|Beyond the Consulting Room - Page 2|
Like most therapists, I went into this profession not just to help my own clients, but to make the world a better place. When I trained, in the 1970s, I thought that therapy was the number-one untapped source of social improvement. I believed in a kind of "trickle up" psychological dynamic, whereby therapy would make enough people healthier to tilt the social order toward justice and harmony. Yes, I actually believed this when we sang "All You Need Is Love" under the moonlight in Bethel, Maine, during summer encounter groups. I even entertained the idea that national transformation would begin when everyone in Congress and the White House got into therapy—or at least a good personal-growth group.
In my own journey since then, I've moved from unrealistic hope to unnecessary despair—and in the last decade, to learning a way to work as a local citizen-therapist, no matter who's running the government in Washington. One of my favorite lines from a superhero movie is the title of Lois Lane's Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial in Superman Returns: "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."
I believe the challenge for us who profess the possibilities of change is to reimagine ourselves as citizen-therapists while keeping our day jobs and not abandoning our families for long junkets to distressed regions of the world. When considering the role models I know who do this type of work, I think of my friend and colleague Bill Allen, who, after seeing too many African American children placed outside their families, began building relationships with Minnesota state officials so as to make policy about foster-home placements. He has credibility with these policymakers, and with others in the community who care about children, not because he majored in public policy, but because, as a family therapist, he knows firsthand what happens to these children, and he knows that many families can hold together with the right kind of professional and community support.