Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Demanding Credulity in the Workplace

I recently recieved this letter in my professional mailbox (keep in mind, it is now the middle of November).  The names have been hidden for the purpose of confidentiality:

Hi Christopher,

Wow, I am embarrassed that this is dated August 11 and I just now read it.  Thank you so much for your interest in ________ [therapy clinic] and your email, it is really appreciated, and I am truly sorry it did not get read until now.  I don't know if you are still looking for a place to land part time but if you are let me tell you a little bit about us so that you can determine if you'd see yourself working with us.  We specialize in working with people who have eating disorders and food issues many of them are dual diagnosis with D/A issues as well as trauma and a variety of other issues.  We also work with anxiety, depression, sexual addiction, OCD, couples (including co-habitating, married and premarital) and trauma.  I particularly specialize in working with severe trauma and DID although I do not expect anyone else to do the intensity of work I do, it can sometimes lead to the unexpected so I do disclose it to potential therapists.  We are a Christian organization, while we work with people from all kinds of faith traditions and never expect them to believe like we do, we do expect our team to be followers of Jesus.  This is a small bit of what we do.  If you still think you would be a good fit with all of us please let me know, I'd love to meet you and hear about what you would like to do.

Thanks again for your email and your patience!!!

My honest response:


Thank you so much for taking the time to get back to me.  Sounds like your clinic does a lot of really important work!  As a practitioner I strive to utilize best practices by providing evidence-based treatment to my clients while teaching cognitive-behavioral methods aimed at improving critical thinking skills and challenging maladaptive thoughts and emotions.  The practice of non-judgmental awareness (mindfulness) is extremely important aspect of my work, especially the trauma work I do with individuals, as a great deal of research has shown that trauma is often held within our bodies, which you are likely well aware.  As an ethical clinician, I also strive to remain respectful of the various cultural and faith-based belief systems my clients ascribe to; no matter how alien they may appear to me (especially if such beliefs do not interfere with my clients functioning and they find strength within them).  I have always felt that my own belief (or lack thereof) on the subject has no place in the therapy room. 

While it’s exciting to hear all that ________ [therapy clinic] seems to offer, I have to admit however, that I am somewhat perplexed as to why an agency would explicitly demand credulity from their practitioners, especially when they don’t seem to require their clients to be of any particular culturally sanctioned belief system themselves. I’m wondering whether this requirement is thought to benefit the clients in some meaningful way, but I’m honestly at a loss as to how. I could understand how being fluent in Spanish would be of use if one were working with a Spanish speaking population, or being a follower of a certain religious and/or mythical figure would be essential if that is the exclusive belief of the population one is working with, but as you previously stated, this doesn’t appear to be the case. 

I am genuinely confused as to what this requirement aims to serve and am unclear as to why a clinic would require its “evidence-based practitioners” to hold strong supernatural beliefs without evidence.  Such a requirement seems to go against the basic tenets of a scientifically informed method of understanding which is essential for the success of any empirically validated treatment approach.  The practice of mindfulness, for example, is considered a best practice in many hospitals and treatment centers throughout this country and others.  It has been shown effective by multiple, peer-reviewed studies, and the basic underlying neurological functions have been studied extensively and are beginning to be understood more clearly.  It is also a core tenet of a 2,500 year old Buddhist psychology, which cautions practitioners to “be a lamp unto yourself”:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” - Buddha

To me, this is the mindset of an effective therapeutic approach, where the questioning rigidly held assumptions are be encouraged as part of the path in working towards freeing oneself from suffering.  To confine ones spiritual path to one particular tradition is like limiting ones happiness merely to the center of a dartboard – only the bull’s eye counts.  To me, this just leaves a great deal of the mystery of life unexamined and/or explored and goes against the basic tenets of a self-actualizing treatment approach (in my humble opinion).  To require practitioners to follow Jesus (or Ganesh, or Yahweh, or Buddha, or Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever) ironically speaks to the limiting rigidity and/or cognitive fusion therapy aims to alleviate.  While I feel spirituality is an essential aspect of any therapeutic relationship, I don’t see how requiring clinicians to hold a strong belief in a particular Bronze Age mythology of 2,000 years ago would be of any meaningful benefit to the clients, as there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support such an assumption. 

With that said; while I wish you and your agency the best, I must humbly decline the opportunity of becoming a clinician at ________ [therapy clinic].

-Christopher Tucker, LPC, CADC I

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