If you didn’t know this about me, I’m a white woman. Most psychotherapists are white women. (See the demographics of psychologists as an example.) When I sat down to write about how families respond when a family member starts down the road to becoming a therapist, I knew that culture and family background would have a lot to do with it. So instead of just focusing on my own experience, I decided to also interview some of my colleagues, to see what it was like being the therapist in their families. The differences surprised me.
This Friday and Saturday, I will be presenting at the Therapy Reimagined conference in Los Angeles. It’s a different kind of conference from any I’ve spoken at before, and I can’t wait. You should be there.
Different by design
Academic and professional conferences tend to focus on research and clinical application. Those are obviously critically important for keeping your practice up to date. But those conferences don’t tend to talk broadly about what it means to work in mental health. In other words, most conferences are more about doing therapy, and less about being a therapist.
The California School of Professional Psychology was the country’s first free-standing professional school of psychology. It was one once known for radically transforming the training mental health professionals. And at the 2013 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, its founding President said the school made a major mistake by choosing to pursue APA accreditation for its Clinical Psychology programs.
In 2009, Julea Ward, a counseling student at Eastern Michigan University, was in her school-assigned practicum when she was assigned a same-sex couple for treatment. She went to her supervisor and said she could not provide treatment to the couple, citing a conflict with her religious beliefs. The couple ultimately was assigned to a different counselor at the same agency, who did not have the same conflict. Ward thought she had handled the issue appropriately, as the clients received the treatment they had sought and she was not put in a position of needing to hide or compromise her beliefs. She understood the issue to have been successfully resolved.
Her graduate program, however, did not.
A few years ago, I wrote about income share agreements. ISAs are a novel way of financing higher education. Under this model, rather than paying tuition, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their future earnings back to whatever entity agrees to finance the person’s education now. It’s now called deferred tuition, and it’s still a bad idea.