Removing the “-ism” from Professionalism
I sometimes wonder whether professionalism have some of the blind ideology and oppressive qualities of racism, sexism, and the other isms. Last week, I spent several hours conducting focus groups with parents who have needed behavioral health help for themselves or for their loved ones. I asked about their experiences and was humbled at how our helping system can deepen distress and tighten the hold that problems have on people. After taking time off work, finding child care, and getting off the wait list to just get in the door, people shared that they are then asked repeatedly about what is wrong with them or their child. They shared having to complete packets of paperwork, tell their story over again ever time the therapist changes, and made to feel less than and broken by the weirdness and secrecy of the process. Some of the parents even lost hope that they can access services with dignity.
Almost every therapist I have ever met is compassionate and committed to making peoples’ lives better. I believe these issues are not about people, they are about our system and its programming. We must stay focused on changing the system, so we see people as more than the problems in their lives. Let’s all keep spreading the word to create a therapeutic process that empowers the client and enriches their lives from the point of first contact. Let’s change our clinical language to focus on resilience, expand the use of concurrent documentation and technology to remove barriers, become more transparent about the system, and stop the blame. Let’s remove the “-ism” from professionalism.