A Long Post/Rant: What’s the Question? What’s the Answer?

9 times out of 10, what happens?  The kids are all for it.  The parents try it for 3 days and decide “it doesn’t work” or “it’s too hard” or “I’m too busy”.

I found that incredibly frustrating.

So the parents revert back to what’s easy, despite the clear evidence that it doesn’t work.  They  use “a whoopin’ ” and then cannot understand why their child is so violent.  I don’t mean spanking (though I do not agree with that, either).  I mean, hit their child with everything from extension cords to their fists.

Makes them feel better, as they are usually very angry when they do this.  The child is damaged but goes on to do the same thing they were being hit for, time after time.

Side note #Ilostcount: Before you go off on me, yes, I always reported this to child protective services.

As one teenage girl put it to me: “It’s easier to get a whoopin’ because I can get it over with and then do what I want.”

Many child/teenage gang members I have dealt with (clinically) have been beaten by caregivers.  Actually, I would say, “most”.  And an alarming number of them go on to develop psychosis as a result of that.  Add that to substance abuse and the trauma of living a life like that, and you can end up with a very dangerous person.

Yeah I know, “Boo hoo, poor gang members!” I can hear some of you thinking.  But, you know, we ignore the mental health aspects at our peril.  Think about that the next time you see a gang member (of any age) and ask yourself, “Is she/he hearing voices?  Is he/she paranoid?”

Because he/she may very well be.

Yet another side note: “It takes a village”?  No, actually, it doesn’t.  It just takes one adult to take responsibility for the part he/she plays in the child’s behavior.  Not blame, just some damn responsibility.  And “whoopin’ ” a child is not good parenting, not even close.

Back to the main subject…

Throughout my experiences as a therapist, I have come to realize that the ‘culture of mental illness’ is fostered by professionals, administrators, and patients alike.  Which makes anyone’s attempt to change things a threat.

It’s a threat to administrators because “the census” (how many admissions you have at any one time) is the all-important consideration for mental hospitals and clinics. The more beds you fill, the more money you make.

It’s a threat to other professionals because they would then have to look at, and acknowledge, how little they know about psychology in general and therapy in particular.  Awful, isn’t it?  Yet it is very common to see a therapist who knows little more than someone who watches pop ‘psychologists’ on tv, or reads self-help books.

You may wonder how that’s possible.  It’s possible when people work as therapists but did not go to school for it.  I have met people in the field whose degrees were in education (not educational psychology, just education), English, business, and another field I will not name because they get really upset when people imply they are not fit to do therapy.

The people in that field make wonderful case managers.  They are terrific when you need a resource person.  And if you need housing or transportation, there’s no one better.  I really mean that.

But to give you an example of how people in that field should not be therapists…

I had one ask me what the difference was between “manic-depression” and “bipolar disorder” (‘manic-depression’ is just the older name for ‘bipolar disorder’).   She said she needed to know so she could put the right diagnosis down on the treatment plan.

This person was determining someone’s diagnosis and didn’t even have a rudimentary knowledge of psychology?  I hate to scare you, but it’s very common.  If you are ever a mental health client, be sure to always ask what your diagnosis is, and why you were diagnosed with that.

Challenge it if you think it’s wrong.  Remember, this goes in your medical records which, like diamonds, are forever.

If he/she cannot answer that, or refuses to answer it, leave.   Because someone like that won’t have a clue in hell about how to help you.

And this is probably why so many ‘patient advocates’ think being a therapist is easy.  It’s because they keep encountering therapists who, if they read at all, get their information from a self-help book or a pop psychology magazine. Or they watch ‘psychologists’ on TV.

No, being a crappy therapist is easy.  Getting a low-paying job as a therapist is easy.  Some jobs only require a bachelor’s degree.  And some, particularly drug and alcohol counseling jobs, don’t even require that.

Being a competent therapist, however, is not easy.

It’s not easy to find a job, because often the person interviewing you is just a shill for the administration, and is more concerned about whether you can turn in the massive amounts of paperwork required than if you can treat a patient.

So they find it threatening when you start asking clinical questions they can’t answer.  They aren’t interested in clinical issues and know very little about them anyway.

Another flippin’ side note: I have seen co-workers file therapy notes on sessions that didn’t happen, back-date notes in the chart, and commit other acts of fraud – and I was told to keep quiet about it.  Still, I got fired because I knew.  {Just to be clear, I did not see this kind of fraud in Memphis – but in Mississippi and Altoona, oh yes… and I reported them all to the proper authorities, usually the Dept of Health and JCAHO}

Even the therapists I have known – very few – who do care about their patients and actually know how to conduct a therapy session, have stated quite emphatically that, given a choice between standing up for a patient and losing their jobs, or staying silent and keeping their jobs, they will choose to keep quiet because “they (the patients) wouldn’t do the same for me.”

Sadly, they’re right in that the patients probably wouldn’t do the same for them.  But why would they?  They’re not thinking straight.  That’s why they are in therapy in the first place.

And if the patient has a personality disorder and/or addiction issues, you are stupid if you think these folks will not turn on you in a heartbeat – it’s what they do, to everyone.  Some even stir up trouble, just for fun.  And that often includes making false complaints against the therapist.

But even worse, my colleagues are wrong because that still doesn’t change the fact that people ought to stand up for what’s right because…that’s what an upstanding person does.

You would think that would be mitigated by other professionals coming to the support of one of their own who is trying to behave in an ethical way.  I am living proof that no one does that.  Oh, I have had people whisper words of support, but put their asses on the line right along with me?  No way.

2 thoughts on “A Long Post/Rant: What’s the Question? What’s the Answer?

  1. charlies5169

    It’s all about the money, isn’t it? Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    Well. you didn’t play the game, so now you’re paying for it. Been there, done that. The story of my life.

    The difference is that you had a lot more at stake, dealing with people’s lives. I just dealt with “things”.

    Still coloring outside the lines at “our age”.

    But you know, as I was reading this, I kept thinking of something a very wise man, my Dad, said to me when I was very young. Despite everything, at the end of the the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

    If you can do that, even if you didn’t “win” the fight, you’re still a winner!

    Great post.


  2. Victoria Post author

    Thanks! I think, though I don’t remember, somewhere along the way my parents must have said something similar to me, it is so deeply ingrained. I won’t just assume it was my dad, though he did some great things – it could have been any adult I interacted with as a child who made an impression: from our favorite pot-smoking Episcopal priest to Dick Gregory. I was blessed to have met many progressive adults in my childhood, something I think stuck because the rest of my life as a child was, quite frankly, horrifically abusive and frightening.

    Anyway, I appreciate the feedback and support, as always! And I know you have made some pretty tough decisions in your life that cost you. It’s one of the many things I like about you. Nearly all my long-time friends have made similar choices.

    But hey! How come I’m the only one who’s poor?? Lol!! Perhaps it won’t always be this way and I can eventually find work that is good for the world, and also allows me to have such luxuries as a car and a place of my own.

    You never know, life’s funny that way and things can change in a heartbeat…



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