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COMMUNITY QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Please read about themes of issues and concern, and our responses, from our first SEI Town Halls.

We have received many questions and comments from the SE™ Community, some of them repeats of each other. We answer several below, but here is an opening response to the general themes:

When we began our Town Halls in mid-2020, we anticipated good participation from our community – and we were right. At our first Town Hall, in June 2020, we received many questions and comments from the SE community. Many of these resulted in some new initiatives and direction, actions that support our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. We have archived below some of the comments, and our responses, from that first Town Hall, which represent themes we remain committed to. For updates on our progress, please visit the Issues, Questions, and Answers page.

1. How are you determining which black and indigenous people of color in the US meet your standards to participate in your activities and discussions? Who is making those decisions and why are some active people being left out?

All BIPOC in the SE community are welcome to participate in our activities and discussions. We do not want to limit participation. Indeed, just the opposite. Moving forward, conversations will happen in a much more structured way, so there is always a loop back to the organization with the ability to make change. As such, the SEI board of directors has authorized several workgroups and advisory groups, and we will be asking for community participation in all of them. This process has already increased inclusivity among our board of directors and each committee and workgroup that has been created so far. We intend to continue this practice going forward with all updated workgroups, advisory groups, and committees. Each group will require different backgrounds and skillsets, and those will be published and provided to anyone seeking to participate. Our hope is that these groups will create greater communication between the community and SEI and will create avenues for more people to become even more involved in the organization, including serving on the board of directors.

2. The issues in North America and around the world seems to have different language and focus, although they may have very similar reasons. I am wondering about the EASE & SEI collaboration on addressing issues. Can we learn from each other’s languaging and embodying “issues”?  

These are important questions and observations regarding culture and language. We have established a global culture committee with SE representatives throughout the world to help us explore exactly these issues. We have ongoing discussions with leadership from EASE (European Association of Somatic Experiencing) and ABT (Associação Brasileira do Trauma) to strengthen bonds and to discuss shared issues for partnership. We seek international representation on all the SEI committees, workgroups, and board.

3. The question is how to make SE of service. Many of us have wanted to do this. 

As part of its strategic planning process in 2019, the SEI board identified public outreach and advocacy as priorities for the organization going forward. We have hired staff and consultants to assist us with strategies to connect SE and its community with media, government, allied nonprofits and other centers of influence. This is a new initiative for the organization.

4. I am a Human Rights activist working in Africa and in the U.S.  I am also a trauma survivor and very interested in learning about Somatic Experiencing for my own healing but also finding language that resonates with my community. If there is any room for me here, I am very interested in joining your community.  

You are welcome to join our community. Please send an email to listening@traumahealing.org to share and learn more about how you can participate and activate your efforts in our community.

5. I am a Chicana from the Bay Area and I am about to start the advanced training. My background is doing healing work within the Latino community and doing political organizing. I love the work thru SE, but I must admit the lack of diversity and lack of deeper discussions around power & privilege – dealing with race has been very difficult for me.  I am hopeful that things can change but I have also heard how difficult it has been to have these issues dealt with by other POC that have been in the program for a while. How is SE going to address bringing in more working-class therapists of color that are not necessarily doing private practice?  How are you going to allow these voices to be heard?  

The SEI board is seeking more voices to participate in our committee/workgroup governance efforts to create a more diverse, inclusive process in the organization's governance and decision-making efforts. The board is establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion advisory group to provide insight and counsel directly to the board on DEI-related issues.

6. For students, who may eventually become assistants and teachers and therefore increase the number of teachers of color in SEI, it is difficult to readily find SEPs of color to do sessions with and consult with, unless they happen to be at the cohorts those students are in. As just one step, can SEI reorganize the provider search on the Practitioner Directory website to be able to search by parameters of how SE providers self-identify, as well as parameters for SE providers who are vetted as doing racial/social justice? Can this be made clear to students in the training from the get-go, as well as to people outside the organization who are seeking SE providers?

Our Practitioner Directory has been updated to provide greater opportunities for SE providers to self-identify and who wish to specialize in provide certain services and support certain causes. Visit our directory here: https://directory.traumahealing.org/

7. Although those of us that are black and indigenous in the SEI community appreciate what the organization is discussing and supporting us to be in the Faculty Track, is it possible for us to have a voice as far as who is leading that initiative so that we can feel safe? Can we have voice instead of someone being assigned to this role? Can we be included on any committees created to make this a reality?  

The SEI board is working with faculty to improve our processes for faculty advancement in the U.S. and throughout the world. We wish to make the application process easier and clearer for those who aspire to faculty advancement, regardless of race, gender, disability, and related issues. Our committee and workgroup structure are being developed in a way to hear and receive voices from diverse groups. Please let us know of your interest in serving on a committee/workgroup. Send a note to listening@traumahealing.org.

8. What is SEI doing to hold faculty members accountable who have a history of creating unsafe spaces for those who show up different?

