Anti-Oppression Initiative

At Third Root, our mission is to provide accessible, empowering & collaborative holistic health care. Our on-going Anti-Oppression Initiative responds to the shifting and emergent needs that we identify as crucial to maintaining our vision. This initiative includes staff trainings, screening and accountability, community education, social justice engagement locally, nationally, globally, and support in the form of visibility and referrals.

We are committed to providing skilled practitioners & high quality services that center the experiences of marginalized communities. One tool of this aim is shown below. Our patients and students can expect compassionate consciousness from our staff & worker-owners!

Anti-Oppression Guidelines for Practitioners & Employees at Third Root

Third Root thrives to be a community health center that embodies the principles of social justice within our healing work.  We challenge the perpetuation of oppression in all its forms. Towards that end, we actively challenge attitudes that are sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, sizeist in our classes, workshops, trainings and healing practice, whether they be facilitated by Third Root Worker-Owners or Third Root Staff. We challenge the perpetuation of oppression in all its forms especially the pathologizing (regarding as abnormal / unhealthy) of people in their bodies when seeking health care.

The suggestions below aren’t meant to cover the extent of interactions with folks from all identities, but are representative of collected best practices for welcoming…

  • people of color;
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming people;
  • fat people (we use that word as a descriptor and means of challenging stigma);
  • people with dis/abilities;
  • neurodiverse people and psychiatric survivors;
  • survivors of abuse and trauma;
  • the Deaf;
  • people with limited or no English capability, non-native English speakers;
  • and all people from marginalized communities who are subject to pathologization by the medical-industrial complex (or network of health-related services & products that operates for a profit – ultimately at the expense of consumers’ well-being)

Most of us providers at Third Root share one or several of the identities and experiences listed, others may not be our own, and others still may be new for us to even consider in a deliberate way.  

If you want to learn more about the experience of any of these communities we have a reading list that can help, and can direct you to more resources, such as the Third Root Healing Justice Reading Packet.  

As a general rule, we encourage our staff to educate themselves and reflect on the ways in which they occupy positions of privileges, as opposed to asking those who are in a marginalized group to explain their oppression. These kinds of inquiries may feel intrusive, insensitive, misguided, vulnerable or hurtful – so be mindful before asking questions. However, we all have more to learn in our shared work to create a loving space for everyone here. Suggestions for additional resources and guidelines are welcome!

