When can a therapist decide their own morals and values outweigh those of their clients?
The AAMFT has kindly made my article on conscience clause laws in mental health the cover story for the September issue of Family Therapy Magazine. You can read the article here if you’re an AAMFT member.
Of course I’m biased here, but I think you’ll find it worth the read. While I’ve written about the topic a few times here on the blog (most recently, I wrote about conscience clause laws being considered in Washington, Texas, Arizona, and Michigan
), my focus here has been much narrower than it is in the magazine. In the FTM
piece I take a broad look at the issue, from the origins of conscience clauses to the best arguments for and against them. While these laws are often spurred by a desire to protect religious practitioners, you don’t need to be religious to be impacted by them, and you might be surprised at what the laws would appear to allow:
Most conscience clause laws are so broadly written that they could allow […] therapists to refuse to treat sexually active unmarried couples, or therapists morally opposed to immigration to refuse treatment to clients based on nationality, even in a mental health emergency.
Is this a price worth paying to protect therapists’ moral views? My skepticism is raised when considering that the religious practitioners and legislators backing these bills often seem to have a desire to legitimize discrimination against gay and lesbian clients
. So, you know, that’s not okay. But the issue isn’t black and white, as I hope the magazine article illustrates.
In addition to the main article, a sidebar I had written about conscience clause laws being considered or adopted in various states around the country was transformed into a really cool national map infographic. I wish I could take credit for that — it’s great visual layout — but that’s all magazine staff. Check it out.
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I have another article in the works proposing a way therapists could consider the appropriateness of a conscience-based referral, within the fuzzy boundaries of existing law and the existing AAMFT Code of Ethics. So stay tuned for that (for several months, in all likelihood, but I’ll keep you updated).
Your comments are welcome. You can post them in the comments below, or email me at ben[at]bencaldwell[dot]com.