By Olivia Vallecillo, MA LCMHCA NCC

Once when I was in professional training in graduate school, a discussion leader had us exhaustively describe ourselves with as many words as come to mind in a kind of stream of consciousness to a partner. We were to say words until we could not think of any more. Many of us shared words that described our gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, skin color, hair color, religion, and other markers that make us who we are. These aspects of my identity were things that I took for granted, but these aspects of my identity have been an essential part of how I move through the world. So often, we take these pieces of ourselves for granted and forget how our experience, in our body, with our particular background allows us to bring specific knowledge and strengths to the world around us that others do not contribute in the exact same way.

During my time in graduate school, I also learned about Tara Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth model to discuss these aspects of one’s background and highlight them in community settings as practical ways each one of us contributes to the community around us. Yosso particularly highlights the experiences of communities of color. Most pointedly, for people of color and minority individuals, there are experiences they bring to the table that others might not initially recognize as strengths. Yosso’s model names a couple of these power sources and calls them types of “cultural capital.” They are: aspirational, social, linguistic, familial, navigational, and resistance capital. 

Aspirational capital refers to one’s drive, hopes, and dreams that have become part of who one is in their move toward growth when faced with obstacles. Social capital refers to the connections one has through family and friends. Linguistic capital is how one learns to communicate skillfully with others through storytelling, body language, and verbal or written language. Each culture carries particular strengths in the ways they communicate. Familial capital comes from the power of your connection to your family. Navigational capital often comes with challenging weathering experiences, including emigration, migration, and discrimination, whether actual or generational. Resistance capital is akin to the ability to fight for equality historically and participate in social justice activism. If any aspects of one’s history, experience, and identity are ignored, they are not wholly seen.

I invite you to identify the unique ways you move through the world. What are some of the experiences that contribute to your unique perspective? Do you value your contribution to the world? How have your experiences made you who you are? How can you celebrate those aspects of yourself? What does full recognition of all of these parts of your experience look like? I invite you to bring all of these aspects of yourself to therapy. 

Reference: 

Yosso *, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. https://doi.org/10.1080/1361332052000341006 

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