Intersectionality in Psychotherapy: The Experiences of an AfroLatinx Queer Immigrant

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Hector Y. Adames
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Chicago, Illinois

Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Shweta Sharma
Baylor College of Medicine

Martin J. La Roche
Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

…complex constellation of [learned] mores, values, customs, traditions, and practices that guide and influence people’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral response to life circumstances.

Culturally responsive and racially conscious psychotherapeutic work requires that therapists recognize the ways clients are impacted by their multiple marginalized identities and by systems of oppression (e.g., racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, heterosexism, and nativism). Attending exclusively to clients’ marginalized identities (i.e., weak intersectionality) may drive therapists to only focus on internal, subjective, and emotional experiences, hence, missing the opportunity to consider and address how multiple sociostructural dimensions (i.e., strong intersectionality) may be impacting the client’s presenting problems. Alternatively, focusing solely on the impact of sociostructural dimensions on the lives of clients may miss the more nuanced and variable individual personal experiences. In this article, we highlight the challenge of maintaining a culturally responsive and racially conscious stance when considering multiple marginalized identities, overlapping systemic inequities, and how both affect clients’ lives and experiences. The case of an AfroLatinx queer immigrant is presented to illustrate some of the challenges and opportunities while simultaneously considering (a) the client’s multiple marginalized identities, (b) the way clients are impacted by systemic oppression, and (c) integrating the client’s personal experiences and narratives in psychotherapy.

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