Summary and review of social GGRRAAACCEEESSS

This is a summary and review of social GGRRAAACCEEESSS as a useful tool in supervision.


John Burnham and colleagues developed the acronym 'social graces' to represent aspects of difference in beliefs, power and lifestyle, visible and invisible, voiced and unvoiced, to which we might pay attention in therapy and in supervision. The 'social graces' have grown since their original development and currently represent: gender, geography, race, religion, age, ability, appearance, class, culture, ethnicity, education, employment, sexuality, sexual orientation and spirituality, though the acronym can be more than a list.

The original process of creating understandings of distinctions with people about difference and diversity can be lost when practitioners view the framework as a “this is the named distinctions I know about” idea. The process of creating through language and being together in interaction can be fluid and hard to grasp this struggling together allows a greater awareness of the uniqueness of the otherness of people. This therapeutic 'posturing', 'dance', 'positioning', 'relating' etc. are all aspects of therapy and supervisory practice that are so important to the artfulness of therapeutic interaction.

Having said this, the list-like qualities also are useful in reminding and making named, some of the possible unique differences to be considered about ‘otherness’. This list thereby becomes a framework for considering further aspects of difference.

  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Geography
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Ability
  • Appearance
  • Class
  • Culture
  • Caste
  • Education
  • Ethnicity
  • Economics
  • Spirituality
  • Sexuality
  • Sexual orientation

Separating into parts allows people to explore more fully the influence of particular aspects of lives that may have a dominant presence or, alternatively, may be invisible or unnoticed.

Asking the question such as; "which of the social ggrrraaacceeessss grabs you the most" and reflecting on this, or, "what aspects do you least comprehend?". These are both helpful explorative questions within supervision allowing practitioners to consider further their familiarity with distinctions or otherwise. 

References and acknowledgements:

Articles: Burnham, J. (2013). Developments in Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS: visible-invisible, voiced-unvoiced. In I. Krause (Ed.), Cultural Reflexivity. London: Karnac.
Divac, A., & Heaphy, G. (2005). Space for GRRAACCES: training for cultural competence in supervision. Journal of Family Therapy, 27: 280–284. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6427.2005.00318.x

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Telford TF8 & Much Wenlock TF13

Written by Nigel Glaze

Telford TF8 & Much Wenlock TF13

My experience as a psychotherapist spans 30 years in both the NHS and private sector. I offer a protected space to talk about your problems and feelings, confidentially and in confidence. My process is to listen carefully to your concerns trying to fully understand and experience what it’s li...

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