The freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently. ― Rosa Luxemburg
It’s becoming a proverbial axiom that whenever any topic related to legislation overemphasizes the word freedom, the subsequent proposal is often attached to an avalanche of restrictions for the non-recipient. What’s not mentioned, and rarely understood, is how the intended beneficiary of these freedoms unwittingly experiences captivity by default.
In governor Bill Haslam’s self-appointed role as a surrogate mental health practitioner, his unrivaled clinical wisdom has provided licensed counselors in the state of Tennessee the “opportunity” to refuse services to clients based on any religious (aka personal) disapproval of their client’s values. To my knowledge, a values-based spectrum disorder hasn’t been planned for future editions of the DSM; but let’s not ignore the monolithic hues available within this freedom of diagnostic choice. For example, the freedom of not being able to assist a client because we don’t agree with their values will surely benefit both the practitioner and the person who is in need of therapeutic support. The freedom of not knowing how to interact with complex multicultural issues or lifestyle proclivities will most likely augment the therapist’s comprehensive understanding of how to apply specialized modalities in psychology while inadvertently strengthening community cohesion by expressing consideration for all genders, lifestyles, sexual preferences, and matters related to ethnology. The freedom to preemptively impose judgment on any individual who is suffering from mental illness, cognitive dissonance, social taboos, or situational stressors will certainly illuminate a path to emotional equanimity with the added bonus of “freeing up” any responsibility for influencing adaptive decision making. If Freud’s cautionary advice regarding the narcissism of small differences was ever disheartening, surely this force multiplier for discrimination will altruistically buffer the ongoing stigma of seeking mental health treatment.
Once again, the specious banner of freedom is conveniently smothering access for those who are already hesitant about engaging in psychosocial services. Instead of promoting inclusive policies to embrace diversity within diverse communities, a tendentiously retrograde maneuver to amplify exclusivity is clearly on offer as Tennessee becomes even more landlocked as a southeastern beacon for bigotry. Therapists in the Volunteer State have been advised to avoid thinking globally while being legally encouraged to increase prejudice and bias locally. In conjunction, the only qualified clinicians left to choose from will be those who are willing to volunteer (pun most likely intended) treatment in the face of this risible policy. What a privilege it is for trained counselors to rejoice in the wake of Haslam’s success―removing any scintilla of discomfort practitioners may face when confronted by a challenging client who inherited dissimilar life experiences.
Is it a coincidence that the state’s official bird is now mocking us? Indeed, a decided diminution of freedom is finally available for us all.