My perspective: Individuals with behavioral healthcare needs under attack

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Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Richard Chapman

I am a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida. Before that, I was an advocate for individuals with both developmental disabilities and behavioral health care needs. I was educated by some of the best individuals on the planet. Some of these individuals have the traditional behavioral health care training. Also, some of these individuals are family members and individuals that have behavioral healthcare needs. What I got most out of my education is the fact that I needed to listen to my clients and the families that we serve. We are not in the age of Sigmund Freud. During that time, the psychotherapist was seen as at the one that has most of the power in the room. As a psychotherapist, I only have power because the client has more power. I have the obligation to listen to the families and the clients that I provide support to.

I understand the movement in the United States Congress to restrict freedoms of children and adults with behavioral healthcare needs. This is coming from a place of fear. They do not want to see another Newtown or Florida State University. They are labeling people with behavioral health care needs that have done nothing wrong. Just because you have a mental illness, does not make you a violent person. As a behavioral healthcare practitioner, I believe that we need to take the lead from the client and their families.

If I don’t have buy-in from the client or their families, I am not going to get anywhere in the treatment. What I find most disturbing is the reliance on mandated treatment or so-called assisted outpatient treatment programs. We cannot mandate treatment just because we don’t understand, or we have a misconception about what a person with a mental illness is. We must do everything we can to protect the rights of persons with mental illness and their families.

So what needs to be done? We need to begin with dialogue. This dialogue must happen with both consumers and professionals at the table. I am encouraged by the Children’s Mental Health Networks continued call for dialogue and education. I hope to continue to be able to provide my perspective on this very important issue. 

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richardRichard Chapman is a mental health counselor in the state of Florida. He has his license and is the president of Tampa Bay community counseling. As a mental health counselor, his primary specialty is working with individual that have trauma-related disorder, as well as individuals and families with disabilities.

Richard is involved in disability advocacy efforts local and state. He is a consultant to disability rights groups and other organizations working towards using for individuals with all disabilities. He is a member of the Board of Directors of disability rights Florida, Florida's protection and advocacy system for persons with disabilities. Richard has been involved with the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Richard is active in several professional organizations related to mental health counseling.

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