Wednesday, July 01, 2015

LGBTQ Community and Marriage... and Rocky Road Ice Cream???

Well, typically as a mental health professional I stay out of subjects that are controversial on a social scale. Naturally, I see individuals and these subjects arise, though it is my ethical responsibility to work from their value system and perspective. However, as the subject of the Supreme Court ruling is being discussed heavily in the media (both professional and social), I felt that I may pipe in with my own two cents on the matter.

Firstly, as is discussed in my blog profile, I am a mental health counselor by trade and follow the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. As such, I am required to provide services that are multiculturally sensitive, as well as to practice in my areas of competency. Being multiculturally sensitive does not mean what many think it means. I have heard some ignorantly say that it means mental health counselors must put aside their personal beliefs and values and advocate for values within the societal and individual system that may go against their own. Thus, it would make the profession amoral, as in it has no moral system that guides it on an individual basis as the professional would be required to give up their belief system. That couldn't be further from the truth. What it actually means is that we, as professionals and individuals maintain our personal value system, we work to become self-aware of our value system and how it may interact with other value systems that may not coincide with our own. Thus, we are able to skillfully competently control our value system and how it might influence others on a conscious or subconscious level. We are held accountable for our value system and how we essentially push it onto others. For example, on a simplistic level and only for the purpose of explanation, my value system may say that the best and most enjoyable flavor of ice cream is Rocky Road (which it is); however, my client's value system is such that Neopolitan is the most enjoyable and flavorful. Let's say my client is struggling with their spouse whose favorite ice cream is also Rocky Road. They have heated arguments about it and it results in marital discord. My natural inclination is to agree with the spouse as I also love Rocky Road. Without being aware of my bias, I can inadvertently side with the spouse, thus causing more stress and anxiety to the client and affecting the therapeutic relationship. On the other hand, if I am able to skillfully identify my own bias to Rocky Road, and to focus on my client and their struggle with their spouse and the resulting discomfort they have, then I can be empathetic to them and demonstrate my empathy through reflective listening and other skills. Thus, I would maintain the integrity of the relationship with my client, helping them work through their own struggles (which really have nothing to do with ice cream) while simultaneously maintaining my own personal conviction about the deliciousness of Rocky Road.

Now, I know that this is simplistic, and that many would argue that I am minimizing the importance of the public arguments about the Supreme Court ruling on the lawfulness of Gay Marriage. However, it is a likeness that I would like to use as a demonstration of the process that is going on. There are those who say that this Supreme Court ruling is Constitutional and others say it is not. By the way, this is not a political article. (If you want to argue politics, do it with someone who is much more adept at it). Those that say it is Unconstitutional may also say that it is wrong, and/or immoral or something else. Those that say it is Constitutional may say that it has nothing to do with being moral or immoral, but rather it is a person's right to show their love to an individual through marriage whether their orientation be straight, gay, bisexual, etc. Thus, the argument results in heightened levels of emotions and then philosophical, religious, and politically-lined debates to prove who is right and who is wrong; or to justify one's position in a logical manner. Either way, it ends in the same thing...judgment, anger, and hurt. Now, being a counselor, I would say that there is nothing wrong with being hurt. Hurt feelings and pain can be a breeding ground for change. My old boss used to say "Out of the ashes of pain, beautiful things can grow." I agree. I'm not justifying bullying or people being mean, because that is wrong. As you can see, I'm taking the side of the survivors and victims of hurt, and not the dealers of it. But, I digress. The point I am trying to reach is that one may have personal conviction and evidence to support their value that this decision was good/right or bad/wrong. And living in the US of A, and having their Freedom of Speech gives them the right to voice it. As such, they are accountable and responsible for the words they say. Furthermore, an individual has the right to have their opinion. Yet, it is possible for people to become aware of their values and biases and even though it may go against another, they can still support and love the individual WITHOUT compromising their own value. It is possible to love all people, yet not agree with an opposing belief systems and value. Yes, that may cause some discomfort, but once again, I believe (this is my value) that discomfort can be a growth-promoting tool. Once again, a person can maintain their own beliefs WITHOUT compromise and still love a person. Notice, I did not say that they must necessarily advocate or support the other person's belief system. I only mean to say that they love the other by simple virtue of them being of the same Human family. It does not mean you agree with, advocate for, or support compromising values. Just love or care for the person as that is a quality that does not require agreement. In fact, a person who can express love for someone that they don't agree with shows an even higher level of love, in my opinion.

That's all I have to say for now...