Opening the Door: Integrating Culture, Social Identity and Healing Culturally Based Trauma in Psychotherapy

Thursday, August 13, 2020, 1:00 - 4:15 p.m.
Instructor: Mark Nickerson, LICSW

Social acceptance and inclusion are fundamental human needs, yet many people feel they don’t fit in or belong. They may struggle in groups generally or be threatened by specific societal and cultural dynamics. In the traditional one-to-one paradigm of psychotherapy, internalized social messages and cultural struggles are too often overlooked as clinical issues and their impact goes unnoticed. Clinicians, case workers and other mental health professionals are often awkward or fearful about creating a climate that welcomes social identity and cultural experience exploration and instead default to a “color blind” approach. Yet, past and ongoing socially adverse experiences including developmental social trauma, stigmatization, discrimination and marginalization can lead to isolation, invisibility, alienation and otherwise unsatisfying lives. Relatedly, clinical inattention to the impact of societal inequities perpetuates systemic isms. Culturally informed therapy can create internal resilience and external empowerment for social change.

This seminar will integrate useful insights from the fields of social psychology and social work including the human brain’s tendencies regarding social information processing, in group/outgroup effects, social identity formation, internalized social messages, the impact of “isms” and other cultural forces. But the workshop will go beyond concepts and provide clinical methods for engaging clients in ways that are consistent with best practices in cultural competence. Experiential exercises will offer opportunities to test clinical methods and increase participant self-awareness and intervention skills. Memory-based methods for strengthening social identity will be described. Trauma-informed methods for healing the effects of culturally based trauma and adversity while building resilience will be depicted including useful EMDR therapy strategies.

Register Here

  1. Assess the clinical relevance of social and cultural experiences on client wellbeing.
  2. List some of the “hard-wired” innate tendencies of the human brain’s social information processing system and the consequences as they inform clinical work.
  3. Explain the concept of social identity as a part of the self and its relevance to overall client wellbeing.
  4. Utilize strategies to reinforce and build upon positive social and social identity experiences.
  5. Describe treatment strategies to reduce or illuminate the impact of internalized impact of social adversity/ trauma including stigmatization and discrimination.
  6. Self-reflect upon personal experiences related to social identity, stigma and prejudice.

Mark Nickerson, LICSW, a psychotherapist in Amherst, MA for 30 years, is editor/author of Cultural Competence and Healing Culturally-Based Trauma with EMDR Therapy: Insights, Strategies and Protocols (Springer, 2016) and The Wounds Within (Skyhorse, 2015), an expose on the challenges for war veterans and their families. He is an EMDR institute trainer and 2014 EMDRIA board president. He conducts trainings nationally and internationally on trauma treatment topics including interventions for culturally based trauma and adversity. See: and

Early registration: $60 (by July 3, 2020)
Regular registration: $75

Register here.

CEs: 3 CEs for social workers are available for a $5 fee.

To receive CE credits, you must attend the entirety of the seminar. Partial credit will not be awarded to those who attend only a portion of the presentation. Therefore, late arrival or an early departure of greater than 10 minutes constitutes not attending a class in its entirety. Participants must also complete a post-test and an evaluation at the end of the seminar.

The Smith College School for Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and is therefore authorized to provide CEs as a postsecondary institution accredited by CSWE in many states. Courses offered through the School's Program of Professional Education are awarded continuing education credits in accordance with Continuing Education Regulation 258, CMR, 31.00 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Smith College School for Social Work, Office of Professional Education SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0169. If outside these states, please contact your licensing board for accreditation information regarding your state. Association of Social Work Boards database of social work licensure requirements.