Calling In Not Calling Out with Dr. Sonya Lott | PoP 492

Calling In Not Calling Out with Dr. Sonya Lott | PoP 492

Do you find the journey of self-accountability difficult to transverse? How can you engage yourself and other people in a fruitful yet difficult discussion without becoming defensive? Are there other ways in which you can have difficult yet necessary discussions with people that remain open and understanding?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about calling in and not calling out with Dr. Sonya Lott.

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Meet Dr. Sonya Lott

Sonya Lott earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University and has been licensed as a psychologist in Pennsylvania since 1991. She is also registered in Florida as an out-of-state telehealth provider.

She is the founder and CEO of CEMPSYCH, LLC (Continuing Education in Multicultural Psychology), which offers continuing education that supports mental health professionals in cultivating a multicultural orientation, and is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Dr. Lott also serves on the Advisory Board of White People Confronting Racism, an organization in Philadelphia that works with white people who desire to challenge the racism within and around them. And who are searching for a way to strengthen their work for racial justice.

In addition to this work, she maintains a private practice devoted to helping individuals transform their experience of acute and prolonged grief. She is an associate of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, where she completed advanced training in Complicated Grief Therapy (CGT).

Visit her website and listen to the podcast here. Access all the courses here.

In This Podcast


  • The essence behind calling in versus calling out?
  • Staying in the messiness
  • What does it take to start the process of calling in?
    – Looking at yourself first
    – Avoid the tendency of taking action first

The essence behind calling in versus calling out

One of the things I’m aware of is that a lot of white people are saying ‘I don’t know what to say, I don’t wanna say the wrong thing’ and I just say ‘you’re gonna mess it up, over and over again!’ And it’s about becoming comfortable with doing the work while messing it up. It’s impossible to not mess it up, and you have to have some love and kindness for yourself.

Calling in means that you engage a person in discussion with empathy first. Calling in is pointing out something that someone did or said that was problematic but encourages a discussion instead of shutting them down for making the mistake of saying the wrong thing. In order to make progress, calling in brings and includes everyone into the discussion instead of dividing the group further into who said what.

To exemplify this distinction, people are waking up to the ongoing crisis of black people’s experience of systematic racism in the USA and many white people are finding themselves dealing with feelings of guilt, sitting in discomfort, and wanting to do something to ‘help’. ‘Calling in’ helps to validate these emotional responses by recognizing their intentions to help how they can.

Staying in the messiness

You’re not the only one messing up, the whole thing is messy, you know. And so it’s important to let people know there’s not a straight path to getting it right, we never always get it right.

In terms of clinicians, not many are explicitly taught how to deal with multicultural issues and so may be unequipped to assist their patients, or even themselves when they are, too, dealing with these emotions. Even trained professionals can struggle with these emotions and knowing how to act in these difficult and necessary discussions, but messing up with compassion and eagerness to learn is better than staying quiet and slowly becoming resentful.

What does it take to start the process of calling in?

Look at yourself first

You need to begin with you because this is the foundation for moving towards resolving any kind of racial injustice. Move towards making sure that you are not causing harm unconsciously in your daily actions, because it is not possible to change something that you are not aware of, therefore the need to begin with yourself.

By starting with ourselves, we can dig into the ways we have all been socialized from birth to believe things that are not necessarily true just because they exist. We need to weed out these old and harmful ideas from our minds – without becoming upset with ourselves – by encouraging self-compassion and therefore compassion for others when we all do the work; calling it in.

Avoid the tendency of taking action first

If we wish to ignore and not deal with the discomfort and guilt of evaluating yourself first, you will not make any true changes or positive influences because those actions are still being driven by guilt and not by sincere empathy and a willingness to learn. This causes more harm in the long run than if we were to push past those uncomfortable and difficult thoughts from the onset.

You can also evaluate marginalized minority feelings, because these cultural identities may have internalized cultural norms that oppose their existence. Beginning with ourselves and committing to work through the messiness and discomfort will mean that when we act, our actions are informed, sincere, and with the intention of getting it right for the sake of others, not for the sake of one’s guilty emotions.

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

private practice consultant

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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