Archive for Events

Yesterday’s Lunch & Learn

Yesterday I did a talk at the Baltimore Lunch & Learn for the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors of Maryland on the topic of counseling Neo-Pagan clients.

All in all, I thought it went well.  I was pleasantly and well-received, and if anyone thought I was a crackpot for being Pagan they fooled me.  The group was genuinely interested in the topic.  Another Pagan therapist was there who proved very helpful in educating the group on Paganism.

A few thoughts:

  • I barely got to my planned material on how to counsel Pagans, topics Pagan clients are likely to bring up, etc.  Really — the heart of the presentation.  We spent most of our time on what the heck is Paganism and Wicca.  I sometimes forget just how far we have to go in educating the community at large.
  • The “do you sacrifice…” question DID come up.  It is NOT too basic to keep reminding people that we are not involved in dark plots to sacrifice babies, etc.  I went ahead and gave Voudun and Santeria a plug by explaining why chicken and goat sacrifice might not be so horrible, although Neo-Pagans we generally don’t do that.
  •  This was the first professional situation in which the other Pagan therapist had been out of the broom closet.  I suspect we have lots of Pagan therapists afraid or unable to be open professionally.  I think she had a positive and affirming experience.  Part of the reason therapists are not out with their religion is that, in many contexts, its considered inappropriate.  This is a whole seperate topic we could discuss.  However, spirituality IS a part of holistic healing and the trend in counseling is towards allowing discussion of the spiritual.  The trick is when to discuss the client’s spirituality (without revealing your own) versus when to announce your own spirituality in order to attract clients comfortable with the therapist’s religious/spiritual orientation.  Medical model clinics seem to have the most problems with spirituality being allowed and that’s too bad — there IS preliminary evidence of spirituality being effectual in healing.  Surely even within the medical model spirituality will become allowable if evidence of its usefullness is presented, right?
  • While most of the room agreed in principle with the idea of operating from within the client’s worldview (such as allowing the client to talk to goddesses for example if it seemed useful to the client), they never thought such would work within their own agency.  That is, the therapists in private practice could see working with client’s Pagan beliefs, but the therapists at medical clinics, state-run organizations, and large agencies were quite sure that the client would be sent straight to the psychiatrist for a medication increase.   A few therapists in the room gave examples of not noting unusual beliefs and perceptions in clinical notes for fear the psychiatrist would try to medicate them away.  I find this very disturbing.  One implication of this is that, even if we succeed in educating counselors about Paganism, we will end up with a two-tier system.  Pagans with quality insurance or cash will go to private therapists for well-educated help.  Poor Pagans and the severely mentally ill will end up in institutional environments where their spirituality will be mistaken for psychosis.  It also suggests an ugly division in treatment teams wherein the therapists have different beliefs and goals than the psychiatrists.  This is bad for the patients and terrible for the mental health of the therapists themselves working in such environments.

Comments (4)

« Previous Page « Previous Page Next entries »