Anti-oppressive practice

Our position statement to anti-oppressive practice

Phrases like “anti-racist” and “anti-oppressive practice” or the concept of “decolonization” are frequently used but insufficiently explained in terms of practical implementation. This position statement not only articulates our stance on anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice as well as decolonization but also outlines some tangible methods by which we actively embody these principles. Due to the complexity, we cannot describe all practices we have implemented. 

Recognizing that this is an ever-evolving journey, we commit to a yearly review of this position statement, adapting it in response to our continually expanding knowledge and evolving practices.

The picture shows the principles of anti-oppressive practice, shown as two hands.

Definitions for anti-oppressive practices

Here is an overview about the definitions we use in the context of decolonization, anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices.

Sometimes, people claim these labels and only live one aspect of these definitions. We acknowledge that we need to implement all aspects of these definitions in order to claim that we really practice this. 

Decolonization is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the undoing or dismantling of Canada’s colonial systems and structures, both politically and culturally on Indigenous peoples. In the context of our organization, it means to decolonize our work as counsellors and a settler-led organization in Canada. Decolonization requires a transformative and systemic change. It requires us to prioritize and honour Indigenous perspectives, cultures and peoples in our work and to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Report.

Anti-racism is the active, on-going process of dismantling systems of racial inequity and creating new systems of racial equity. Anti-racism demands that this work is done at the individual, organizational/institutional, and cultural levels in order to effectively address systemic racism. Anti-racism addresses the root cause of systemic racism – i.e. white supremacy – to equalize power imbalances and misuse of power by white people. Anti-racism acknowledges that white people are in the role of the oppressor.Anti-racism is a subset of anti-oppressive practice. We put anti-racism first since we are a white led organization.

Oppression is about unjust “use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category” or to further empower the oppressor.

Anti-oppression is a practice that seeks to recognize and address oppression that exists in social interactions, communities, organizations, institutions and social systems by addressing the root causes of oppression to equalize power imbalances. Anti-oppression acknowledges that the dominant group is in the role of the oppressor and needs to actively dismantle their role to not misuse their power. Oppression includes but is not limited to race, gender, sexuality, nationality, immigration status, ability of the body, or language.

Acknowledgements concerning social inequities

We recognize the deep roots of colonization and the pervasive culture of white supremacy within our society. At the core of these dynamics lies a fundamental misuse of power that creates systemic social inequities. Consequently, people within the dominant group enjoy unearned advantages due to their privilege. Conversely, those belonging to intentionally marginalized communities face numerous barriers that are absent in the lives of the dominant group. 

We acknowledge that privilege acts like a blindfold for the dominant group. Consequently, they cannot see the reality of systemic oppression without additional education and intentional learning about oppression. These privileges encompass, but are by no means limited to, aspects such as race, gender, nationality, language, sexuality, and physical ability.

We recognize that inclusion can only be attained through the implementation of decolonization as well as the diligent practice of anti-racism and anti-oppression.

The image shows the different traits of the culture of white supremacy as the foundation of anti-racist practice
The picture shows covert an overt signs of white supremacy.

How do these dynamics influence the counselling field?

The counselling field, like any other system or industry, is profoundly influenced by the dynamics of colonization, white supremacy, and oppression. The impact extends across professional associations, educational programs for counsellors, and organizations and individuals providing counselling services. Many established counselling models were developed prior to the introduction of the human rights and social justice movements and lack systemic considerations like the social determinants of health. Just to give you an example: Sigmund Freud, often regarded as the father of psychology, lived from 1856 to 1939  – the human rights were first declared in 1948.

As long as counsellors and mental health professionals do not actively dismantle their role in the systems of oppression, we repeat the cycle of systemic oppression. Therefore, we need to choose to actively work towards dismantling them. 

The counselling field is dominated by people with privilege

It is notable that numerous influential figures in the counselling field have been and continue to be cisgender, white, European-descent men and women. Their models often solely reflect their privileged perspectives and are rooted in the erroneous assumption of a universal “sameness,” thereby disregarding the systemic injustices endured by individuals from intentionally marginalized groups. This lack of awareness frequently leaves counsellors ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of power, privilege, racism and oppression. As a result, BIPOC clients or clients belonging to the LGBTQ2S+ community experience further harm in the counselling relationship.

