I recently attended a small conference for mental health professionals in my hometown with a few colleagues, who I happen to have a lot of respect for. There’s my supervisor (or soup) and two other clinicians who may be some of the friendliest people on the planet. I must say, this job I landed has been good to me. Me tienen bien chiple.
Although I was surrounded by at least 50 other mental health professionals that day, I felt so…..how would you say? Um….uncomfortable. I became embarrassed as counselors would speak up about their practice, their methods, and their questions. I began to question the level of competence belonging to some of the therapists in my city. Many of these therapists, I’m sure, have a lot of life experience. You know, theyve changed careers, husbands, had children, etc. Does this mean that they know more than us? (I say “us” to include counselors that have recently graduated from accredited, rigorous programs….and those of us under the age of 30.) It appears as if some of the indivduals I’ve come across were looking for a career change, or more money, or a way to “help people”. Well, I’ve got to say, these reasons are dangerous, and I believe, mixed together with a mentality of “I have life experience which is good enough for anyone to become a therapist” is pretty dangerous. How do these people, who didn’t endure rigor or self exploration during their graduate programs, become “competent”? I don’t know the answer to this. Yes, some intervention is better than no intervention at all….but really, El Paso? Are we going to settle for that? I sure hope not. Why can’t we raise the standards of education for mental health professionals? (including, but not limited to allowing only individuals who have graduated from CACREP accredited programs to obtain full licensure and making the NCE more difficult.)
I looked around the table that day, and saw many well-meaning people. I also saw many people who probably weren’t schooled on ethics, people who were “grandfathered” into their licenses without careful supervision, and people who have probably lost the meaning of “helping people” because of those three letters placed after their name…LPC. Just because someone has a license doesn’t mean that they have got what it takes to be a counselor. It’s a delicate mixture of interpersonal skills, art, knowledge, wisdom, and God given talent. Some try, and the ones who try too hard, seem to do more harm than good for their clients. But, oh, right….some intervention is better than none.
I have to say that one day, I’d like to blow the whistle on these individuals. Just like I do not want to have a surgeon taking out my kidney who didn’t initially practice on a dead body under scrutiny, I do not think it’s ethical for mental health professionals to practice their methods on real people with real probleams without having gone through their own form of scrutiny.
Yes, you have a Masters degree. Great, wonderful. But mental health treatment is more than a career change…it’s about saving minds and souls.