Therapists Need to Be Capitalism-Informed Just as We Are Trauma-Informed
Without understanding how capitalism negatively impacts mental health, we miss a crucial puzzle piece in supporting our clients.
We live in a capitalist society that places work, money, productivity, and consumption at the core of everything that we do and think about. It is tied to the politics that have a direct impact on our everyday life. We participate in capitalism through our labor and spending, not because we want to, but because we have to in order to live. Without a paying job or the ability to earn money, life becomes very difficult, if not impossible. Capitalism and the societal circumstances it creates are often the root causes of many mental health issues, or are the barriers to getting the support needed to address them. As mental health professionals, why aren’t we talking more about it?
In an episode of Upstream Podcast, activist, writer, and journalist Hadas Thier describes capitalism as a “political-economic system, where politics and the economy cannot be separated, that is based on a relationship of exploitation, which is fundamentally concerned with the production of goods and services for sale on the market.” It’s important to highlight that exploitation is fundamental to capitalism — in order to make the most profit, business costs need to be low, which includes the labor that people provide, and product cost needs to be as high as possible.
Given this profit-driven formula, which is partially achieved by keeping wages low and cost to consumers high, capitalism creates strain in the lives of people who live in it. We are placed in a position where our ability to work and make money is the primary focal point of our existence.
White supremacy is another fundamental part of our capitalist system. Those who control industries and capital are predominantly white men who are invested in maintaining business, political, and social structures in a way that will continue to provide them with the most profit and power, which has historically been created off the backs of women, Black, Native, and other marginalized people. Oppression, violence, and exclusion are gears that keep capitalism running. Furthermore, capitalism…