Image shows a man holding a sign stating "With privilege comes responsibility" as part of anti-racist practice.

Psychological safety depends on privilege

The image shows three gender diverse people, practicing anti-oppressive practice.

We acknowledge that psychological safety is intricately tied to privilege, with greater privilege translating into a higher degree of psychological safety. For instance, Black or Indigenous people are less safe around white people, trans people are less safe around cis people. Given the systemic injustices at play, it is a reality that many counsellors belong to the dominant group, giving them privilege over clients from marginalized backgrounds. This imbalance places clients from intentionally marginalized groups at risk of harm when interacting with a counsellor who isn’t able to navigate their privilege healthily. Clients who belong to intentionally marginalized groups are at risk to be harmed by a counsellor with privilege towards them.

In light of this, we firmly assert that all counselors bear a significant responsibility to engage in a rigorous examination of their own privilege and develop healthy strategies to navigate it within their client relationships. This is a vital component of providing equitable and safe therapeutic spaces.

What is the responsibility of the counselling field?

At Bright Horizon Therapies, we acknowledge the collective responsibility of all stakeholders in the counselling field – counsellors, organizations, educational programs, associations alike – to decolonize their work and dismantle the toxic power structures of white supremacy and how they affect our work. We firmly believe that this is a lifelong commitment and a necessary way to provide excellent counselling services. 

We also acknowledge that this work is currently based on individual choices and not a commitment by the professional standards.

How we practice decolonization, anti-racism and anti-oppression

Here is an overview on how we integrate anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices as well as decolonization into our work. We base our practices into three pillars: individual, organizational and within the therapeutic relationships with our clients.

Piller 1: Anti-oppressive practices begin with the individual

Individual healing is a foundation for healthy anti-oppressive practices.

We believe that authentic participation in anti-racism/ anti-oppression and colonization goes beyond theoretical comprehension and knowledge; it requires practical application in both our professional and personal spheres. The foundation of anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice begins with self-examination and self-improvement.

Moreover, we firmly endorse the notion that individual healing is intrinsically intertwined with the pursuit of social justice. This process is indispensable for the conscientious and healthy application of social justice principles. By addressing and healing the ways in which we have been influenced by the abuse of power, we become better equipped to wield power in a constructive and beneficial manner.

Multiracial young group of trendy people having fun together on a workshop for anti-racist practice.

Unveiling the layers of our intersectionalities

The images shows different labels concerning intersectionality as part of anti-oppressive practice.

We acknowledge the coexistence of marginalized and privileged identities within each of us. It’s crucial to understand that our marginalized identities do not nullify or supersede our privileged ones; rather, they exist alongside them.

For instance, as the owner, I have marginalized identities as a non-binary individual and an immigrant in Canada. Simultaneously, I have white privilege, settler privilege and able-bodied privilege. In the area where we have privilege, it can act as a blinder and obscure our vision and understanding. Therefore, it is imperative that we embark on a journey of self-education to systematically diminish our blind spots.

Dismantling the layers of the culture of white supremacy

In alignment with Tema Okun‘s work, particularly “White Supremacy Culture – Still Here,” and drawing insights from various sources, we commit to identifying the traits of a white supremacy culture within ourselves.

These traits are associated with toxic behaviours in relationships, therefore it is essental to be aware of them and unlearn these characteristics.

While recognizing the traits is the first step, it is vital that we also actively practice the anti-dotes of these traits in order to create healthy environments.  

The image shows different layers.
Traits of the culture of white supremacy that affect individuals

The following paragraph shows an overview of the toxic traits of white supremacy  on an individual practice and the anti-dotes we are practicing.


The culture of white supremacy teaches us individualism and separateness which erroneously suggests that those from the dominant group are detached from oppression (a notion we firmly reject). Our approach to countering this involves a recognition of interconnectedness: where there exists oppression and marginalized groups, there inevitably emerges a corresponding group in the social role of the oppressor. While we are born into these groups and therefore, shaped by their social norms, we also have a responsibility to unlearn toxic social traits.

Furthermore, we employ a systems thinking perspective when exploring the diverse voices within Canadian society. Key questions that guide our exploration, but are by no means limited to: Whose voices are included? What is their social position of power and their privilege? Who is excluded? How can we learn more about the voices that are excluded? And, critically, how are individuals from marginalized groups impacted by our decision-making processes and communication practices?

Fear of conflict/ right of comfort

White supremacy also conditions the dominant group to assert their right of comfort, a stance that frequently impedes their willingness to take responsibility and embrace change. The fear of open conflict often stifles the emergence of meaningful conversations about racism and oppression. To counter these tendencies, we view conflict as an opportunity to grow. Additionally, we hold ourselves accountable to lean into conflict, continuously expand our knowledge and reflect on our privilege.

A central question guiding our actions is: what are our next steps in dismantling white supremacy that makes us uncomfortable? In addition, we recognize that mistakes may occur and that we have a responsibility to learn from these experiences and continually evolve.

White fragility/ defensiveness

Defensiveness and the concept of white fragility often show up interpersonal dynamics, spreading toxicity in relationships. These tendencies silence people who dare to speak up, blocking a meaningful dialogue about racism and oppression. Additionally, they further harm people who speak up.

Recognizing and managing white fragility and defensiveness healthily is the first step for white people to being able to engage in anti-racist practices.

To address these detrimental characteristics, we take a stance of accountability and actively cultivate a culture of vulnerability in our interactions.

Structural and organizational aspects of the culture of white supremacy

Some traits of white supremacy play a bigger role on a systemic or organizational level. Being able to recognize them and finding ways to counter them is essential to effectively practice anti-racism and anti-oppression in organizations or to identify these dynamics when they show up in our clients’ narratives. 

Quantity over quality/ Progress is bigger

The pervasive social conditioning of white supremacy often steers us toward a mindset that prioritizes quantity over quality and equates progress with bigger.To challenge this perspective, we deliberately place our emphasis on the quality of our services and have implemented a system to evaluate our quality. This is exemplified by using feedback surveys with our clients, which allows us to assess the quality of our collaboration and the progress the client sees. Additionally, we conduct an annual, anonymous customer satisfaction survey. We strive to achieve sustainable growth while still providing high-quality services.


Additionally, white supremacy often teaches us to see other stakeholders as a competition and compare ourselves to others. To counter this trait, we actively opt for collaboration with our clients and other stakeholders in the counseling field while recognizing the power differential. We also strive to provide excellence in our services and focus on continuous improvement of our services.

Power hoarding/ power over

Power hoarding refers to the behavior or actions of a group or individual who possesses and exercises power in a way that is self-serving and oppressive to others. In essence, power hoarding involves the unequal distribution of power, where those in positions of authority or privilege prioritize and protect their own interests and control while actively excluding or disadvantaging others. It reinforces the existing structures of misuse of power and privilege and uses a power-over dynamic that is toxic.

We place a distinct focus on embracing a “power-with” and dismantling power hoarding. This requires that we critically analyze the power dynamics in our relationships with clients, other stakeholders and our decision making. Furthermore, we also explore the impact of our actions and non-actions on members of marginalized groups. In this endeavor, we also prioritize the voices of individuals from intentionally marginalized communities and work towards de-centering whiteness.

Pillar 2: Anti-oppression within the organization

As an organization, we have taken the principles of anti-racist organizational change as issued by Community Wise Resource Center and tailored them to our specific context, recognizing that we function as a for-profit business and including the diverse aspects of oppression. We commit to embracing discomfort as an avenue for profound growth in this endeavor. The practice of anti-oppression and anti-racism stands as a cornerstone of our organizational value.

The image shows labels associated with anti-oppressive practice
Embedding anti-racism and anti-oppression in our policies and procedures

As our organization continues to evolve, we proactively integrate anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into our policies and procedures. This comprehensive integration extends to critical areas such as supplier selection and HR management, underscoring our commitment to these values.

Incorporating anti-oppression and anti-racism in our communication strategies

In a counselling field that frequently holds on to the misguided myth of sameness, ignores systemic influences on clients and often excludes oppression and intersectionality, our mission is to to include what is excluded: to craft articles, blog posts, and educational resources that integrate the realities of oppression.

We do so with full awareness of the complex nature of these dynamics and the constraints imposed by article length, recognizing that our communications may not always capture the full scope of these complexities.

