How harmless is our practice as a mental health professional?

Are we prepared to take responsibility for our mental health practice?

How harmless is our practice as a mental health professional?

Having worked as a counsellor in the mental health arena for a number of years I have witnessed many changes in terms of our understanding and treatment of mental illness, yet one thing that hasn’t changed has been our duty to ensure that our work does not cause further harm to our clients. This ‘do no harm’ principle provides a moral and ethical compass that practitioners are expected to adhere to whereby we are called to be accountable and transparent in our actions and make decisions based on client rather than personal needs.

It may seem like a ‘given’ that we should approach our work in this way yet, do we as health professionals really understand the level of responsibility being called for here? Outwardly it can appear that we are meeting the ‘do no harm’ standard as we are up to date with our professional development, using the latest evidence-based research, haven’t been receiving any complaints about our practice and the clients love us and are seemingly tracking along reasonably well. But what if there is a whole other layer to what duty of care and do no harm really mean?

We are told we should delineate between our professional and personal lives, yet what is happening in one flows into the other, with the client on the receiving end of all that is going on. Each professional has their own particular style of working which is a mix of their training, their ideals and beliefs around mental illness and their own personal life experiences. Yes, the world is in a mess and often there is a burning desire to help others and make the world a better place and as free from illness and disease as possible. This all sounds very altruistic and well intentioned and many workers whole-heartedly throw themselves into their practice.

The worker who is fuelled by drive, passion and a willingness to go ‘all-out’ for others, especially their clients/patients, is hailed as a valuable, caring worker who is good at getting the job done. But underneath all that we also have other motivators that we seldom, if ever, admit to or perhaps even recognise.

How many workers, for example, have low self-worth issues and so look to the job to meet their unmet and unacknowledged needs? Often workers resort to attending endless amounts of professional training and gain further qualifications so they can appear knowledgeable to those around them. Title, qualifications, salary and the ability to eloquently ‘talk the talk’ all count and when we can add a few letters after our name, people take notice!

"You are more than enough by simply being you."

Serge Benhayon Teachings & Revelations for The Livingness Volume III, ed 1, p 75

Sometimes people work in this area of health because it is a job where they can hide their own insecurities and disorganised lifestyles. After all, compared to the clients they work with they can appear very sane and rational, despite the fact that their personal life may be just as messy as that of their clients. It’s also a fact that some workers secretly enjoy the decision-making power over others that comes with a role, and or take on the work because they enjoy the drama and the stimulation from working in a high-pressure, acute setting. Perhaps the worker was drawn to the field because of their own unresolved mental ill health issues and so use their work as their own brand of personal therapy.

The variations on these types of agenda running in the background are endless, but rarely are we prepared to admit having them, let alone take a closer look; instead, we focus on building up our public persona. One thing for sure, what lies beneath the external face we present in our workplaces is far more potent in determining the quality of our day-to-day work than anything we have formally been taught and although it might remain nameless and technically out of sight, it is nonetheless there.

Our clients and colleagues can feel it all because every thought, word and movement creates an energetic ripple which really raises the bar in terms of needing to take personal responsibility for the integrity of every nook and cranny of our lives.

There are also systemic factors that influence the way we work and which we need to be aware of. The field of mental health is a multi-corporate, multibillion-dollar industry that receives huge amounts of funding in the quest to stem the tide of global rates of mental illness. Researchers are all vying for funding, publication and subsequent uptake of their results and recommendations by mainstream mental health services and clinicians. Multinational corporations wield an enormous amount of power over what is taught in universities and what becomes accepted as evidence-based standard practice. There is a trickledown effect with our ideals and beliefs about mental health, and the paradigms we swear by in our work are strongly shaped and fashioned by these various stakeholders. We are subject to the biases and the vested interests of those involved and unless we are willing to be discerning about what and where we are sourcing information from, we can find ourselves caught with tunnel vision.

The development of diagnostic criteria that set the parameters around what is and isn’t a mental ill health condition offers a prime example of what is presented here. What has been ‘allowed’ in and what has been excluded from accredited assessment and diagnostic manuals and questionnaires has proven itself to be a hotly contested space. But few stop to consider what goes on behind the scenes – the biases, bickering, power struggles and sense of entitlement and ownership – before the final result is released. The obvious implications here are that it has been a fiercely fought battle with winners and losers whereby some research is given priority and voices are heard, while others are overridden or dismissed. Individualism is in full swing with competition, comparison and jealousy all playing a part.

We treat the end product as if all the earlier disregard and in-fighting didn’t matter, but what would we find if we had an assessment that measured the foundational level of integrity and respect used in the creation of the items we carry around in our tool kits and use routinely in practice?

What is the actual quality of the energetic imprints that have been left behind each step of the way in the creation of these manuals and questionnaires etc.? We take the end product at face value, but what went on in the lead up to the end design impacts on the quality of item at both a temporal and energetic level and is subsequently passed on to both ourselves and our clients.

If we truly want our practice to be harmless, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our clients and our colleagues that goes beyond the usual workplace code of conduct and meeting the accreditation requirements of our professional discipline.

Additionally, many of us are required legally and by our workplaces and medical systems to use such items, which may suit us when we rely on the security of having some type of external evidence to tell us what is ‘wrong’ with a client and what needs to happen next, rather than having the confidence to trust our own innate wisdom and judgment. To delve any deeper into looking at why we prefer to give our power away to something outside of us means disturbing the status quo, which is not something the majority of us want to do.

None of what is presented here is meant to denigrate or downplay the importance of the role we play, and no one would argue that the majority of clinicians are very caring, decent people who really want to support their clients to the best of their ability and using the resources available. What has been raised here for consideration are some of the less obvious ways our identity as a mental health professional has been shaped, and the flow on implications for our practice. It is not a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater: we do need to continue with using existing formal diagnostic pathways, therapies and drugs because they are essential at the current time. But let’s also complement our approach by utilising the fact that everything we humans do has an energetic basis that sets up the human outplay.

We are the lynchpin in all of this and by firstly connecting with what is going on internally and responding to what our body and inner-heart is communicating to us, we are giving ourselves permission to grow and develop a much deeper relationship with ourselves and by extension, others around us. We are then activating whole body intelligence, i.e., the combination of the mind, body and inner-heart, thereby giving us a powerful compass for navigating all of life. Being able to show our clients that we are prepared to walk our talk is essential if they are to trust anything we do and or say. The changes we make may appear subtle on the exterior, but they will be noticed and definitely felt.

" Baby steps are needed to take us back to our grand intelligence so that, amongst many other ancient truths, we may understand the crucial and very needed science and medicine of energetic integrity and energetic responsibility."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 586

Hence there is a golden opportunity on offer here to broaden our capacity to respond to our own and our clients’ needs in a truly meaningful way. Some will refuse what we are offering, but many won’t. To observe someone confidently manage the speed bumps in life without getting dragged under, is the gold clients have been longing and searching for and sends them the message that it is safe for them to also venture out and take their rightful place in the world again. We are then delivering true mental health care and can rightfully claim that in our practice we ‘do no harm’.

"The 'given-up' mentality is a pandemic worldwide problem that is the root cause of all ill mental health issues. Only love and commitment to life dissolve the giving-up energy."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 318

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MedicineMental healthPractitionerResponsibilitySelf-worth

  • Photography: Michele Aboud