The organization is working through multiple channels to address standards of conduct and grievance procedures. For example, the governance committee, composed of representatives from the board of directors, the staff, faculty, and assistants, has worked to improve the governance documents for the organization. The governance committee has updated the organization's bylaws, the governance handbook, an ethics document, and a grievance procedure. The final two documents are in their final stages of review by many stakeholders in the organization and will be finalized in the next few months. In addition, we will soon be advertising for a global training director position. Finally, we are in the final planning stages to create a training evaluation workgroup, whose purpose will be to revamp the evaluations and procedures for follow-up from the evaluations. That workgroup will be made up of representatives from all constituencies of the organization. Most importantly, these documents are designed to ensure everyone in the organization abide by the same agreements and will be held to the same standards. Members of the board of directors firmly believe that we, as well as everyone else, must abide by these standards, and these documents ensure anyone in a position of leadership in the Institute, whether board, staff, faculty, coordinator, or assistant, will understand their ethical duties.

9. How are SEI Faculty & Staff doing their own personal work of ongoing, practical, embodied engagement with unlearning white body supremacy?   

Staff are exchanging and sharing current resources and opportunities for training. Many faculty and staff attended Robin DiAngelo’s recent webinars which offer a thorough review of many issues addressed in her book, White Fragility. Several staff and faculty have attended the Intro to Racism training led by Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis. Faculty are being offered a stipend that they can apply to any professional development course that might support their learning. 

The board of directors, staff, faculty, coordinators, and assistants will all be provided either stipends to attend approved training or provided free training on issues related to underrepresented communities, including racial bias and historical trauma training. Together, we have conversations addressing these issues frequently, as often as once per week. Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, which resulted into a rapid shift to online training and conversations, the connection among our groups has strengthened, and we have been able to address many more issues in real time. We are committed to this ongoing work in a variety of situations, including ongoing individual learning, ongoing group learning, and ongoing embodiment in our daily lives.

10. Regarding the BIPOC scholarship fund, is SEI contributing to it or is that to collect donations from the community or both? Has SEI allocated a budget for this work?

SEI has, for many years, provided income-based scholarships to support participation in our trainings at a lower cost. In 2019, SEI awarded more than $110,000 in scholarships from its operating budget.  In 2020, it is on pace to award an estimated $150,000 in scholarships. This does not include additional support provided by SEI to specific requests from the SE Racial Justice Work Group and the Silver Spring MD training organizing group to provide scholarships specifically dedicated to Persons of Color. The SEI board of directors in June 2020 authorized the establishment of a BIPOC scholarship fund and initially allocated $25,000 from its operating budget to start the fund. The organization will match an additional $25,000 raised from the SE community and other sources. A Call for Applications will be sent in the next 30 days to the SE Community, seeking applicants for a scholarship development and review committee to establish parameters for applications for various scholarship efforts and how they will be reviewed and awarded, including those for BIPOC and other underrepresented populations.

11. Thank you for offering this town hall. I appreciate intention v. impact being brought up. As a primarily white run organization led by primarily white people it is impossible to not perpetuate white culture and norms. Can you please tell me if you are open to a restructure of the organization so that there can be over 50% BIPOC leadership within staff and faculty?  

We are cognizant of the need to improve representation and participation in our organization from BIPOC and underrepresented populations. We are conscious of this need as we create hiring opportunities for staff and develop leadership for faculty, assistant, board, and coordinator positions. As of this writing, three of the seven members of the board are persons of color.

12. Who hires staff?  Who decides on board members? 

The SEI board hires the executive director. The executive director is responsible for hiring the staff. Currently, we have an interim executive director who is fulfilling our direct request to increase representation and participation on staff and through consultants from BIPOC and underrepresented populations. There is also a nominating committee, composed of people from different constituencies within the organization, to nominate board members, with final review and approval from the board of directors.

13. Please continue to do this approach to discussion and openness as a Board. Emails and letters are not interactive. They are distant and often lack context for recipients.  These open interactions should become a regular course of business. Frequently. Thank you so much.

Thank you for the comment. We will continue to do Town Hall meetings on a regular basis. As you mention, the Town Hall meetings allow for connection to more people in the community and to develop relationships that are more personal and sustainable. We wish to use all responsible and available channels of communication to keep all persons who are interested in our efforts abreast of current and future activities.

14. What confidence can we have of committees and conversations that are occurring about equity and justice and ethics, including ethics of retaliation, when SEI has failed in its promises of correcting unethical behavior.  Although SEI promised to get back to the assistant community about whether personal sessions constitute an “educational” activity. SEI lawyers have evaluated the personal session program and determined that it constitutes practicing psychotherapy and therefore session providers are often inadvertently committing a felony or misdemeanor. If I, as a white privileged male, with decades of association with SEI, can be retaliated against and years later no substantive remedy has occurred to correct the misinformation given to assistants/providers about the legal risks every assistant is taking, what chance does a marginalized voice have in corrective action in a timely manner?    

This has taken longer than we intended. We have established a workgroup as of late 2019 comprised of board, faculty, and assistants to review and discuss the personal sessions issue. The workgroup continues to consult with attorneys specializing in mental health related professional issues and is seeking to deliver a position paper for review and comment to the SE community at large in the next 2-3 months.

