Our New Age Blossoming – 3

Women Emerging – Building Our Future – 3

Something Unexpected

When I was in graduate school in the 1960s there were not a lot of women psychologists and few women in my graduate school class. They seemed ill at ease and I think they sensed something like not belonging. The horizon did not suggest change of their position. Little did we know.

Something Was Different

As I noted in part one of this series, my guide in my first job after getting my Ph.D. was a black woman. I hadn’t been searching for major changes but found them. Yes, I was looking for a new way to deliver mental health services but the possibilities offered were beyond what I had expected. And, honestly, I had not been yearning for a new day for women. But it was developing.

Of course my perspective was not their perspective but quickly I could see an advocacy for change on their part. Some of the women were angry and they were beginning to stand up for themselves.

Women’s Liberation 

Women’s Liberation was what it was called at the time and, for a reason I will never understand, it resonated with me at once. At a convention I heard women were meeting and went to attend. But I was turned away and now I understand why. Men were often arrogant and wanted to assert their power. So, the women needed to meet together first while they laid their own plans and learned to be assertive, even demanding.

That period was the beginning of what I repeatedly call the long wave. It seemed to go underground for awhile but never disappeared. Gradually women gained position and acceptance at least among some men. But, many of us continued to view a problem with older white men. Racism and sexism were part of their problem and we are still working on it.

Broadening the Movement 

And now the women’s movement is multifaceted with women who are willing to assert in general and specific ways. Suddenly we are in touch with the #MeToo movement. It took ever so long to get here but women are now speaking out about the sexual abuse they have suffered. At last they seem to feel safe enough-sometimes.

I think we are going to find there is a long way to go. Surely we will see unexpected revelations and certainly there will be many things exposed. But it seems unlikely we will turn back now and it is all, in the end, a breath of fresh air even if the revelations may sometimes smell badly.

What of Men?

Are men supposed to support the movement? I ask that obvious question because we should not just be observers. Support is indicated. We are seeing that we are opening the full inclusion of women and that means bringing in the full potential of 50% of our population.

But there is another question. Are men to simply approve and support or are we willing to face ourselves? Are we willing to examine the male culture with all its strengths and unfortunate proclivities? My view as a man is that there is often a shocking lack of morality, there is often intimidation which may, for example, be related to the demand for devotion to sports. It seems we have not yet examined things enough to really understand what happens to us and the revolution which is needed among men for men and all of us.

It is not enough to welcome women to equality. In fact we are still a long ways away. But, from my perspective, all of us must face the arrogance and assumptions of superiority of older white men. Our country will soon tip from a dominant white culture to a multiracial society. On our way we have to face the reality of the dominance which there has been for far too long. And it would certainly help if older white men would face themselves.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

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Our New Age Blossoming – 2

 

 

Looking Back

It is now over 50 years later than when I went to work in Baltimore. For me time offers not perspective as much as confirmation. The only perspective I find is that I can now clearly see the roots of my deep mistrust of the truth and wisdom of older white men. In fairness there is diversity among them but in our present age the fact of their rule is distressing in so many regards.

Designing a Delivery System

The community mental health movement came with a multi-part design. I was stationed in an outpatient facility which meant I was to consult with the community and deliver services. That seems simple enough. Go out and get acquainted so you get referrals and then give therapy with the psychiatrists giving medication as necessary. What fools we mortals be!

What we found immediately was that we had a lot of learning to do. The community was challenging to put it mildly. They were in serious need and mental health services were not at the top of their list.

The Existing System

There already was a mental health system in place. At the hospital nearby people could come for service. Since it was a medical school there were medical students who often were giving service in six week rotations—with little prior experience. Then there were residents. I’ll save you the agony of all the details but they were not acquainted with the needs of the community either and so could not respond effectively.

At the time psychiatric residents were committed to giving intensive psychotherapy. The local residents were not exactly candidates so they often simply got medication. We immediately found a fundamental truth. The biggest enemy of mental health in the area was the stress of poverty. So they suffered from depression and anxiety. Duh!!!

The System We Designed

Each of us took a morning walk-in clinic. We assessed the person’s problems and then spent the afternoon on the phone arranging appropriate services and getting information about availability among a lot of other things. For example, if they had a physically ill child who was not getting service or inappropriate service we sought appropriate help. Every center had a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who got a lot of referrals. Very many of these people needed training and/or education. A job or a better job had a very beneficial effect on their mental health along with the experience of hope.

Not So Simple

Did we have the support of higher ups? Sometimes, but often not. The older white men generally wanted to preserve the existing system and were primarily interested in the aura of getting the money for a grant to a new glamorous type of program. They loved the aura and wanted to look good to each other. Daily we were in the position of fending off orientations and demands which did not serve our community well. One of my common responses was “We’ll get back to you” or ”Let me look at alternatives.”

Allies With the Community

We  had to develop relationships with the community so we could respond to their real needs. In that era of the beginning of the civil right movement the community became contentious and interesting. Assertions of community needs and objections to the mistreatment of black men began at that time. There were issues about health services. At one point growing activism led to a difficult public hearing and I found myself sitting next to the state head of the mental health system who was clueless. Other times we were visited by arrogant “consultants” from Washington who we had to endure. 

I’ll leave it there for now. It was rough and tumble and never-ending as we fought for the people of the community. You might think we would have had allies from the professions but they were too often few and far between.

Another Major Wave of Change

In some ways we didn’t understand what we were seeing either. In the end the establishment brought down the community mental health movement. As the young rebels left, the clinics in the community were closed and the old ways resumed. I tell the full story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

But two things came out of the era that proved to have a long wave and import for our future. One was the civil rights movement and in the next post I’ll go into the other one. 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt