“‘I can’t breathe’: A case study-Helping Black men cope with race-related trauma stemming from police killing and brutality” By Sam Aymer
The article “‘I can’t breathe’: A case study-Helping Black men cope with race-related trauma stemming from police killing and brutality,” by Sam Aymer, PhD., Associate Professor at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, addresses police brutality in the context of persistent present-day racial aggression (called microagressions) as well as intergenerational violence and trauma. To highlight his points, Aymer uses a case vignette about a client, “Jamal,” a 16 year old young Black man who sought out therapy after being stopped, frisked, and detained by the police.
Aymer focuses on two psychotherapeutic processes that he uses to help young men of color cope with, move through, and thrive after violent encounters with police:
Narrative therapy stresses the importance of understanding that we exist within a variety of viewpoints. This framework helps young people gain insight into how they are perceived and perceive themselves in the varying contexts of family, school, neighborhood, and other social realms. Understanding the different narratives of one’s life can help them make sense of how they are treated and thereby counter tendencies for self-blame.
In conjunction with narrative therapy, a therapist can use Critical Consciousness to help young people develop an understanding of how racism works in the world which in turn can help them stop criticizing themselves for negative occurrences in their lives, and gain a greater sense of control.