A tragic mistake of our time in history has been a series of splits: between clinical work and public work, between personal ethics and public ethics, between what we owe those we serve and interact with closely and what we owe our community and the larger public world.
A citizen therapist understands the connection between personal and public issues, allows public issues to be part of therapy, and works to promote the health of communities and the larger world.
A citizen therapist helps clients with public stress from societal and environmental stressors (recent examples include police shootings and urban riots, and the COVID pandemic), and from political strife (such as contentious elections and political polarization). A citizen therapist makes a place for these issues in clinical practice as they interface with the client’s goals and life circumstances.
A citizen therapist also works outside the office to tackle issues that affect our clients’ lives. In other words, a citizen therapist does not just treat clients who are affected by various forms of “societal pollution,” but tries to work with others to prevent or clean up that pollution in an upstream approach.
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge (and therefor joy) is to play out the “engaged citizen” part, which means thinking beyond private practice, beyond support groups you offer, or even beyond a self-help coaching or membership model. Those are all great things, but notice they have you on top as the expert service provider.
In a citizen therapist role, expertise is “on tap, not top” which means that you work alongside other communities to tackle problems and make changes.
There are many ways to engage at the community level as a citizen therapist, and we’d love to hear from you about your own efforts or dreams you are having about a population and a problem you want to engage upstream or beyond your clinical practice of therapy. They can small, medium, or large, short term or long term. Think of it as your work for the public health.
We want to help you transcend the personal/public split in your clinical work and in your community.
Bill’s next book, with Tai Mendenhall, will be on the citizen therapist, to be published by the American Psychological Association.
If you’re intrigued, click the button below and we’ll send along a series of emails over time and invite to you to some free webinars.
If you are already doing citizen therapist work, Bill and Tai would love to feature you in their book and on this website. Check out this form to see describe your work and learn if it fits with citizen therapist approach.