Several months ago I posted about Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, an organization founded by psychologist Bill Doherty during the presidential campaign. Now Doherty has announced the formation of its replacement, Citizen Therapists for Democracy, an international dues-paying association dedicated to newly evolving goals.
As Doherty stated in his launch-related email, goals of Citizen Therapists for Democracy include the following:
- Learning and spreading transformative ways to practice therapy with a public dimension
- Rebuilding democratic capacity in communities
- Resisting anti-democratic ideologies and practice
Some excerpted points from the Citizen Therapists FAQ section:
If it’s partisan politics (vote for my candidate or party), then it doesn’t have a place in therapy. But if politics broadly means how people with different views figure out how to live together and govern themselves—and then the policies that emerge from this process—then it’s game for conversation in therapy.
To be quite concrete, if you treat anxious or depressed Latino or Muslim clients who are frightened about Trumpism (and anti-Semitism is on the rise), is your job only to treat their symptoms or to also oppose the public xenophobia? We believe the nature of our work inherently combines public and private.
Keep in mind that Citizen Therapists for Democracy is not an “anti” movement. We are promoting democracy and public mental health, and in those contexts will oppose threats from any quarter. Further, there is collective power when members of a healing profession engage the public domain in their role as professionals.
On the matter of the blank slate, it’s really a myth in therapy. If a client learns that his/her therapist is in an organization that opposes aspects of Trumpism, well, that’s probably not going to be such a big surprise based on lots of assumptions the client has already made (you drive a Prius and have the New Yorker magazine in the waiting room). In the same way, if a client worries out loud about family members being rounded up and deported, and the therapist agrees that this is a scary public policy, is this not a validation rather than a misuse of therapist power?
The social forces that allowed Donald Trump the man to become President, and that are rising around the world, are so much bigger than his personality that focusing on a diagnosis risks marginalizing the contributions of therapists. Once mental health professionals took a diagnostic position during the campaign, that’s all the media wanted to know from them—before the media moved on to more interesting topics.
On the other hand, “You’re probably NOT a good fit if any of the following is a big ‘yes’ for you” (from the same link):
- Your main focus for action now is making sure Trump is a one-term President with a Democratic Congress after two years.
- You think that therapists must continue to beat the drum that Trump has a personality disorder that makes him unfit to be President.
- Your main approach to Trump supporters in the White working class is help them see how they’ve been duped.
- You believe that Progressive politics has most of the answers to our nation’s problems, with Conservatives having little or nothing to offer.
- It would feel weird to have Conservative therapists share a social change organization with you.