15. What are the plans to remove barriers to having more BIPOC and underrepresented voices in leadership and faculty?

In 2019 and 2020, we have added more diversity to the SEI board. We are improving guidelines, requirements, and the application process for faculty advancement in North America and internationally. There is commitment from the SEI board to actively open faculty and assistant tracks and recruit individuals who can apply and complete the relevant requirements and guidelines.

16. Many, many people in the SE community are very interested in seeing the diversification of North American Somatic Experiencing faculty. We have some folks who have been diligently working for years and have a lot of capacity as representatives of SE, and who represent various non-dominant identities, that we could bring on to our Faculty Track. Is there something we can commit to doing tonight to bring this closer to reality?  

We need to open the faculty track. We need to support diversity on the assistant teams. Assistant training teams have become more diverse since trainings are moving online because travel and costs are not a barrier when training online. When we return to in-person trainings, we will continue to explore opportunities to provide greater financial assistance for travel and lodging needs.

17. Will you be adding systemic oppression and ancestral trauma to the core SE curriculum?

Yes. The SEI board has commissioned a comprehensive review and upgrade of the SE curriculum, including how systemic, intergenerational, and other forms of societal trauma need to be more fully and consistently addressed in training modules and supporting materials.

18. Will SEI become more transparent around the cultural origins of SE? Also, how does SEI plan to address cultural differences in training around the world?

The SEI board is committed to conversations about this and a new global culture committee has been meeting since June 2020 to consider how SE is best offered and delivered in a multicultural environment. We also have plans to provide more history and context on the origins of SE, so please look for that in the coming months.

19. The SE community seems well-positioned to bring SE training to the law enforcement community.  Are there plans for this?  

We agree and have plans for this. It is in active discussion in our public health initiatives area and in our newly created crisis stabilization support (CSS) workgroup. We have started to reach out to police departments to explore collaborative partnerships.

20. What are the immediate plans for making trainings more accessible and comfortable to BIPOC?

This is all in active conversation within our community — faculty, assistants, staff, students, board. One example of a recent effort was to work with the Silver Spring, Maryland organizing group to expand their training to POC. We supported their requests to provide greater scholarships, greater communication, and overall support for greater inclusion in this training. We will continue to do so. We can do more of this in a collaborative fashion with other cohorts.

21. Why hasn’t SEI made a statement denouncing racism and sexism by the U.S. President? I am aware there were requests for this.

SEI is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization. Our priority is training and education. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we are limited by law and monitored as to our activities in the lobbying and advocacy arena. The SEI board has authorized the creation of a separate 501 (c)(6) professional association as early as 2021. This structure enables activity in the advocacy and political arena supporting a profession and professional society. At this time, we simply are not organized for political purposes.

22. What is Dr. Peter Levine’s role with SEI?

Dr. Peter Levine founded SEI in 1994. Since 2016, he is recognized as founder and senior advisor. Dr. Levine remains in close contact with the organization, but he does not have a specific role on the board or staff. His organization, Ergos Levine Institute of Somatic Education, is a separate organization from SEI.

23. How much does SEI expect to receive in contributions to scholarships from the community? 

We are initially seeking $25,000 to support a pending match from SEI’s operating budget. Our long-term goal is certainly much more. We see this as a prolonged, sustained effort to support and involve various communities’ participation in our trainings and our community.

24. When will the community receive more transparency on SEI's financial situation?

An independent audit of our financials should be complete by the end of July 2020. We expect to issue an annual report by September that will include the audited financial statements for 2019 and supporting information helping the community to better understand our various sources of revenue and expenses. The annual report will live on our web site for continual access.

25. When will SEI fairly compensate assistants for their time and devotion to serving the SE training program and community?

SEI recognizes that both the direct and opportunity costs of assisting are high and prohibit many qualified SE Practitioners from assisting and, as a corollary, moving into faculty or leadership positions. We are committed to addressing this issue. SEI would very much like to pay assistants in North America the way they are paid in Europe and other countries. However, SEI does not, yet, have the financial capacity to do so, but we have been in discussions about how this could be made a reality. COVID-related financial difficulties have put those discussions on hold as we strive to keep the organization operational.

26. Is SEI considering free training and sessions for BIPOC?

SEI has established a BIPOC training scholarship fund ($25,000) and will match contributions from the community and other sources up to an additional $25,000, for a starting goal of $75,000. SEI is also considering having a limited number of free slots in every training specifically designated for BIPOC. Additionally, there are several SEPs who have volunteered to provide free SE sessions for BIPOC. However, this may or may not be provided by SEPs who are “approved session providers” for training requirements.

27. It seems that Faculty are not on the same page with this community demand for more training and accountability for harm caused to POC in the trainings. How do Faculty members propose to handle this divide? And what will your accountability process on curriculum changes to SE Practitioners who are Persons of Color?  

The global SE faculty have expressed an interest in increasing awareness of racial trauma in the curriculum (along with trauma associated with being a member of other underrepresented communities). Members of the faculty, board and staff have agreed to move forward on a sustained and inclusive effort to revamp the SE curriculum. The faculty-led curriculum committee will have support from outside educational consultants as well as members of the SE community who can support changes to the curriculum that address underrepresented communities.