Five Fantastic Formats to Engage Youth to Talk About Social Identity

The digital natives we child-focused clinicians work with are simply incredible. Not only do they know their way around technology far better than many adults, but they’re also often fluid with their identity: openly embracing either their or their peers’ diverse ancestry, gender identity, sexual orientation, religions, family background, financial standing, as well as neurodivergence and disabilities in themselves and others. Whether in urban, suburban, or rural settings, most youth have been educated in mainstream schools with diverse peers and the world truly at their fingertips.

Getting to know these clients has never been more engaging and taking time to inquire about aspects of identity not just in the first session, but throughout therapy, deepens the therapeutic reach. Inviting kids and teens to discuss aspects of their social identity can help strengthen their ability to think critically about the impacts of racism, sexism, trans and homophobia, living with a disability, and more, especially for clients with privilege. When the conversations open up, we’re not only helping support healthy identity formation, but we can promote pro-social client behaviors, which cultivates a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future for them and everyone with whom they interact.

Check out the five following formats to get the conversation started:

  1. Videos: Brief visual content offers a chance to raise topics in an engaging and non-threatening way. For example being a good friend and an ally, or visit MTV’s Decoded for other relevant topics. Check out what it means to have privilege. Or how about watching and discussing about microaggressions  Finally, consider this excellent list of videos from teachers.
  2. Podcasts and Music: This can be a great way to get a quiet or anxious youth to open up. Ask them to share their favorite piece of music, band, or podcast. Listen in session together and seek opportunities to steer the conversation towards aspects of your client’s identity, and to raise topics, which, while it might make you feel uncomfortable, are critical for your client. For example, how race impacts them in school, what they know about their ancestry, or what it means to navigate their world as a straight/trans/queer/BIPOC/adopted/dyslexic (insert relevant word) person. But a caution: Do your own work first so you are ready to handle the conversation with confidence.
  3. The Written Word: For clients who enjoy reading there are excellent booklists to highlight topics of Race, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Neurodivergence and Disability, as well as Class and Religion. Or ask your client what books, poems, or articles appeal to them on a topic of their choice. For many of these subjects our clients have real world experience, and we are not the expert! Let them take the lead.
  4. TV and Movies: TV and movies are getting a little more diverse, slowly! Check out these options, but don’t stick to Black History month- let every month be an opportunity to talk TV and movies with your clients on this and other topics relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  5. Websites and the Internet: Taking time in a session with a client to explore relevant topics using the internet can be validating for clients and a means for you to get to know them better. Sometimes you may be the only person with whom they can explore aspects of their identity. Look for resources in your area as well as relying on reputable and vetted organizations like: PFLAG, Out in Schools, NAACP, Right to Education, NOW, and web lists of helpful organizations.

So, what are you waiting for? Plan out your next session with a more diverse set of topics to really get to know your clients!

*Thank you to all the BIPoC experts who have made this blog information possible.

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