We don’t cover everything in this (already long) article, so if you want a full summary of the survey, click here.
At Peak we’re asking ourselves how we can authentically incorporate anti–oppressive and intersectional values into what we do. We talk about how all therapy needs to be done with an anti-oppressive lens because the systems of oppression that we live within are extremely harmful for our mental health - especially those that are the most marginalized (e.g. Black people, Indigenous people, trans and disabled people to name a few). We want to know if those words are translated in our actions, our policies, and the ways that our staff, clients, and community members feel within our space (both physical and virtual).
With the help of Bakau Consulting we conducted our first DEI audit back in 2020. We learned so much from that process (thank you Bakau Consulting!) so we did it again a year later. We ended up getting three times the respondents for 2021 - thank you to everyone who took the time and energy to fill this survey out. Your efforts directly improve our practice and we are extremely grateful. We wanted to get these results to you sooner, and we’re sorry that we didn’t. Thank you for your patience with us - it’s been a doozy of a year.
The results of our 2nd Diversity, Equity and Inclusion audit showed that we’re still mainly white, cisgender, straight women at Peak… but we’ve made some progress since our first DEI audit last year. In this article we’ll explore the progress made and intentions moving forward.
We hope for more respondents next year, but here is the data based on 99 respondents, 22% of which are staff, and 78% are clients and/or community members.
Demographics (‘Who’s in the room’)
Both staff and the Peak community are majority white. However, in comparison with the first DEI report, we see there is more diversity, especially within clients and the community. Out of the staff that filled out the survey, 75% were white, and 25% were Latin American, and Asian. For our client/community respondents, 38.7% were Asian, Latin American, Arab, First Nations, and mixed, and 61.3% were white.
We are actively working to recruit therapists from BIPOC communities, while we continue to strive for a safer environment for our BIPOC colleagues and clients. Since our 2nd audit was conducted, we have closed that gap a little bit more. At the time of writing this blog, our staff (including our counsellors, supervisors and admin team) is made up of 41% BIPOC. We’ve got a long way to go (scroll down to the actions!), but we’re celebrating the wins along the way too.
Gender and Sexual/Romantic Orientation
Staff at Peak Resilience are limited in gender and sexual diversity as the majority of our staff are cis-gender women. 72.7% of us are also heterosexual, while the other 27.3% of us identify as bisexual, pansexual, gay, or queer. We see a lot more gender and sexual diversity within our clients and community, which is an important reminder to have our team reflect the needs of the people we are supporting. We recognize that this might prevent clients from openly discussing and working through any gender, or sexual/romantic struggles if they exist outside of what is considered ‘normal’ in our society.
To address our biases and build more capacity, we have monthly clinical supervision groups that are led by Meera Dhebar, and are all about bringing queer theory into practice. We’re also organising a team-wide professional development on gender and providing gender-affirming care to our clients to build our awareness (especially as cis women). This workshop is taking place this fall, and will be co-facilitated by one of our counsellors and Kelendria Nation. We’ve all been eagerly awaiting this one!
We held a fundraising/training event featuring Jane Ward and the Tragedy of Heterosexuality. People on our team are actively critiquing their participation in heteronormativity, whether they’re in heterosexual relationships or not.
The majority of staff and clients in the Peak Resilience community are agnostic or identify as having no religion, this is similar to last year’s findings. With people on our team who identify as religious (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, etc.), we engage in discussions about how to ensure they feel their religion is welcome at Peak, while we de-centre western religious ideologies. We are inspired by feminists in various religions such as Mona Eltahawy, who discusses feminism in Islam in her book the Seven Necessary Sins of Women and Girls.
31.8% of staff respondents and 48.7% of client/community respondents reported having a mental and/or physical disability. The vast majority of all respondents reported feeling that our virtual and physical spaces are accessible to them (more on this in the inclusion section), and we’re really glad to hear that. We also know that doesn’t mean there’s no room to improve. A small but impactful change we’re working on is ensuring that any recorded content we have has captions on it. We’ve done this for a bunch of our videos, but need to have captions across the board.
This year, we added the question “Do you have a criminal record?” to the DEI survey. Although 100% of respondents answered “no”, this question really got us thinking. We know that we need to do more to support marginalized communities, and we also know those marginalized communities are disproportionately incarcerated because of discriminaion against Black and Indigenous folks, trans and non-binary folks, and sex workers too. Read more about how we want to address this in the ‘actions’ section.
Inclusion and Belonging (how do people feel at Peak?)
Overall the sense of inclusion and belonging in both our physical space (office) and virtual space (social media, website, and online sessions) was high. Some people have commented on the intimidation factor of Peak being in a large downtown Vancouver highrise office building. We agree and have created this office walk through video for new clients to try to make the unfamiliar experience less daunting.
