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New Counseling Demand Meeting New Counseling Supply

| #034 | VALUE > psychosocial | 668 words |

As the job market improves and counseling positions become increasingly available to freshly licensed counselors, I wonder how the supply is meeting the demand.

One demand enjoying media attention is in response to our now apparent culture of police brutality. Not just on the back end, responding to the problem, but also the need for counseling at the front end, in a non-punitive and non-stigmatizing fashion, to perchance avoid the problem.

How are police officers trained to engage citizens presenting a threat to themselves and others from ostensibly significant mental health deficits? Listening to our instructor for our wellness counseling course, I realize this need is being addressed.

As a survivor of the abusive judicial system, I take special interest in recorded video clips uploaded to YouTube. In this post, I unpack from a counseling perspective an incident in Pontiac a few years ago and reported by WXYZ-TV Detroit / Channel 7.

The need

In this video you can hear the male officer say as he tazes the subject, “Keep it up, keep it up!” How does this officer’s expression of bravado impact the situation? Is the expression more for the personal benefit of the officer? Or does it aid in any way to secure the situation? Could challenging the subject in this objectified way actually escalate the situation?

Does the officer interpret the subject as having possible mental health deficits? If so, is the officer trained to consider how this likely distorts the subject’s interpretation of the police? Further, what if the subject’s fear is based on actual past encounters with police?

What if their training to prioritize securing the subject in the interest of public (and their own) safety actually correlates with escalating the situation? What if this risk is exacerbated by depersonalizing the subject?

As the subject presents as in fear for his life and continues to resist, the three engaging officers continue to objectify him. They appear to presume the subject is faking his distress. Nonetheless, they do not appear to take him seriously. Understandably, their primary duty is securing safety for everyone. Could the methods they use ultimately undermine this goal?

After tazing the subject again, the male officer orders the subject to get into the police van, as the subject anguishes on the ground uncooperatively. The officers appear to discount the possibility of the subject’s inability to comply due to mental health factors. Could these officers’ reactions be compounding the subject’s mental health?

“Hey, everybody,” the subject cries out to onlookers, “they trying to kill me.” Objectification is then manifest by police when the female officer (Jodi) shouts to the immobilized (but not yet fully secured) subject, “We’re not trying to kill you, you idiot, we’re trying to help you.” A qualified counselor would never call a subject an “idiot.”

In the modern era’s specialization of labor, police culture appears to center upon maintaining security (or “law and order”) at whatever means available to them. Then to let others deal with the consequences. The subject in this video will inevitably be seen by a counselor.

But if the subject is expected to accept this objectification by police as standard, that the subject must do all the changing and not the police, then the climb toward full mental health could be steep and elusive.

The supply

Fortunately, Detroit’s entrepreneurial spirit is providing a proactive alternative. In an interview with CopBlock Network, Dale Brown explains how he started Threat Management Center to train police, for free, to deescalate situations and provide security nonviolently.

Their services are also available to the public. Besides assisting national organizations, TMC has assisted local providers such as Interim House, Haven and Turning Point.

From a counseling perspective, I find it refreshing to find ways to avoid creating mental health crises. And I would prefer my secure employment as a counselor not be based on others’ insecurities. But rather to spur individual and collective wellness, who in turn can spur others toward their full potential. One life at a time.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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