Can We Talk?

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Can We Talk?


“Can we Talk”, was comedienne Joan Rivers catchphrase.
In recent years, our culture has begun to talk about a subject heretofore pushed off to the quiet corners of “polite society,” mental health.
That talk has turned into action. A week ago the U.S. Senate passed the first major mental health legislation in nearly a decade, sending the 21st Century Cures Act, which included that legislation, to President Obama for his signature.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, worked with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a physician, to achieve this landmark legislation that will provide states with additional funding and grants to address the challenges of mental health.
“I’d seen up close the heartbreak and frustration that families suffered trying to find care for a loved one — care that seemed impossible to find and even harder to pay for,” Murphy said.
Although this is welcome news, the greater utilization of mental health professionals, ubiquitously referred to as “counselor” or “therapist,” brings new challenges.
The growth of counselors in Connecticut between 1998 and 2014, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, is significant. Psychologists increased 45 percent, clinical social workers, 75 percent, and marital and family therapists, 99 percent. With such growth, has not come commensurate state oversight.
In seeking out a mental health professional it is assumed that they have no agenda or pre-conceived notion of you and your past. When we walk into a therapist office, we are not in a good way.
Whether for marriage counseling, grief counseling, substance abuse counseling, etc., if you are going to a therapist things are bad.
Walking into a therapist’s office, as I have done in my life, your mind and physical state is confused and exhausted. Most of all you walk into the office vulnerable. This vulnerable state is cause for concern because the decisions made, advice and counsel given, will have a dramatic impact on not just the person seeking counsel but many around them.
As a society, we are too casual with choosing and understanding the roles, responsibilities, and accountability of this important and increasingly utilized segment of our health care system. The public is unaware that each of these disciplines — psychologists, clinical social workers and marital and family therapists — offers a difference in approach, methodology, and ethical guidelines.
More concerning is a lack of informed consent for patients who walk into a therapist’s office.
According to information received from the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, when asked, “What are licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, and marital and family therapists required to provide clients during an initial meeting (e.g., license, CV, accreditation, etc.)?” The response was, “We found no laws or regulations that require these health professionals to provide clients during an initial meeting with documentation pertaining to licensure or professional qualifications.”
Providing patients with an informed consent document, explaining for both patients and therapists, the expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved is a prudent measure.
In response to an inquiry about how the public can review a counselor’s effectiveness, the OLR stated, “The state does not evaluate these health care professionals’ effectiveness.” This lack of objective analysis needs to change. Without a form of measurement, how can effectiveness be assessed?
There needs to be greater engagement by mental health professionals in communicating with clients who they are and what patients can expect. Assessment of the effectiveness of mental health professionals and the dissemination of such information to the public can only enhance choices made by patients and the practice of therapists.
The responsibilities and authority conferred on therapists — their influence on whether a family stays intact; in determining if a person is suffering from a clinical mental disease requiring powerful medications or hospitalization; or in helping a child through the horrors of abuse — cannot be overstated.
Those who decide to become a therapist see it as a calling. Therapists are part of “first responders” to horrific events such as the Sandy Hook shootings. These are individuals who step into the darkest corners of our culture with the mission of providing some light.
Our mental health professionals need to be treated with the rigor and oversight that is commensurate with their critical role in our health care system.

Ben Davol, is a freelance writer and an occasional contributor to The Day, lives in Stonington. His email address is dromana12@gmail.com. His writing can be found at DromanaStrategies.
 

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Democracy; Alive & Well!

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"I, Donald John Trump do solemnly swear, that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
On January 20, 2017, the world’s greatest democracy peacefully handed power from one president to another. A reminder to the world that America remains a singular force for freedom and liberty.
The election of Trump disrupted what was arguably a Bush/Clinton Oligarchy. As Guardian columnist Hadley Freedman wrote during the 2016 campaign; "Should Hillary Clinton win the next election and get two terms, followed by Jeb Bush for the next two terms – a scenario that is far from impossible – the American presidency would have been controlled by two families for 44 years, with a brief Obama interlude. Rather knocks the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206 BC) into a cocked hat or, that is, a cocked crown." Not very democratic.
The Qin Dynasty can rest easy; we have "The Donald."
Many on the left and others opposed to the Trump regime remain in the early stages of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' seven stages of grief. The grievances center on the "end of our democracy."
Nothing could be further from the truth.
For years, the criticism by media, good government advocates, and the public is that money is corrupting our campaigns and the "average" voter can't get his or her voice heard. The 2017 election put both complaints on their ear.
Bernie Sanders began his campaign with no money and took the Clinton effort to the wall. Donald Trump was outspent by all 16 GOP challengers and Hillary Clinton by significant margins.
A visit to a Sanders or Trump rally would disabuse you that the "average voter" was not being heard and represented.
In Connecticut, Democrats control all federal and state offices. Even with these significant advantages, Republicans made substantial gains, and Trump did better than expected. These results are not because of money or some non-democratic forces; it is the product of citizens expressing their concerns at the ballot box.
The 116th Congress, controlled by the Republicans, had an inauspicious start. In the dark of night, House Republicans voted in secret to weaken the powers (some say scuttle) of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The New York Times reports the result of this act of hubris, "The day after House Republicans voted to eliminate an independent ethics body, members returned to work on Tuesday to find their offices inundated with angry missives from constituents amid a national uproar."
By noon President-elect Trump weighed in with a Tweet suggesting the Republican move was ham-handed, and they should concentrate "on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!"
It was not Donald Trump that moved things; it was, democracy. Trump and his team should take note.
The wave of populism the Trump campaign rode in carving up 16 Republican candidates and dispatching Hillary Clinton was a volatile and pungent brew that fuels a vibrant Democracy.
"There are 13 counties in Wisconsin that have now voted for Obama twice, Republican Gov. Scott Walker three times, Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin in 2012 and Senate Republican Ron Johnson in 2016 and now Donald Trump for president. Eleven of them are overwhelmingly white, mostly rural counties." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Democracy is not static.
This past weekend, millions marched across the country and in many cities around the world objecting to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. About 2,000 people gathered in subzero temperatures Saturday morning for the Fairbanks edition of the Women's March, joining events across the state, nation and around the world.
Even before Trump assumed office a grassroots organization,"Indivisible," which began as a "Google Doc", went viral, and hundreds of thousands of citizens are getting involved to challenge the Trump agenda. They are organizing and executing. Democracy in action.
I appreciate and concur with concerns about Trump's erratic behavior. But it is behavior that I am confident the Constitution will arrest.
Democracy is messy. It works best when its citizens are engaged. The evidence is that engagement is underway. An engagement that I am confident would not have materialized with a Bush or Clinton redux.

Ben Davol, is a freelance writer and an occasional contributor to The Day, lives in Stonington. His email address is dromana12@gmail.com. His writing can be found at DromanaStrategies.
 

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