Log in


Log in

MCA's Annual Conference

Trauma-Informed Counseling in an Unequal World: Healing Through Social Justice

Keynote Speaker - LaShawn Adams

Session: Standing on Business: Abolitionist Counseling

Drawing from various theoretical frameworks highlighted from Bettina L. Love’s (2019) book “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom,” this presentation will draw from tenets of social justice theories that include: Critical Race Theory (Bell, 1995), Intersectionality Theory (Crenshaw, 1989), Settler Colonialism Theory (Wolfe, 1998), Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 1989), etc. From the social justice theories, this presentation will highlight several themes that address critical White studies, privilege, and power and how Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations are impacted by structures that uphold oppression within the counseling context (Love, 2019).

Traditional theories were not created with an agenda to dismantle or challenge systemic oppression (Singh, 2020). With this in mind, this presentation will encourage attendees to engage in discussions on how they may be adaptable and use diverse theories that may assist them in engaging in abolitionist practice inside and outside of counseling practice (Love, 2019; Singh, 2020). Even though social justice theories have been used historically in counseling practices, they are often ignored and not considered foundational theoretical perspectives for counselors (Singh, 2020). This presentation will disrupt those notions and challenge counselors to think critically by considering different approaches that do not hold structural power, privilege, or supposed “normalcy” (Singh, 2020, p. 262). By integrating a decolonization paradigm, counselors engaging in abolitionist counseling can learn to adopt social justice theories and approaches that can help combat systemic oppression and prepare them to work with diverse populations (Love, 2019).

Learning Objectives: 

Following this presentation, participants will:

1) be able to define decolonization and counseling and gain an understanding of the role of an abolitionist counselor.

2) be able to name at least two social justice theories and learn how to apply these theories within clinical practice.

3) learn at least two recommendations and strategies to put into practice to enhance the counseling relationship, promote social justice advocacy, and for counselors to engage in abolitionist counseling.

NBCC Content Area: Counseling Theory

Presenter Information:

LaShawn “Shawnie” Adams identifies as a cis-gender Black woman from Newark, New Jersey. She is a doctoral candidate and fully-funded doctoral research fellow in Montclair State University’s Counseling program. She is a 2023 recipient of the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program and a Licensed Associate Counselor and National Certified Counselor in New Jersey. In addition to her work and fellowship responsibilities, she has engaged in, held leadership positions, and implemented culturally inclusive programs to formulate spaces for community, mentorship, and belonging within higher education and the counseling profession. She serves as the treasurer for Counselors for Social Justice national organization and is also an adjunct counselor educator teaching counseling courses as the master’s level. She is a clinician in the Sexual Harassment Advising Resource Education (SHARE) center at Princeton University. Additionally, she specializes in mental health disorders, substance use, suicidality, risk reduction, LGBTQ+, racism, discrimination, sexual health education, and interpersonal harm. Her research interests include centering the experiences and voices of historically marginalized populations. She is an abolitionist counselor and social justice advocate that adopts an intersectional framework that acknowledges all facets of an individual’s identity and examines counseling relationships and dynamics from various perspectives.

Keynote Speaker - Dr. Lotes Nelson

Session: Healing wounds from our harmful past and creating pathways to an equitable future

Injustice trauma encapsulates the influence caused by maltreatment, discrimination, social biases, and marginalization. The continued social injustice and unrest percolate the repressed trauma. Facilitating by way of multifaceted social justice approaches will lead folx to restoration.

Trauma describes the stress so extreme that the individual has an exceedingly tough time returning to their baseline (van der Kolk, 2014). Traumatic events are scary, dangerous, or shocking experiences that manifest in physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social challenges. These trauma experiences can come from many sources. Counseling clients have reported experiencing childhood trauma, e.g., bullying, food insecurity, sexual or physical abuse, etc. Others have reported experiencing race-based trauma, e.g., racism (Hemmings et al., 2018). As much as the rest of the world sees the United States of America as the place of independence, traumatic racial events like the murder of George Floyd in 2020, have percolated the unprecedented systemic racism and marginalization in the country.

