NARM and a Trauma-Informed, Anti-Oppressive, Relational Approach to Mental Wellness and Social Justice with Cassandra Walker
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
“One of the things I really like about NARM is the fact that there's this massive focus on connection and interconnectedness as something that can be healthy…That actually recognizes the fact that we as humans… we share a certain connectivity when we're at our best.”~Cassandra Walker
In this episode, Transforming Trauma host Sarah Buino is joined by Cassandra (Cassie) Walker, LCSW (they/them), a Black, queer, activist, entrepreneur, and NARM Master Therapist-in-Training located in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout the episode, they discuss growth that’s possible throughout the trauma healing process, how the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) supports the resolution of complex trauma issues including systemic and racial trauma, and the critical need for more understanding of intersectionality in the therapeutic field.
Cassie takes an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, trauma-informed, relational approach to discussing identity, trauma, mental wellness, and social justice. They highlight the need to address how the legacies of slavery and other unresolved cultural and historical trauma continue to impact current events and social structures. From the levels of societal institutions to our internal experiences, Cassie shares how NARM supports their understanding of how trauma-based adaptive patterns, once needed for surviving familial, cultural, and systemic trauma, lead to perpetuating cycles of oppression and pain. Through providing therapy and education that focuses on embracing compassion, accountability, and authenticity, Cassie hopes to help people open themselves and their organizations to changes that improve personal awareness and institutional inclusion.
Throughout this episode, Sarah and Cassie explore NARM's ability to focus beyond the individual and recognize and address the historically minimized or outright denied layers of intergenerational pain. Cassie shares, “The culture of Whiteness is built on creating coalitions to oppress and thus also disconnects white people from their heritage. And so that's part of how we're all getting screwed.” Cassie then turns their reflections to the ongoing transgressions that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) continue to experience on their journey toward mental wellbeing. The pair talk about the harmful dynamics that can be present between White therapists and their BIPOC clients. Cassie shares, “Without knowing the multifaceted nature of sitting in a mental health setting with a Black person as a White person, and even as a Black person or as a Latinx person – those dynamics, if you don't know them, you're really walking into a giant minefield that is packed with potential to harm.”
“NARM in my work has been an amazing tool, one of the most powerful tools, that I have found to help my Black clients heal themselves”, Cassie says. But, Sarah and Cassie challenge the long-standing issue of false neutrality by White therapists toward their Black and POC clients. Cassie shares that the therapeutic relationship must acknowledge and hold space for the intersections of trauma, identity, and mental wellness, and the value of having Black, Indigenous, and POC therapists in the trauma field. “NARM, and mental health in general, is not just for white people.” Cassie shares their hope that NARM can provide all therapists with a roadmap to support healing from complex trauma, including recognizing the dynamics of cultural and racial trauma that so significantly impact individuals from marginalized and systemically oppressed communities, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+.
This episode also explores the role that community and spirituality play in both NARM philosophy and Black identity. Cassie reflects on the social, emotional, and spiritual need for connectedness, which is an organizing principle of NARM. Cassie shares their perspective that white supremacy and capitalism have disconnected all people – Black, Indigenous, POC, and White – from their authenticity, and that NARM provides a hopeful approach to help restore connection to self and others through focusing on healing complex trauma.
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Cassandra (Cassie) Walker is a Black Queer Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Therapist, Activist, and Aspiring speaker and podcaster. They are working towards Master level NARM certification and are also certified in Hypnotherapy and NLP. They present a diverse array of intersectional topics related to race, gender, sexuality, BDSM and Kink, mental health and social justice. Cassie provides therapy to adults, relationships and groups. They specialize in the intersections of Trauma, Identity, and Mental Wellness. Their podcast Woke Mental Wellness works to help provided information about Mental Wellness to Black LGBTQIA+ people and those interested in helping Black Queer Communities. Cassie has also started their own business, Intersections Center for Complex Healing LLC with the hope to one day be a full on Black Queer Wellness Center (Covid permitting).