My goodness! I looked at the date of my last post and see I’ve been asleep at the wheel for a while. Well, Spring has been lovely here in the Northwest. It comes earlier every year – buds sprouting in February are lovely, and a warning of more dramatic changes to come. We are also in a political season, spun so tight and amped to such volume that it invades every corner or our psyches. Do therapists have a responsibility to engage politically, or should we keep silent, so as not to offend or distress those we are pledged to support? That is an important question which has found airing in forums from the New York Times to a noted therapists’ own web site.
In March, the New York Times ran an essay encouraging psychotherapists not to disregard the social and economic stresses (and injustices) suffered by their clients. It is entitled Why Therapists Should Talk Politics and it is linked here. Turning our gaze to the Midwest, we come to William Doherty, a remarkable man who I have known for years as one of America’s deans of marital therapy. His classic Take Back Your Marriage is an oft-recommended book to my clients. I recently came upon an effort by Doherty and others at University of Minnesota, where he has taught for years, to promote social responsibility and healing in the Citizen Professional Center. Their efforts are wide and inspiring (well, to me) and include Balance4Success which describes its mission as: This initiative (started in 2005) involves parents in Apple Valley and nearby suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul organizing with a mission to liberate their kids from out of control sports schedules and to change the culture of hyper-competitive childhood by replacing busyness with balance. Other efforts include: STORKS: Sisters Together in Overachieving Raising Kids which describes itself as targeting at-risk urban single pregnant teens in North Minneapolis. Its mission is to promote healthy child development in children with teenage mothers and to provide community support for young single mothers and Baby Boomers for Balanced Health Care which describes its mission as follows: This group of citizen Baby Boomers believes that out-of-control health care spending will bankrupt our country unless we all take responsibility for changing how we think about and use health care.
Doherty recently began a movement among mental health professionals to stand up to and speak out against the threat of Trumpism. The Citizen Therapist site is here. it contains a manifesto which therapists throughout the country are invited to endorse. It states quite clearly that Trumpism:
- Is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists
- Is inconsistent with democracy, with the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and with emotionally healthy living
- Promotes hyper-masculinity, public hostility, the cult of the Strong Man, and the denigration of women
- Presents a threat beyond a single election; the next demagogue may be less outrageous- and thus even more dangerous
I have signed this manifesto and joined a growing number of therapists throughout the country saying firmly that I reject the message, tone and “solutions” by the man who wants to ban entry to this country of people based on their faith; who wants to wall us off from the world and promises chaos and unbridled hatred in the name of fighting “political correctness” and prays on our fears.
I have long been a lover of American History. In our nearly 250 years, this country has been the home of intense debate between the left and the right – between Federalists and Republicans, free market advocates and those who promote more government oversight, international interventionists and isolationists…and so many more. However, the toxicity of our public discourse has currently been embodied in Donald Trump. It should be rejected.