Diversity and CTAMFT
The following post is the first in a series of posts on the CTAMFT blog that addresses the CTAMFT’s efforts to add diversity initiatives to their strategic plan and some of the challenges that arise as part of that process. Please go to www.ctamft.org to read the other posts related to this topic…
I wanted to use this opportunity to comment on some of the discussion during and following the board meeting on the issue of diversifying our profession not only in terms of the membership but in terms of the ways and the venues in which we provide our services.
I would like to voice my individual opinion on the issue of how we as a board can most effectively tackle the issue of diversity in our profession or at least in our state. My sense is that everyone on the board cares very much about this issue but that there is a healthy amount of fear and trepidation about how to address and discuss this issue in a politically correct way or in such a way that no one is offended or comes off looking insensitive to issues of race.
In my opinion political correctness has no place in this process as it keeps people from speaking honestly and from asking questions. Race/diversity is a sticky topic and creates a lot of discomfort and that’s ok. As a board we will continue to go nowhere if we are unwilling to be uncomfortable when discussing this issue. The discussion on shifting agencies to more systemic thinking and the notion of “dumbing down” our profession in my view is evidence of a lack of awareness about 1) the assumptions that are embedded in such a statement and 2) what is truly required to diversify our field.
If as a profession we decide that we want to stay 100% true to our origins and remain a specialized group of clinicians that work privately with wealthy or commercially insured (which is the same thing) clients and are ok to shrink in our numbers rather than expand our philosophical foundation; fine. If however, we as a profession wish to grow and be more reflective of our society, where in less than 20 years White people in this country will no longer be the majority; we need to be willing to have a frank discussion about these often difficult issues and table our individual anxieties and fears until we have an action plan in place.
I will personally mix the martinis after the meeting for those of us who need to exhale and let off some steam afterwards!
I would also add that this is a class issue as well as a diversity issue. There are plenty of ethnic minorities that are middle class; especially in Fairfield county and throughout our state. They are not the client population that we’re talking about. However in terms of diversifying our ranks it should be noted that middle class ethnically diverse applicants to our programs are typically not more than one or two generations removed from a lower social class and likely have extended family members that have not asended to their social class. Many of these new colleagues will be interested primarily in working in settings where they can impact the lives of people in their communities; which means agencies, hospitals etc. This issue touches many of the other things that are part of our strategic planning such as how our members can better support themselves financially in our field, identifying better career paths within agencies, hospitals and other institutions etc.
In short, there is much work to do here and I just hope that going forward we can have more frank and open discussion about the underlying attitudes that have made mft’s on a national as well as state level impotent in the area of diversity throughout the profession’s history. I feel confident that we can then come up with a plan that will put us our desired path. I encourage you all to blog about your thoughts or feelings about this or any other topic. Blog posts do not have to be warm and fuzzy, cold and prickly works too! In any scenario candor is ideal.
Kristen Orakwue is a CTAMFT board member, a clinician at FSW, Inc, in Bridgeport and is in private practice with the Collaborative Counseling Group inTrumbull, CT. She is also the administrtor of this blog.