All therapists have an ethical mandate to advocate for their clients. Various mental health associations describe this mandate in their codes of ethics. However, many feel a lack of confidence regarding how they should implement this expectation.
For many therapists, advocacy takes the form of strategically writing to health insurance companies or passionately protesting outside of their offices expressing the need for improved client care coverage and accessibility. For others, advocacy is expressed through active association participation, including lobbying on Capitol Hill expressing the need for changed policies, or defending the legitimacy of mental health professional licensure.
Unfortunately, the number of professionals who engage in these direct advocacy efforts are minimal in comparison to the number of licensed professionals in the state. Many of the therapists who do not participate in these activities agree with the need for these perspectives to be actively expressed; however, whether influenced by limited professional time or personal discomfort with overt expressions associated with these activities, many therapists conclude, advocacy simply does not suit them. I do not believe this needs to be the case.
Lambers Fisher, MS, LMFT, MDiv, is an AAMFT Clinical Fellow, and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, with over 15 years of experience counseling individuals, couples and families from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Lambers’ training experience includes facilitating national seminars and guest lecturing on topics related to multicultural awareness and diversity, as well as being an Adjunct Instructor and Supervisor for aspiring mental health and other helping professionals.