Discrimination in the Mental Health Professions

In the Mental Health and Creative Therapies field many professional organizations, graduate schools, and state credentialing agencies require extensive written and/or oral testing to prove competency. These tests can be quite daunting. For persons with disabilities, they are frequently effective barriers to the professions.

These markers are essentially gate-keeping devices, whose primary function is to limit the number of persons within a given field. While the justification for such devices is public safety and welfare, there is no reliable data to support the assertion that testing is correlated to skill, compassion, or even, knowledge. Yet testing is endemic and expanding. The primary  function of testing seems to be economic: to limit the number of persons dividing resources within a professional field.

Making the situation worse, in these professions there are few provisions for MEANINGFUL accommodations. There is no excuse for blatant discrimination among organizations supposedly devoted to inclusive practices. Psychologists, Mental Health Counselors, Expressive Therapists and Psychodramatists should all understand the necessity for diversity within their fields, and put  adequate accommodations, including alternative documentation procedures into place for credentialing and licensure.

Further, these organizations, and others, including the School for Playback Theatre, should actively recruit persons with a wide variety of cognitive and physical disabilities to teach classes, workshops, and seminars. (How often have you attended a professional educational event facilitated or led by a person with an obvious disability? As I am usually the only visibly disabled person – and often one of very few males, I often feel quite alone at professional meetings. Making things worse, I am not at all sure I could successfully navigate the demands of credentialing at this point in my life and career.

The healing professions, including those engaged in, or influenced by, the Expressive Arts Therapies, should be lighthouses to persons sailing the rough seas of disability. It is past time the Mental Health professions took active, and decisive steps, toward inclusion of persons with disabilities.

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