Sally Satel of the American Enterprise Institute exposes another problem linked to the inordinate focus on social justice.

In winter 2019, Leslie Elliott enrolled as a graduate student in Antioch University’s Mental Health Counseling program. At first, she found it to be a stimulating master’s program — informative and clinically relevant. Then she took a required course in “multicultural counseling.”

“We were taught that race should be the dominant lens through which clients were to be understood and therapy conducted,” says Elliott, a mother of four who’d majored in psychology.

Elliott’s professors taught her, for example, that if clients were white, she was supposed to help them see how they unwittingly perpetuate white supremacy. “We were encouraged to regard white clients as ‘reservoirs of racism and oppression.’” White women, one professor told a class, were “basic bitches,” “Beckys” and “nothing special.”

If the client were black, Elliott was told to ask how it felt to sit with her, a white counselor. If the client felt at ease, “my job — regardless of what brought him to therapy — was to make him more aware of how being black compounded, or perhaps caused, his problems.

After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the three-year program intensified its emphasis on race and oppression, making clear that counselors were to be foot soldiers in the culture wars. “Incredible as it sounds,” says Elliott, “we were encouraged to see ourselves as activists and remake ourselves as social change agents.”

“Critical social-justice therapists” is what Aaron Kindsvatter and others call this new breed of mental health professional graduating from programs across the country. Last year, Kindsvatter left his tenured position at the University of Vermont to pursue private practice in Burlington, where he has treated a handful of clients who were, in his words, “victims of indoctrination attempts” by their “authoritarian” therapists.