Systemic and injustice trauma continues to dictate the emotional state of many individuals. This perspective also hinders folkx from performing and seeking the best version of themselves. Therefore, now more than ever is the time to gain a clearer conceptualization of the impact of social injustices and pay attention to the corresponding physical, mental, and psychological impact it has contributed on people. These trauma influences also include the disparities that are ever-present in the lack of mental health resources and other basic needs for folkx.

This session will delve into the traumatic impact of systemic barriers, the manifestations of these trauma experiences, and explore the factors that amplify experiences that make it impossible to tap into mental health resources. Understanding the source of the pain and hurt for the clients that we serve is one of the first steps before we can lead into providing coping strategies. Let us capture the intensity of our clients' experiences to gain comprehension of their level of distress, so we can help advocate for a climate of trust, humility, and inclusion. A part of our roles as professional counselors is advocacy and fighting for social justice for our clients, so, let us do just that!!! Let us come together and talk about the issues that clients are experiencing in this unjust space, and together, walk away with trauma-informed ideas that can help them heal their pain and struggles.

Learning Objectives: 

Following this presentation, participants will:

1)  gain an understanding of the traumatic effect of systemic barriers and oppression

2) acquire trauma-informed approaches to help build awareness of others’ lived experiences

3) gain strategies to promote healing justice to aid the process of restoration

4) learn how to use the cultural humility framework as the foundation of social justice to begin to create pathways to an equitable future

5) acquire resources to help clients with mental health resources availability

NBCC Content Area: Social and Cultural Foundations

Presenter Information:

Dr. Lotes Nelson is an Associate Professor at the University of the Cumberlands. She is also a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, a Board Approved Clinical Supervisor,  and a National Certified Counselor. She is also an award recipient of the prestigious National Board for Certified Counselor Doctoral Minority Fellowship. Dr. Nelson serves as a member of the Association for Creativity in Counseling Board of Directors and a previous Board member of the Florida Counseling Association and the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina Board of Directors along with her many leadership roles in the mental health field and community-at-large. 

Notably, Dr. Nelson received The Samuel T. Gladding Inspiration and Motivation Award to recognize her inclusive practice through humility, collaboration, creativity, and expression through growth-fostering connections and cooperation. She was also awarded the Association for Humanistic Counseling 2023 Joe and Lucille Hollis Publication Award. Most recently, she was awarded the Florida Counseling Association’s Humanitarian Award. In the excerpt below, you will begin to note Dr. Nelson’s passion for equity and social justice, and is the co-editor of a textbook, Multicultural Counseling: Responding with Cultural Humility, Empathy, and Advocacy. 

"You become what you are told for most of your life?" It is incredible to imagine that our identity is tied to who we are in our existence in the world that we live in. I use the term "who we are in our existence" as professional counselors and mental health helpers; we know that means "one's all-encompassing identity." 

Let me share a brief personal story. I came to the United States when I was 13 years old - not knowing how to speak English, standing out in the crowd as one of the three minorities in my High School, dressing "weird," as my peers repeatedly told me, and spending a lot of time to myself, as an immigrant living in a space that's heavily influenced by structural racism and systemic discrimination. This root of the system of oppression is very much woven into the hurt, pain, and trauma that many of our counseling clients experience. 

Embracing marginalization experiences as part of one's bio is empowering and a crucial step towards creating a more inclusive society. By acknowledging and valuing diverse experiences, we can move towards a world where everyone's unique story is celebrated and respected. In short, a part of my life mission was to be a productive member of society. I went on to be a part of the helping field to make a difference in people's lives. 

As part of my professional identity today, I have the power and privilege to stand for those who are voiceless and those whose knees are buckling as they even think about standing up for themselves. When it comes to human rights, social justice work means going beyond preventing individual cases of discrimination and combating structural oppression. It involves working towards systemic change and solutions by targeting the root causes of oppression as it intersects with the lives of our clients. Let’s acknowledge the hurt and pain that has been caused and work towards healing together and march forward to social justice. 

Speak Your Mind Even if Your Voice Shakes - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Michigan Counseling Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software