February 13, 2020 | Gwendolyn Short, ATR-BC, LCPAT


In recognition of Black History Month, it’s my pleasure to introduce this blog series building on the topics covered during the “Breaking the Chains of Racial Trauma” plenary panel I moderated at AATA’s 50th conference in Kansas City in November of 2019! If you were in attendance, this is an excellent opportunity to revisit the content, and I’m honored to present it to others for the first time.

I was given a copy of Dr. Angela Clack’s book, Women of Color: Psychological Narratives on Trauma and Depression, as a present. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I felt she had truly helped clients penetrate their masks and set the course for healing. I also felt this would be an awesome continuation of the keynote given by Dr. Joy DeGruy during AATA’s 2018 conference. When Dr. Clack agreed to speak at last year’s conference, I was delighted to moderate the panel.

Gwen Short moderating the “Breaking the Chains of Racial Trauma in Therapy” panel plenary at the AATA’s 50th conference in Kansas City, MO.


I am pleased to reintroduce the presenters from AATA’s 2019 conference as authors for this blog series. Dr. Cheryl Doby-Copeland will share her work with families and the ramifications of historical trauma, Lindsey Vance will present her work utilizing alternative frameworks for working with Black clients to promote access to a range of health and mental health services, Dr. Angela Clack will discuss concepts from her book, and Dr. Jordan Potash will detail his cross-cultural work with Black clients. Each author will share three takeaways for therapists.

This post was updated as each article in the series was published. 

Framing Race in the Context of Art Therapy by Dr. Cheryl Doby-Copeland

Creative Healing Spaces: Healing From Racial Wounds by Lindsey Vance

3 Ways for Therapists to Address Barriers to Seeking Therapy by Dr. Angela Roman Clack

Antiracist Approach to Art Therapy: Re-examining Core Concepts by Dr. Jordan S. Potash


Dr. Clack, Lindsey Vance, and Dr. Potash at AATA’s 50th conference in Kansas City, MO.

Background from 2019 panel abstract

Psychotherapy has frequently identified the causes of depression and anxiety as rooted in personal emotional experiences or as a result of biochemical origins. However, not all psychological concerns stem from interpersonal or intrapersonal causes. Increasingly, mental health therapists have identified socio-cultural causes of emotional distress. The areas of racial trauma and race-based stress refer to cumulative psychological and health effects due to direct accounts of racism (Clack, 2018; DeGruy, 2015). Hardy (2013) described, “Racial oppression is a traumatic form of interpersonal violence which can lacerate the spirit, scar the soul, and puncture the psyche” (p. 25). Such effects may be due to personal experiences of racism or being exposed to racism and racist violence through direct witnessing or watching the news (Carter, Forsyth, Mazzula, & Williams, 2005). Furthermore, epigenetic theories identify how trauma can be transmitted intergenerationally (Goosby & Heidbrink, 2013). These events provide evidence that working with racially subjugated clients entails not only attention to personal and relational concerns, but also how individuals experience racism.

Read the full abstract here.


Clack, A. R. (2018). Women of Color Talk: Psychological Narratives on Trauma and Depression. Sicklerville, NJ: Clack Associates.

DeGruy, J. (2015) Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy Of Enduring Injury & Healing. Berrett-Koehler Publisher.

Hardy, K. V. (2013). Healing the hidden wounds of racial trauma. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 22(1), 24-28.

Carter, R.T., Forsyth, J.M., Mazzula, S.L., & Williams, B., (2005). Racial discrimination and race-based traumatic stress: An exploratory investigation   In R. T. Carter (Ed.).    Handbook of racial-cultural psychology and counseling: Training and practice (Vol. 2) (pp. 447-476). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Goosby, B. J., & Heidbrink, C. (2013). Transgenerational Consequences of Racial Discrimination for African American Health. Sociology compass, 7(8), 630-643. doi: 10.1111/soc4.12054.

Gwendolyn Short, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT

Gwen received her master’s degree in art therapy from The George Washington University, in her home town of Washington D.C. Her membership in AATA, since 1976, includes attendance at every conference, dedicated service on many committees, and also 8 years on ATCB. She has served on AATA’s Honors Committees, Governmental Affairs, and Multicultural Committees and reviewed AATA business minutes. On the ATCB, she served as the Registration Standards Chair, Director and Liaison to the Standards Committee, reviewed the final draft of the first certification exam, and read the first exam on tape for a special needs candidate. Gwen has most recently served as the Chair of the Membership Committee and is an active participant on the Multicultural Committee. She is currently teaching a class at Norte Dame of Maryland, in Baltimore, MD.