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The Holmes Commission on Racial Equality in American Psychoanalysis: The Therapy Dismantling Project Continues

There is certainly a pressing need for an independent indepth inquiry into racial equality and disparities within psychology and therapy in America; unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the Holmes Commission represents a missed opportunity. Its recently issued report reveals a heavily partisan endeavour; so much so that its findings – American psychoanalysis is ignorant of its racist bias and white supremacist worldview and needs to embrace a racial reckoning – could have been predicted from its opening paragaphs.

So why is this dismal report worth paying any attention to? CTA would answer that its importance lies in the strategic use that will be made of its recommendations. Reports from reputable commissions, alongside meta analyses of research evidence, have long been important supports for new policy initiatives. Sometimes a single commission can alter the direction of practice; a good example of this is the recent interim Cass Report on Gender Identity Services for Children and Young People. Its damning findings were so persuasive that it resulted in the closure of the Tavistock GIDS service.

So, with strategy in mind, there are two points worth highlighting in this short commentary piece.

First, this is not an independent commission. Each section of the report is suffused with Critical Social Justice (CSJ) concepts and it is clear that this particular perspective is the sole lens employed throughout – even its launch date was planned to coincide with Juneteenth, a new CSJ fesitival date. Furthermore, the commission includes members with decidely partisan viewpoints including, Donald Moss (!), who published a now notorious paper on ‘parasitic whiteness’ in an academic journal.

But it’s the recommendations which are key and they are posted below, verbatim from p16 (note how the term ‘equality’ has morphed into ‘equity’ here). To sum up, the commission calls for the recruitment of an army of DEI consultants at all levels of the profession to correct systemic racism in American psychoanalysis. In other words, this report will be used as justification to flood the field with even more activists. We all know how that will pan out. American psychoanalysis is in enough trouble as it is.

CTA has a diffferent set of recommendations. American psyschoanalysts should ignore this report – investigating racial/ethnic disparities in mental health treatment is far too important a matter to leave in the hands of biased divisive ideologues fixated on power – and instead push for the setting up of a new independent commission, It could be modelled on the recent UK goverment inquiry into racial/ethnic disparities operating in the country. That report delivered a fine-grained analysis of these national disparities which shed a light on their complex nature. Importantly, some of the findings were unexpected and counter-intuitive. Surely there must be independent scholars and institutions in the therapy field which could take on this important task.

So, American psychoanalysts if you want to preserve the riches of your school, you will need to push back against this ideological capture. An army of DEI bureacrats is just outside the walls and the gates are being opened from within. The Holmes Commission is the advance guard of a demolition project. It will soon be too late to do anything to stop the dismantling of traditional psychoanalysis.

Recommendations (full report here)
In general, American psychoanalysis lacks local or national leaders who acknowledge the
presence and deleterious effects of systemic racism in psychoanalytic institutions or who allay
the massive resistance to grasping and resolving systemic racism within psychoanalysis. To
address these lacks, American psychoanalysis needs:

  • Local and national leaders who strongly support meaningful initiatives to address
    and remediate systemic racism in psychoanalytic institutions.
  • Leaders who develop meaningful and comprehensive strategies to combat
    systemic racism at multiple administrative levels including mission statements,
    value statements, and policies and procedures, with means for regular monitoring
    and remediation of expressions of systemic racism at all levels of institutional life.
    Monitoring should include but not be limited to classes, supervision, curriculum,
    committees and boards, educational programming, publications, and the
    consultation room.
  • Local and national leaders who will obtain regular consultation from experts in
    racial equity and other aspects of intersectionality to increase the likelihood of
    their success in their efforts to enhance racial and other equities and promote
  • Leaders who will form and join collective frameworks for support and to solidify
    their resolve to stay the long course required to achieve racial and other equities.

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