Challenges in Mental Health Care: The Sickness v. Wellness Perspective (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Mental health care is a challenging, but rewarding field.  There are many positive sides of mental health care, and also areas that need improvement.  One of the biggest rewards of mental health care is observing and experiencing progress, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients.  Healing, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients in mental health settings requires patience, understanding, respect, and sensitivity.  Agency and organizational stability is also needed for clients in order that they receive optimal care.  While each agency and/or organization has its own culture, a culture in which workers live in fear of becoming a statistic in extremely high turnover is unhealthy in itself.

As an individual working toward licensure in the mental health profession, I am one whose perspective is from a position of wellness.  First and foremost, one must view a person as a person.  To perceive and treat a person with respect, kindness, nonjudgment, and impartiality are requirements in supporting and empowering the wellness, healing, and recovery of clients.  In the counseling profession, one based on a view of wellness in people, there exists a positive and supportive hope for the overall optimal health of the individual.

This view is different from many other mental health professions in which the general view of the client is one of sickness.  Certainly, approaching an individual with a perspective of what can be improved is helpful, and for insurance purposes involving payment for services rendered, a diagnosis of the client is required, however it is my perspective that viewing the client from a wellness standpoint is much more healthy for all involved rather than judging a person as being sick.

Those who view and describe an individual as a “sick person” have already negatively judged him or her.  They have not viewed the person as a person, but as an “ill person.”  Such a perspective held by such individuals causes them to treat the client differently, as one who needs more and more treatment, more and more medication, more and more confinement.  In these situations, the positive view of wellness is gone, and is replaced by a judgment that the “sick person” is unable to become well.

While clients have challenges to achieving and maintaining wellness, it becomes even more of a challenge when many in the mental health field view clients as sick, and only they as the professionals who hold those views have the power and expertise to make them well – or they have already judged that they will never become well.  A professional who approaches a client from a perspective of wellness (a perspective that is in the minority), therefore, faces even more challenges, not only for themselves but also for their clients when others view them as sick and unable to become well.  A person is still a person, regardless of their diagnosis or disorder.  A person is still a person, and has the capability of becoming well.  A hopeful perspective toward client wellness must exist in the mental health profession – rather than client sickness – in order that clients are supported and empowered to experience that wellness.

A further challenge in agencies and/or organizations in which a “sickness” perspective prevails is that experienced clinicians fall into the trap of believing that their views and judgments about clients are the best – that they are the experts.  Certainly, the experience of a veteran clinician is extremely valuable in treating clients, however experienced clinicians who believe that only their views, judgments, and culture of sickness are the most helpful approaches create a potentially dangerous situations for their clients.  Clinicians of all levels of experience must be open-minded to considering and perceiving different views – including those from a wellness perspective – so that their clients receive optimal care and so that they profession, itself, can grow and develop in a healthy way.

Clinicians who view clients from a perspective of illness and negative judgment place their clients at risk for further illness.  Clinicians who are set in their ways of expertise toward mental health treatment, and who are unable to be open-minded toward viewing different perspectives regarding it have already erected walls around themselves that are harmful for themselves, their clients, the culture of their agency/organization, and the field of mental health.

What clinicians must always place as a primary priority is that people are people.  As such, people should be treated with dignity, understanding, kindness, respect, and sensitivity.  If a perspective of client wellness is lacking or absent, clients will likely experience a more difficult road to recovery and may not achieve wellness.  What is healthier – being an “expert” clinician whose views of client illness cause him or her to be closed to considering a client’s optimal recovery, or being a clinician who treats a person as a person, and who applies a wellness perspective that supports rather than negatively judges the client?  You be the judge.

“Perspectives on Gift-Giving” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Wrapped Gift Boxes (Retrieved from http://jeannekolenda.com/a-christmas-gift-for-you-2 on December 28, 2013)

Wrapped Gift Boxes (Retrieved from http://jeannekolenda.com/a-christmas-gift-for-you-2 on December 28, 2013)

Through the years, I have acquired and contemplated different perspectives on gift-giving, especially as it pertains to giving gifts to men.  Basically, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of men are unable to successfully cope with receiving gifts from women.  The situation is even worse when the woman is single or divorced because many men seem to believe the woman has ulterior motives and wants something from him – or wants to give something to him, namely sex – if she gives him a gift.  I would like to take some time to analyze my observations to follow.

