Clinician's Digest


Clinician's Digest

The Emotional Emancipation Movement

September/October 2015


In the wake of the disturbances in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray this spring and other protests throughout the country in response to police shootings of young black men, the subject of racial injustice and what to do about it has received intense national attention. A New York Times poll reported this summer that 61 percent of Americans think race relations in the United States are generally bad, and 4 in 10 people think they’re getting worse.

In turn, many therapists have been considering how they can help address the problem of racism in America. One response that has rapidly gathered momentum since the unrest in Baltimore came not in the form of developing some new therapeutic approach, but in the shape of a growing self-help movement developed by and for the black community. Known as Emotional Emancipation Circles, it’s part of an effort to bring African Americans together to share their experiences and struggles with what Enola Aird, a lawyer, activist, and one of the founders of the movement, has called “the lie of black inferiority and the truth of black humanity.”

The Emotional Emancipation movement began in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 2009. Three years later, at a gathering led by Aird, representatives from the Association of Black Psychologists met to find ways to use the self-help model of Alcoholics Anonymous to promote intraracial healing from the emotional legacies of slavery and the historical oppression of black people. Under the…

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