Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Being strategic, not just right

One of my social work professional organizations -- PO -- is creating a new committee on substance abuse treatment. An announcement went out on the listserv:

PO Metropolitan Chapter announces a new committee is being formed: Committee on Substance Abuse

We are hoping to form a committee this Spring and hope to facilitate our first educational offering in the Fall.

Committee Chair: Narrow-Minded Twit, LCSW

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new committee on substance abuse. We will cover all addictions such as alcohol, cocaine, narcotics, food, debt, sex, as well as co dependents. The focus will be on integrating the recovery process in addiction in 12 Step Programs with the practice of psychotherapy as well as theories of psychodynamic psychotherapy such as ego psychology, object relations and attachment theories. In addition we will explore all avenues of recovery such as harm reduction.

We need members with an interest in serving on this committee. At this juncture, we are hoping to form a committee this Spring and hope to facilitate our first educational offering in the Fall. In addition to networking/educational offerings, we are interested in forming an ongoing study group.

Narrow-Minded Twit, LCSW will head up the substance abuse group. NMT is in private practice and is Supervisor and Senior Clinician at A Very Psychoanalytic Counseling Center. She has published professional articles and book chapters on the topic of integrating 12 Step programs with psychotherapy and has taught and facilitated dozens of workshops throughout the metropolitan area.

If you'd like to join in this new committee, please contact NMT, LCSW at nmtluvsfreud@aol.com 

I wanted to join, and this is what happened:

I emailed Narrow-Minded Twit expressing interest in the committee and we spoke very briefly on the phone. She told me the committee will focus on treatment that first addresses the trauma substance abusers inflict on their already-traumatized selves by abusing substances, using an attachment/object relations perspective and connecting this work to the 12 steps. 

After I told her that my orientation is primarily CBT / motivational interviewing, she said she'd heard from a number of interested clinicians and didn't really have time to talk to me about it right then, but she didn't think I'd feel "comfortable" on the committee. 

I am very disappointed that a new committee would only include people with skills and experience in one modality and orientation, rather than trying to attract an eclectic mix of practitioners. Furthermore, substance abuse is rampant among those who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, and many in that population cannot afford analysis and aren't comfortable in AA or NA because they can't always tolerate a long meeting and they're often criticized for "depending" on psychiatric medications. (I don't think NA criticizes diabetics for taking insulin.) 

At my last job, I worked at a forensic substance abuse non-intensive outpatient program, with the majority of our referrals coming from parole, probation, and drug treatment courts. Those stakeholders will not refer patients to psychoanalysis, group or individual. Do these patients not deserve caring, ethical treatment? 

The committee is effectively overlooking a significant proportion of potential clients -- the kind of underserved, disenfranchised clients that social workers have traditionally most wanted to help. Furthermore, the committee leader is actively discouraging certain clinicians who would be interested in participating. I'm quite disappointed at this narrow, exclusionary focus. Is there no room in PO for non-psychoanalysts?

That is the text of what I thought was a listserv post  to all the members. Instead, it went directly to one of the PO Metropolitan chapter officers. Not sure exactly what her role is. She originally posted the announcement. Anyway, she wrote back:

Ayelet, I'm sorry to hear that your experience was less than welcoming. I'll forward your email to our Board and see what comes of it. Then I'll get back to you. 

There are many programs that are not particularly analytical--our recent conference with [a prominent psychiatrist] was neuro-biological perspectives on breathing exercises and experiential. And there are others.

Thanks for your sincere and thoughtful letter. I'll keep you posted.

I was wondering why my post hadn't hit the listserv. I wrote back:

I'm so sorry -- I meant to post this on the listserv. I appreciate your response, and if you would prefer that I not post it publicly, I will respect that. 

In my heart of hearts I was hoping she'd tell me to go ahead and post it openly. No such luck.

Yes, I think it better not to post it on the listserv. Let us see what can be cleared up, back-channel. Good mistake. :)

Now, I enjoys me a good public flamewar, like the one I had with Doofus on the Nefesh listserv. But I'm trying to use more strategery in my professional life these days. If one of the officers of the organization is going to make inquiries on my behalf, I'm not going to defy her. Smart, huh?

Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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