Point of View

Point of View

Unhealed Bodies: Looking at Ancestral Trauma

By Ryan Howes

September/October 2021

As the country awakens to the incontrovertible racism and systemic imbalances affecting BIBOC citizens today, we in the therapy world face our own reckoning around the accessibility and relevance of mainstream treatment for clients of color.

Therapy remains an overwhelmingly white field, and therapist Resmaa Menakem believes that for there to be true understanding and change in the field, practitioners will need to address the idea of white body supremacy and its longstanding impact on the minds and bodies of the people we see.

A specialist in trauma, body-centered psychotherapy, and violence prevention, Menakem’s bestselling book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies, illuminates the intergenerational effects of racism on individuals and groups. Here, he explains the ways we carry that racism in our bodies, and how somatic work can be harnessed to confront its effects.


Ryan Howes: What inspired the way you use body-centered therapy in your work with people of color?

Resmaa Menakem: My mom always tells me that from the moment I was able to walk, I’d go right up to people and lean into them, or raise my hands for them to pick me up. I was never afraid of approaching anyone. This scared her, but she also noticed how unique it was.

The therapy and healing work I do is tied to that affinity I’ve always had for others. I believe that to…

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