Dismantling white supremacy within our counselling and coaching models

As emphasized earlier, the majority of counseling and coaching models fail to incorporate anti-racist or anti-oppressive practices, often neglecting the systemic power imbalances present in our society. Consequently, we do not unthinkingly adhere to these models but instead critically reflect upon them, with a commitment to adapting and aligning them with the principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression.

Integrating anti-oppression in our research and education

In our research, we adopt an intersectional approach. Many research articles tend to focus solely on the perspective of the dominant group while sidelining an intersectional lens. For instance, many suicide prevention workshops don’t acknowledge oppression as a major contributing factor for suicide. In our Suicide Prevention workshops, we make it a priority to incorporate research that delves into how racism and oppression impacts the mental well-being of Black individuals, Indigenous communities, People of Color, and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. We are committed to presenting research in a manner that shields it from being wielded as a weapon against individuals from marginalized groups.

Additionally, we explore the intersectionality of the research team to the greatest extent possible and, when feasible, prioritize research conducted by teams with lived experience.

Equitable pricing strategies: Breaking down systemic barriers

We consciously integrate anti-oppressive principles into our pricing strategies, with a primary goal to maximize the accessibility of our services. It’s essential to recognize, however, that our status as a for-profit business, lacking the funding options available to non-profits, does impose limitations. We understand the interconnectedness of capitalism and white supremacy, and, in response, we are dedicated to crafting a sustainable business model.

Our ongoing self-reflection is aimed at resisting the adverse influence of capitalism on our pricing structure, ensuring our commitment to accessibility remains consistent.

Recognizing our limitations and blind spots

As we pursue the integration of anti-oppressive practices, it’s vital to acknowledge the areas where our capacity is currently limited. For instance, we recognize that we are unable to accommodate individuals in need of American Sign Language services at this time. In our ongoing commitment to this work, we understand that humility is an indispensable trait, as the journey toward inclusivity and anti-oppression is a continuous one, and it will never truly be complete.

Pillar 3: Increasing psychological safety in the therapeutic relationship

Young attractive multicultural couple in love standing outdoors and holding hands.

The therapeutic relationship with our clients is a cornerstone of an efficient healing  journey, whether it is coaching or counselling services. However, this relationship can easily turn out to be harmful for the clients, if the counsellor or coach doesn’t know on how to navigate their privilege healthily. Therefore, we actively navigate our privilege in the therapeutic relationship with our clients when applicable. 

We acknowledge that the coach or counsellor need to actively do their individual work as described in Pillar one to effectively integrating anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices.

The following points summarize how we integrate anti-racist/ anti-oppressive practices in the therapeutic relationship:

We manage our privilege(s) proactively

Within the therapeutic relationships with our clients, we are proactive in addressing our privilege. Clients from intentionally marginalized communities are offered the option to anonymously voice their concerns. We commit to treating this feedback with the utmost seriousness, dedicating ourselves to educate ourselves, and actively changing the behavior that was not o.k.

We acknowledge systemic dynamics like oppression, racism and colonization

We acknowledge the impact of colonization, systemic racism and oppression woven into our clients’ stories. These dynamics are not only not ok but frequently crazymaking, yet regrettably, they have been normalized within our society. While these dynamics are not ok and often crazy-making, they are also normalized in our society. Our commitment lies in assisting clients in discovering their own optimal means of navigating these challenging dynamics. Moreover, when working with clients who have endured trauma stemming from systemic violence, we collaborate with them to mitigate the risk of further harm.

Safer space guidelines in counselling groups: Prioritizing inclusivity and respect

We work with a diverse group of clients who have different intersecting identities. Therefore, it is essential to work towards increasing safety for people who face oppression. In instances where we facilitate counselling groups, we diligently implement safer space guidelines to minimize harm to individuals from intentionally marginalized groups.

Transform yourself: Become an anti-oppressive leader

We offer various programs to support leaders and change makers to integrate anti-oppressive leadership. As part of the program, you will learn on how to apply anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices and to navigate privilege healthily. 

Discover our transformative leadership programs and book a free discovery session now.

The image shows a diverse team with an anti-oppressive leader.
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