EnglishLatest News

An insightful conversation with Rehman Abdulrehman


Welcome to the first installment of our “Ask the Author” Spotlight, offering a unique glimpse into our writers. Through a series of questions, we'll uncover various aspects of their creative process, their current and upcoming projects, and their inspiration for writing. We'll also explore the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way, and what they hope readers gain from their work.


1. What inspired the idea for or concept of your book? 

I never thought I would write a book, but the issue of anti-racist cultural competence has been the focus of a lot of my work for quite some time. Instead of a book, a lot of my focus was on other methodologies of knowledge translation, such as my podcast, my bias tool (testbias.com), and a library of stories of the experiences of racism (livingwithracism.com). Danny Wedding, a colleague with who I served on the Committee for International Relations, and one of the editors for Advances in Psychotherapy (APT) series, had been following my work and encouraged me write this book for the series

Though my clinical areas of focus ranged from anxiety, trauma, sex and sexuality and even shy bladder, the context of my experience and those of many clients I worked with both clinically and as a consulting psychologist, was very much ethnicity and culture. And just how much those aspects of identity impacted almost every element of treatment, regardless of the clinical problem, became increasingly apparent to me. Furthermore, the role of racism and discrimination and its impact on racial trauma toward so many people of color and those from ethnic and cultural groups with less power than White and culturally White people with more dominance and power in society became difficult to avoid. And for that reason, it felt important to help those living in diverse communities to develop the relevant skills– anti-racist cultural competence. 

2. What was the most challenging/rewarding aspect(s) of creating this book? 

The most rewarding part of this book was writing the dedication. Acknowledging the challenges with racism and resulting problems of swimming upstream in a world that didn’t practice a multi-culturalism it advertised, felt like the icing on a cake that took years to bake. It was completion, and respect, and acknowledgement. 

Further to this was attempting to take what is otherwise a broad topic, and fitting into a small, digestible, and easy to understand book. Where we can typically talk about any topic academically, I wanted the reader to have a visceral example of challenges faced so they can develop a greater sense of empathy and commitment to anti-racist cultural competence. And for that, I decided to use stories and examples, including my own. Discussing what could otherwise be a distant and esoteric discussion, I made this book personal by bringing myself into it, hoping to relate to many who are committed to building bridges.

3. If there was one thing, you’d like the readers to take away from this book, what would that be?  

The most critical thing I want people to understand is that good intentions do not prevent racism or harm to the clients we work with. If we believe that racism is not prevalent, or that we do not contribute to it, or that we do not have bias, or that this is a problem better handled by experts rather than ourselves, then the endemic problem of racism will continue indefinitely. What we also don’t realize, is that our biases and inherent adoption of systemic racism can also interfere with our ability to understand and engage with effective cultural competence and this will always perpetuate the now confirmed common belief: white is local and people of color are foreign. 

4. What other topics are you looking to write about?  

I am currently working on my second book, with co-authors Danny Wedding and Lillian Comas-Diaz, on the topic of multiculturalism and movies. Given that pop culture and media is critical to helping promote both better representation and understanding between groups of people, this book will review a variety of movies and genres exploring multiculturalism in all its elements. Through a  multicultural matrix, the book will explore a variety of contexts (relationships, family, community, politics, sports, human conflict and war, immigration and refugees, sex sexuality & love, sci-fi, horror and fantasy and faith and religion) with themes (i.e., prejudice-discrimination-oppression-racism, cultural identity-acculturation, value conflicts-value orientations, social norms violations, stereotyping, indigenous). The book is due out in 2025. 

I am also an award-winning published poet and currently writing a collection of semi-fictional short stories about historical family members, the mythology of magic and the jinn and life in Zanzibar. 

About the Author

Rehman Abdulrehman, PhD, is a Canadian Muslim of Zanzibari descent who works as a clinical and consulting psychologist. His work has spanned continents and cultures, with a focus on the intersection of mental health; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and leadership. Among the clients that Dr. Abdulrehman has supported to address diversity, equity, and inclusion are Google/YouTube, Mastercard Foundation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Government of Canada. He has developed and hosted a podcast, Different People, addressing difficult conversations on racism, and developed the Bias Outside the Box tool, which went viral, to help people begin a conversation with themselves about the biases they hold. Dr. Abdulrehman was also a TEDx speaker with his talk “Resolving Unconscious Bias,” and his work has been recognized by the Society of Consulting Psychology for Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Consulting. He is also an assistant professor with the Department of Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Manitoba and has held three visiting professor positions at Zanzibar University, the State University of Zanzibar, and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, due to his development work in Tanzania. He was also the Chair of the Committee on International Relations in Psychology for the American Psychological Association (2015–2016). Dr. Abdulrehman’s work has been recognized by the Society of Consulting Psychology for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Consulting (2022).