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Professional Industry Issues

2021 addendum: We're not the only ones seeing serious problems with the professional industry. In the New York Times article "Science Plays the Long Game. But People Have Mental Health Issues Now.", Benedict Carey sums up this 20-year retrospective on "advancements" in the field by saying "I’ve reported on behavior and mental health for 20 years. As I exit, I can’t help but wonder why researchers have placed so little emphasis on helping people in distress today." The article sums up in total exactly why we're fighting for better diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options.

This section and the articles within it will point out some systemic failures and issues within the field of helping professions. It barely matters whether we're talking about this license or that degree or which certification — credentialed professionals are human, and have failings. When you get 3 or more in a room, there's politicking. In spite of their training on the human mind and the individual attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and the problems that arise from human interactions, they reenact these very same scenarios in acts of self-blindness and denial whether individually or in groups. Knowing something in another is not the same as knowing that thing in oneself.

How often do professional organizations explore their own culture, attitudes, beliefs, rules, behaviors, etc. to suss out where they're being hypocritical, negative, self-limiting, or even perpetrating abuse on others?

While there are very many good therapists who honestly are interested in helping their clients, the profession as a whole, the rigors of getting trained and licensed (similar to medicine), maintaining credentials, getting clients (losing clients), and working many years with a potentially exhausting client base can create compassion fatigue and/or burnout in the best of professionals. The industry also continually creates a professional vs. client atmosphere. CEU courses or credentialing courses may be taught by more experienced professionals who are also burned out and jaded, where they transfer poor attitudes, disappointment, and negative expectations to the most empathic and passionate of students.

In a healthy client-professional relationships, the client drives the narrative — within the boundaries of a professional relationship, the client should control the process and own their choices, and thus own the outcome. The way many professionals treat their DID clients gives the professional power and control over both their client and their process. The overwhelming majority of the industry believes (and teaches) that they are the instrument of change in the client, and this infantilization delays progress in the long run, especially in a therapeutic scenario that is already expected to take many years to make significant progress.

It can be very humbling when you reach the first client who for any reason cannot accept the power of the professional, and resists being a well-trained lapdog and changing on command or taking direction. Instead of labeling the client resistant or non-compliant, consider labeling the professional over-controlling and the client as disempowered in the relationship.

This scenario, this imbalance of power, is very common in most mental health scenarios. DID is no different. As mentioned above, some of this is due in part to the attitudes of professionals when they come together at trainings. Interactions with peers, all needing to vent frustrations and setbacks and let off steam, can create an atmosphere of negativity and almost one-upmanship of displaying their literal worst case-scenarios behind closed doors. Rather than showing off successes and achievements in a compassionate display of how they can improve outcomes, it can become a pissing match race to the bottom and hobble or induce fear in newer more excited or energized professionals who still may have some excitement and passion left in them. "Wait until you…" "You'll see…" Jealousy makes for a mean bedfellow, and the jealous will take their momentary pleasure in cutting new excited folk down to size.

Keep an eye out for the poison in your own industry. Keep your eye on the prize: helping people. Decide who has allowed themselves to turn to the dark side of human nature within your industry and do not allow them to infect you. When you walk into a training and the overall culture is dipped in disdain for those they serve, putting cases on display for some macabre or schadenfreude pleasure at the expense of the privacy and dignity of the humans behind those cases, it may be time to cross that group off your list for future trainings and CEUs, or better yet speak up about the negativity and dehumanizing you see in front of you — and become an ally.

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