Since our second audit started, we have established more consistency in the virtual counselling platform we use. We used to utilise both Zoom and Jane Video (Jane is the client management software we use). We received some negative feedback on client experience with Jane video, so we stopped using it. We were glad to see that in this audit 92% of clients said that our virtual space was accessible, 0% said no, and 8% said N/A. In terms of physical space, 57.1% of clients said it’s accessible, only 1.3% said it’s not, and 41.6% said N/A (which likely means that these clients don’t interact with our physical space).
Values (what is important to Peak?)
We asked staff, clients and our community to rate Peak Resilience’s commitment to particular values. While we saw a lot of overlap with staff and our clients/community, there were a few that differed.
The respondents agreed that Peak has a commitment to inclusion, intersectionality, allyship, and psychological/mental accessibility. 88% agree we’re committed to inclusion, and 80% agree we’re committed to intersectionality
While respondents indicated there was also an obvious commitment to allyship, mental health and wellbeing, they also said that Peak Resilience has room for improvement in their commitment to restorative justice, reconciliation, decolonization, diversity, and physical accessibility. Decolonization and reconciliation were some of our lowest, with only 36.4% and 27.3%, respectively, of staff respondents agreeing that we show an obvious commitment.
Here are some ways that we’ve been trying to implement our values:
- After the 2nd DEI survey closed, we had two full team-building days for our staff in November 2021. The first day was spent reflecting on how we operationalize our values and the second day was all about anti-indigenous racism, the history and ongoing act of colonization and how we can embody decolonization more in our personal and professional lives. Since a large portion of respondents indicated that they wanted to see more of a commitment to decolonization and reconciliation, we are going to continue holding workshops like these.
- We’ve also encouraged our counsellors to register as a provider with the First Nations Health Authority. FNHA provides funding to First Nations folks in the area now known as B.C., so that they can access counselling at no cost to themselves. In 2021/2022 we doubled the number of counsellors that are available to see clients with FNHA funding - we currently have 4!
- At the beginning of 2022, we hosted our Living in Colour series – a free, 8-session support group for anyone who identifies as a woman, femme, or trans person of colour. The group aimed to be a space for folks to share and explore their lived experiences, learn and reflect on various topics related to identity, and to foster both personal and community resilience.
Safety (reporting an incident)
The vast majority of staff and client/community respondents shared that they’ve never reported an incident. We recognize that this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone that experienced an incident felt safe reporting it.
Receiving feedback from our community is really important. We know that we won’t always get it right, and it is integral to the safety of our staff, clients, and community that our missteps are shared with us. While most felt like there were clear opportunities to report an incident or offer feedback, some did not.
Staff are encouraged to refer to the steps laid out in the ‘reporting bullying and harassment’ section of our employee handbook. Clients/community members are always encouraged to provide feedback or report an incident(s), and you can do so by emailing our general admin inbox firstname.lastname@example.org, or filling out this anonymous survey here.
Actions (now what?)
After our first audit, one of the action items we worked on was holding a monthly anti-oppression meeting in which all staff were to attend. The structure of these meetings varied from discussing specific topics (ex. Decolonization, Fat Phobia) to debrief current events. We even started working on creating an anti-oppression committee. What we failed to do was take into account one of Bakau’s core recommendations: be realistic. What we didn’t do was thoroughly think through a plan to make this financially sustainable - we should have created a budget. At the beginning of 2022 our revenue took a big hit - we had to cut down on expenses, meetings, blog posts, etc. We had to put our paid anti-oppression meetings and the committee on pause. In Bakau’s recommendations it says, “when leaders overpromise and under-deliver, despite good intentions, this further harms people.” This was an important learning moment for us. What we ended up doing was really hurting our team and our community by pulling back on this - we’re sorry for that.
Going forward, at the forefront of our mind is that our actions need to be realistic, holistic, and really, really thoughtful. If we’re going to make a commitment to anti-oppression work, then it has to be a life-long one, not a temporary one.
Here is our action plan:
- As soon as our finances allow for it, building a realistic and organized plan for our anti-oppression meetings that is financially sustainable moving forward
- Continuing to edit our living document DEI policy and ensuring our new team members are well acquainted with it
- Continuing to invest in professional development to increase the critical analysis of counsellors providing services to a diverse community - such as our gender and neurodiversity trainings in 2022
- When we’re ready to grow our team again, we’re focusing even more on diversity. We’ll invite counsellors applicants of marginalized groups to self-identify if they feel comfortable doing so. We believe this is an important shift because of the need in our communities for counsellors that reflect the identities of our clients. Many clients request a counsellor that is trans for example, because it helps them feel safe and comfortable speaking about their gender journey.
- While we require a criminal record check from our staff to work with vulnerable populations, we will explicitly state that we will make exceptions for non-violent crimes including possession of small amounts of marijuana. *This is aligned with the BC Association of Certified Counsellors registration process (although we cannot guarantee successful registration with any regulatory body)
- Building safety within our team and community and remembering trust and relations are built over time and investment
We are incredibly grateful to Bakau Consulting, and our community members who took the time to offer their feedback. Thank you for being on this learning and unlearning journey with us.