There are many reasons that a woman may give a gift to a man.  Within a committed partnership or marriage, there is an expectation that partners are supposed to give and receive gifts with each other.  In situations in which a woman is single or divorced, as in my case, however, I have noticed that most men jump to all kinds of incorrect conclusions, and make misjudgments and inaccurate assumptions when a woman gives a man a gift.  I have always wondered why that is, and what in our cultural and society that seems to cause it to be so taboo for women to give gifts to men, and for men to receive gifts from women, particularly those who are in a platonic and/or professional relationship that does not involve anything sexually intimate.

When I give a gift – whether to a man, woman, or child – for whatever reason, I gain satisfaction, fulfillment, and intrinsic personal rewards from being giving.  It makes me feel good to be giving, and I like to be giving.  Whether I give restaurant gift card to a man in simple gratitude and in return for some nice personal or professional action he has taken on my behalf, or whether I send a card or letter in appreciation, I was taught to be thankful, to show my gratitude, and to give something back in return for what I received.  That was something that was ingrained into me from a very young age.  One does not simply “take” from another without showing gratitude and doing something good and nice in return.

So, this brings me to my gift-giving dilemma regarding men.  In my entire life, I will estimate that there have been only four men who have been able to accept a gift from me of a restaurant gift card, or some other gift, and still continue to maintain a good, platonic, respectful professional relationship with me.  Out of how many men in my life who have ever been kind to me or who have done something nice for me, and for whom I have provided something appropriate in return, it does not say much that only four men have appeared to have been able to cope and interact with me in the same manner as prior to my giving the gift to them.  Most men seem to lose respect for women who give gifts to them, as I have experienced.  And that, in turn, causes me to lose respect for them because they are unable to accept me for who I am.

Of course, there are other reasons that women give gifts to men, as well.  Sometimes, giving a gift to a man could be to test his reaction, to see if he will actually behave and interact with her in the same manner as he did previously, or if he will change in his interactions toward her – whether positively or negatively.  At other times, and because men are so easily driven away by women who give gifts to them, women may purposely do so in order to actually drive the man away.  Of course, there may be reasons for that in that perhaps he has repeatedly harassed or sexually harassed her in the past, and she believes there is no other alternative but to make him stop by creating a similar situation toward him that he did toward her.

Additionally, in my experience, men who are very hyper-masculine have much difficulty in receiving any type of gift from a woman unless it is sexual in nature.  I believe this is due to society’s highly and inaccurately sexualized portrayals that women always wants to fling themselves at men and that men always want sex.  Most men appear to feel threatened in some way by a woman who gives them a gift.  And, it is not only the men who are hyper-masculine who have difficulty in accepting gifts from women, but most average men, as well.  Also, those men who are very insecure and lack confidence in themselves are truly unable to cope with receiving gifts from women.  Once received, they say they don’t want the gift or even return it after, at first, having said it was an item that they wanted.  Only those men who appear to have much confidence in themselves have ever evidenced to me that they can successfully cope with receiving any type of gift from me, both as a woman, and as a divorced, single woman.

Such behavior by men can often leave women confused, disappointed, frustrated, and hurt.  Women typically do not behave in such a manner when another women gives her a platonic gift, in support, gratitude, or appreciation for something.  Women do not appear to have the same strings attached in receiving gifts from women that men have.  So, entering into the realm of gift-giving toward men is a completely different world.  Based on the reactions that I have received from many men to my own gift-giving throughout the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to just send a “thank you” letter or send nothing at all.  I think that this is what most men expect when they do something nice for a woman – or, perhaps, they expect nothing at all.

Therefore, I am thankful to all of the men who have not appreciated my gifts throughout the years because they have taught me that it is better to invest in my son and myself, my family.  But for the four or so men who have been successfully able to cope with receiving gifts from me as a woman and/or divorced, single woman who has absolutely no other interest in them but to show gratitude and appreciation, any further gift-giving that I do with men will likely be on a very minimal scale.  Most men truly need to be able to cope with and appreciate receiving gifts from women, without losing respect for them, without changing their behavior and interactions toward them in a negative manner, and without allowing their minds to reach gutter level.  It has been a difficult lesson to learn, though I am thankful for having come to the realization that I have on gift-giving regarding most men.