I am sitting in an office not to far from home and I just got a news update on my phone informing me that our state legislation has passed a bill legalizing discrimination for licensed mental health professionals who object to their clients on the basis of "strongly held personal beliefs". In this office I meet and talk with people from all walks of life. As a soon to be state licensed counselor, I spend a lot of time with people who find that they are no longer able, by themselves, to face routine daily life. These dear ones are in a real life crisis.
The everyday coping and relational skills they depend on to get them through their week are no longer sufficient for them to manage stress or conflict and live healthy. So they seek out therapists and counselors like myself who may be able to offer them support and a therapeutic intervention which will equip them to cope and better manage stressful or potentially damaging life events.
As a counselor, I am inclined toward a compassionate and empathetic response in the face of suffering and pain. Of course I realize that I am not alone in that inclination toward compassion and empathy when others are suffering and in pain. Counselors, therapists, mental health and healthcare professionals were drawn to these healing professions because of their inclination to respond to suffering, pain, or injury with compassion and empathy.
Apparently I am mistaken, according to our Tennessee legislature I can turn away that desperate single parent who is struggling to communicate with their teenager who is no longer talking or performing well academically. I can refuse therapy because I have a sincerely and strongly held personal belief that anybody who (fill in the blank), is unacceptable, deplorable, morally unfit, disdainful, and unworthy of my expertise and training as a state licensed professional counselor. And that strongly held personal belief is SO Strong, that it will actually trump my natural inclination to respond with empathy and compassion in the face of real human suffering.
That is the message that our state legislature has sent out with this hate-filled discriminatory piece of bigotry disguised as legislation. If a state licensed healthcare or mental health professional turns anyone away because of a "strongly or sincerely held personal belief" that clinician will discover that their respective professional Code of Ethics will not protect them from litigation. If a state licensed counselor or therapist should place their "sincere and strongly held personal beliefs" before and above compassion in the face of human suffering, then they should get out of the counseling profession. As I continue to work toward licensure as a mental health service provider, may my therapeutic interventions continue to be shaped from a source of compassion and empathy above all else. More Life to you and Joy!