While every psychotherapist's primary purpose is to alleviate pain and suffering, we do come from different perspectives on the factors that contribute to distress. As a clinical social worker, my orientation is from a "person in environment" or ecological lens. This means when a client or clients arrive at my office, I'm going to include in my assessment any and all external factors that may be affecting them.
I know from observation that other disciplines consider these factors, too, but there seems to be more of an emphasis among the other disciplines in moving clients from maladaptive to adaptive behaviors. Social Workers help their clients move toward healthier coping as well, but we also understand that we each inhabit many different political and social contexts and interact with these environments every day. We are embedded in these environments--some of them taken-for-granted and unseen--and, yet, they still "act down" upon us. They constrain. They set different rules based on various identities including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability statuses and any and all intersections of these identities. They perpetrate symbolic and real violence. They neglect to count certain groups or under-represent and marginalize communities and groups. This is not to say that therapists from other orientations are implicated in oppressing populations, but we must be especially mindful of the impact our environments have on clients' well-being and to implicate the oppressors by speaking of power and who wields it. In order to speak about the possessors of power, we must inevitably speak of politics--a subject most therapists try to avoid. But why?
This is why conversations about feminism, LGBTQQI identities, racism, and other forms of oppression are in my office. This is why I am always aware of the social and political forces at play and how those forces are affecting the client populations I serve. This is also why I was especially aware of the higher prevalence of anxiety and depression (however anecdotal) among client populations following the 2016 election and why it was important to avoid pathologizing its presentation and, instead, encourage clients to feel a sense of empowerment.
We, as psychotherapists, have a duty to stop clients from internalizing structural inequalities as personal weaknesses. As Richard Brouillette states in this great piece on politics in the therapeutic relationship, "psychotherapists are playing a significant role in directing [this] blame inward".