* for those that may not know, the term ‘Equity’ is now also being used in a non-financial context..read on for more information.
My colleague, Cynthia Bruce, is a researcher focused on equity issues in inclusive education in both public and post-secondary settings with a particular focus on Disability Studies in education. Her passion intrigued me to learn more about the term ‘equity’ and how it differentiates from ‘equality’.
Equity and equality are two strategies used in an effort to produce fairness.
Equality is treating everyone the same.
Equity is providing everyone what they need to be successful.
As a therapist in 2016 here are a few ways I am working to strengthen my equity lens, and the language that goes with it, into my practice and life:
1. Discover What Your Client Feels They Need To Be Successful
At the heart of an equitable relationship is a quest for personalized understanding. As you delve deeply into the client remember to learn about their strengths, desired goals, what holds meaning to them, and who has influence in their lives. The more that is known about what the client needs to feel successful, the better the therapist will be able to create an equitable and personalized treatment plan.
2. Become a ‘Warm Demander.’
Author and teacher Lisa Delpit describes ‘warm demanders’ as leaders who “expect a great deal of their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment.” As therapists we focus on ‘meeting the client where they are at’. To boost the equity in a session it is important to also include strategies to assist the client to face their strengths and possibilities.
3. Do Not ‘Activate’ Your Sessions – Keep Them Flexible.
The success of therapy is that it is not based on a fixed set of activities – but is goal driven. As therapists we must always remember that one-size sessions do not fit all. Remain flexible and improvisational with your therapeutic approach, strategies, interventions and plan. Personalizing every session is ultimately at the heart of equity.
4. Don’t be Culture-Blind.
Zaretta Hammond in her recent book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, says “culture, it turns out, is the way every brain makes sense of the world.” It is important that the therapist opens the door and focuses on everything that defines the client. Continue to invite clients to share who they are, where they come from, and what that means to them. This will promote the safe relationship required to help lead the client to their desired outcomes of therapy treatment.
Of course these basic first questions are just the beginning of an equitable therapeutic process. The next steps will be to access and find the resources, strategies and opportunities needed to help the client feel successful.