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Non-vegan Therapist? Possible Triggers When Working with Vegan Clients

Today’s blog is by guest writer April Lang, LCSW, SEP.

In December 2018, The Economist published an article called, The Year of the Vegan, stating that veganism is on the upswing around the world. (https://worldin2019.economist.com/theyearofthevegan). What does that have to do with therapy? In a nutshell, it means we can expect an increase in the number of vegan clients walking into our offices, many who will present with material that might be very triggering for us. But before I detail the potential clinical implications, it’s important to clarify what veganism is, and isn’t.

Veganism follows the principles of Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word which means to do the least harm possible to all living beings. People who follow the principles of veganism abstain from all forms of animal exploitation, which means they don’t eat, wear, or engage in any sports, entertainment, or pastimes where animals are viewed as objects and hence, put in harm’s way. People who only refrain from eating animals but otherwise engage in any or all of the above activities are not vegan – they just eat a plant-based diet.

To understand how therapists might be impacted by this growing trend, we must realize that when working with vegan clients, there’s a good chance that at some point they will be discussing situations of extreme animal cruelty and abuse, possibly eliciting strong reactions in us. Let’s look at some possible scenarios.

  1. If a client begins speaking about animal abuse he/she witnessed, heard about, or read about, you might find yourself cutting off, tearing up, or even getting angry that you are being exposed to this information. These are normal visceral responses because most of us don’t want to think about any animal being tortured and suffering.
  2. You might feel like you don’t know enough about veganism to help this client. We need to remind ourselves that supporting a client is not dependent on being familiar with all their issues. With that said, a bit of familiarity with vegan principles might increase the empathy you feel towards the person, thereby enhancing the therapist-client bond.
  3. Hearing clients describe actions they’re taking to combat industrialized animal abuse through their veganism and/or activism might get you thinking about your own actions and lifestyle. Exploiting animals is normalized in our society and unless someone brings this to our attention, we might never contemplate the consequences of our choices.
  4. It’s possible you might feel defensive. Unless the client is overtly judging you, your reaction could be due to an unconscious awareness that even though you’re a compassionate person in so many ways, your actions towards non-human animals might not always be aligned with that part of you.
  5. Unfortunately many people still harbor negative stereotypes about veganism and if you have had little or no association with vegans and/or fully understand their lifestyle, you too may have internalized an unfavorable opinion of these clients.

Of course we can’t know for certain how we’ll react to what any client shares with us. But when working with vegan clients, a little knowledge about veganism and some forethought into potentially sensitive topics/reactions can ensure we’re attuned and accessible to these individuals.

Today’s blog is by guest writer April Lang, LCSW, SEP.

April Lang, LCSW, SEP is a psychotherapist based in New York City and has been in private practice for over twenty years. Part of her practice is devoted to working with ethical vegans and animal advocates, as well as people who are suffering from the loss of their animal family members. She is also a writer, humane educator, and an animal advocate.

She has written articles for a variety of magazines and blogs, wrote a column called, “The Relational Vegan” for the on-line magazine, LA Fashionista Compassionista and is the author of the book, Animal Persuasion: a guide for ethical vegans and animal advocates in managing life’s emotional challenges.” You can learn more about her by visiting her website, www.aprillang.com.

 

Non-vegan Therapist? Possible Triggers When Working with Vegan Clients


Christine Jackson, LICSW

Christine Jackson has been a therapist for fifteen years and maintains a private practice in Washington, D.C. She has been an animal advocate for over four decades.


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APA Reference
Jackson, C. (2019). Non-vegan Therapist? Possible Triggers When Working with Vegan Clients. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 25, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/veganism/2019/12/non-vegan-therapist-possible-triggers-when-working-with-vegan-clients/

 

Last updated: 12 Dec 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.