Imagine this scenario, Beth (an MFT and Secretary Clinton supporter) consults with a new client remarking on their indication of work-related problems, specifically relationship issues with co-workers. When questioned about the start of these issues, her client responds, “After the election. I am so sick and tired of hearing about the ‘wrong’ candidate winning. I believe in our new President-Elect and I grew tired of biting my tongue and decided to speak up. Which I suppose they interpreted as my antagonizing them.”
In another office, Randall (an MFT and President-Elect Trump supporter) notes that his new client listed their partner’s anxiety and panic attacks as having an adverse impact on their relationship. When asked for more details, Randall’s client indicates, “The anxiety and panic attacks have really accelerated since Donald Trump’s election. We are both having a difficult time with this election but he is really torn up. We are scared for our kid’s future and the future of everyone who felt threatened by his negative comments on the campaign trail.”
Regardless of how you may have voted in the recent Presidential election, one thing is for certain, you are likely to experience your own professional challenges related to the outcomes. What will guide you when you have an excited supporter and you firmly backed the other candidate in your own life? How will you remain compassionate when the opinions expressed differ so vastly from your own? What will the impacts of a new administration be on our profession and industry as a whole? These challenges are real and undoubtedly you will at some point be affected by them.
Clinical issues – that may involve unpleasant political discourse - must be differentiated from the rancorous rhetoric of the recent campaign. AAMFT has no tolerance for discrimination and our Code of Ethics clearly states so:
Standard 1.1. Non-Discrimination that marriage and family therapists provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status. Communicating to clients that, as an AAMFT member, you believe in and abide by the Code helps establish your therapeutic relationship fundamentals.
As emotionally intense political conversations continue with our clients, peers, and legislators our professional and personal values will undoubtedly get tested. Taking time for self-care and reflection is vitally important. We must remain mindful that our anxieties and turmoil are NOT our clients’ challenges. We have an obligation when feeling therapeutically compromised or impaired to seek peer to peer consultation, engage in self of therapist work, work with an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, or pursue our own MFT services.
Systemically, we must keep in mind that change, regardless of pain and disruption, can provide opportunity at best. At worst, change creates obligations and responsibilities to act as protective agents for those needing protection. We share a responsibility to remain diligent regarding policy changes that threaten equality and inclusiveness. If there ever was a time, it is now, for you to support the Family TEAM so that AAMFT can rely on your actions in times of advocacy needs.
Tracy Todd, PhD, LMFT is the Executive Director of AAMFT.