  • Ask questions instead of making assumptions assuming.
  • Always use discretion when asking questions about people’s bodies / habits / gender expression / dis/ability
    • Always check intake form for gender pronoun (examples: she/her, he/him, they/them, zhe/hir). Being misgendered is, for some trans and gender non-conforming (meaning, they identify as being neither male nor female, or both) individuals, a daily occurrence that can cause the person to feel anger, shame, embarrassment, anxiety, grief, and/or traumatized.
    • Always check intake form for indication of areas of the body a patient does not want touched and / or needling.
    • Only ask a trans person about surgeries related to sex / reproductive organs if you believe it’s directly related to their reason for seeking care or they elect to share this info.  (Trans folk often have to contend with medical fixation on their genitalia and being mis-gendered by health providers.) But do inquire respectfully if you see a clinical need to do so.
    • Consider that people of many genders can experience pregnancy (example: transmen and gender non-conforming individuals).  
    • Refrain from referring to groups of people as “ladies” or “you guys,” unless you know that each of them identifies as such. While it may feel like a warm and friendly way to greet people, you may be unintentionally misgendering someone in the room.
    • Refrain from commenting on hairstyle or asking to touch a client’s hair unless it is necessary for treatment (many black people, bi-racial people, and others who have hair that is not straight experience excessive and frequent unwanted touch from strangers who feel their hair is “exotic.”)
  • Don’t assume a person’s level of wellness, illness, activity level, diet, income level, or history based on their body size, race, ethnicity, primary language, or any other presentation.  Inquire and assess instead of assuming.
  • Fatness does not equate illness, and thinness does not equate wellness. Do not assume that weight loss is a goal for fat patients.
  • Never assume a dis/abled person wants to be “fixed.”  Support them according to their chief complaint and keep in mind that health care and wellness goals aren’t only for some bodies, but for all bodies and spirits. Dis/abled people are not broken; they do not necessarily need or want to be “fixed.”
  • Work to support people with a mental health diagnosis according to their chief complaint. Keep in mind that people with a mental health diagnoses may not want to take pharmaceutical medications or see a licensed mental health practitioner for their condition; others may desire these options but be unable to access care (because of cost, lack of time, fear of more trauma, etc). Refrain from making moral judgements of those who may self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, or other substances/activities.
  • Always maintain a professional decorum with patients as well as in the Third Root Space generally
    • Maintain professional boundaries with clients.
    • Maintain professional boundaries with co-workers: Third Root is a casual environment where professional boundaries are malleable – that closeness is welcome here amongst co-workers. We encourage and welcome one another to be authentic selves and build relationships in the space while working. Keep in mind, however that things like touch (hugs etc) and divulging or asking about personal information outside of sessions must be consensual.
    • Be mindful of what personal / confidential information you may be voicing while at work in public areas. Respect client personal information by discussing private health matters solely in treatment rooms unless the client initiates conversation.
    • Keep questions specific to the client and relevant to what they’ve come for.  If a client has a specific complaint – treat it.
    • Recognize when your judgement comes up internally, check it, and put your focus back on the person seeking your care. We’re not requiring you to suspend your judgement, but we are asking you curb it, and hopefully you can challenge it along the way.
    • As holistic healers we’re poised to be the alternative to the damaging labelling systems of allopathic medicine, so please avoid applying labels or diagnosis outside of your modality.  Be clearly within your scope of practice; always recognize the whole person.
    • If a patient speaks English with a strong accent, don’t assume they need you to speak slowly.
    • Respect patients’ cultural practices and personal preferences around touch, dress, exposure.  Follow their direction, or simply ask if you’re not sure.
  • As practitioners we hold space for healing to take place, we want to empower our clients, not hold authority over them.
    • Consider your own relationship to power, privilege and oppression; these dynamics inform the space we hold.
    • Consider that any allopathic “diagnosis,” especially from mental health professionals, is limited and doesn’t characterize the whole person.
    • Respect patients’ questions with regards to their own health, and try to answer them as clearly, thoroughly, transparently and compassionately as is permitted within the time allotted for appointments.
    • When applicable, refer patients to other resources that may help them in their healing, including other Third Root practitioners, spiritual practices, books, community groups, etc.
    • Keep in mind and remind your patients that healing takes time and dedication! As a healer we are only capable of so much, we need the client’s active participation in their healing, too!
  • Remember that most people have overlapping, intersectional identities.
    • The way a dis/abled person experiences their disability may be completely connected to the fact that they’re also a woman and low income because misogyny and economic inequality make accessing assistive devices more difficult.
    • Keep in mind that many identities aren’t apparent or “visible.” Allow clients to self-identify when relevant to their treatment. Self identifications may include race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, dis/ability, etc.
  • We do not believe in a hierarchy of oppressions. As providers we endeavor to work horizontally with patients and with each other. We validate each of our struggles, valuing none more or less than another. We believe each of our various struggles blocks collective liberation.

We believe mistakes are places to grow from. When we challenge our own assumptions and judgements about people, and do the work to un-learn those oppressive thought-patterns and behaviors, we help lay the groundwork for liberation that we all can share.

If you suspect that something you said or did hurt or offended a patient, do check in with them! The person may want to share or they may not, and that choice must be respected. You may also refer them to admin to share their concern or write an “Incident Report” if the offense was egregious. Remember that it’s never too late to check in with a patient if we believe they felt slighted or hurt through our interactions with them. Checking in and dialoguing is always encouraged, and collective members and staff can support each other in these matters.

We also know that patients may speak unskillfully and express attitudes that are oppressive. In other words, practitioners may ALSO experience oppression via racist/sexist/fatphobic comments and attitudes by their patients. We value providing a safe and loving space for our patients AND our practitioners alike.  

  • Signed Anti-Oppression statement by all patients (as part of their general intake) is underway Spring 2016
  • Should you, the practitioner feel professional boundaries have been violated during a treatment with a patient, s/he reserves the right to terminate the session.
  • Should the above take place, an incident report shall be filed, given to the collective where next steps to resolve the grievance will be assessed and executed.

This is a living a document; the Third Root Collective reviews and updates these guidelines annually during the Summer Retreat.

Thank you for your consideration and respect for all our communities!

I, ______________________________________, understand and agree to represent an attitude of respect, welcoming, and open-mindedness reflected by the statements made above while working at Third Root Community Health Center.

If I have questions or want to learn more about the identities and communities listed above (or those of any patient / student of Third Root), or language and customs that convey respect to particular individuals, I agree to respectfully inquire and seek learning from collective members and / or staff. We can also refer you to other helpful resources.

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Third Root Staff / Worker-Owner Date

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Third Root HR Director Date