groups; their individual difficulties of little concern unless these can be reframed as experiences of oppression. They won’t know that they are being subjected to empathic listeners trained to look for opportunities to exploit and amplify anger, resentment and victimhood.

And, as for the professional field itself, this entry level course will just produce a steady stream of confused and resentful trainees indoctrinated into a Critical Social Justice-driven view of therapy. They are primed as unwitting agents for a deconstruction project, one that is already underway in the institutions.

So, no – even by taking the most charitable view, BAATN’s training initiative completely fails on its own terms. Of course, members of minority populations have particular needs and issues that counselling trainings need to understand and accommodate but this is not the way to do it.  BAATN is well-placed to make a real contribution to this important project rather than its current divisive offering which is a self-serving politically expedient mess.

In CTA’s view, this entry-level certificate is so badly misconceived that it should be withdrawn. If BAATN considers redesigning it then we would recommend moving on from reductive regressive tropes popularised by writers such as Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi and, instead, develop a more robust critical perspective which engages with heterodox thinkers – such as, for example, John McWhorter or Erec Smith, who critiques the rhetorics of anti-racism. If BAATN refuses to take onboard any criticism and insists on delivering this course in its current form then, it would be well-advised to label it more accurately, perhaps as: An Introductory Certificate in Broaching Skills – at least then disatisfied students wouldn’t be able to press charges under the Consumer Protection Act (2019) on the grounds of misrepresentative labelling of goods and services.

Leave a Reply