I’m a student of Human Services. My (wonderful) professor frequently has special guests from different human services agencies in the Denver area come speak to our class about their work. Usually, these guests are fantastic. It’s great to hear from people that are actively working in the field and learn about what specific challenges exist within working for a certain population.
But this guest. She was so terrible that my professor apologized profusely for her behavior.
She seemed angry about everything. She regarded her clients with disdain, with the clear implication that she believed that their situation was entirely of their own doing. She obviously thought that most of them were idiots, a good handful of them were impossible to work with, and many were just bad people. From single mothers on benefits, to people with drug and alcohol addictions, to people with certain mental health conditions. ESPECIALLY people with personality disorders.
Or, as she called them, “character disorders.”
Not only did she use this incredibly offensive term that directly insults the content of the person’s character, but she stated with near glee that she would immediately terminate therapy once finding out that a client had one of these disorders. She would hesitate to refer them to anyone else in her practice because she truly believed that no one else could work with them either. She called them untreatable, declaring that someone with a personality disorder is literally unable to enter into a therapeutic relationship and make progress. Their illness robs them of any ability to improve their lives and wellbeing, and the difficulty of withstanding them was too much for her to deal with.
Now, here’s some facts for you. Personality disorders are, in fact, treatable. People with borderline personality disorder, for example, respond exceptionally well to dialectical behavioral therapy. Though people with personality disorders may have trouble identifying their disorder, they have no trouble identifying the fact that something is causing them to feel bad. Though people with personality disorders may be challenging to work with, it is even more challenging for the person actually experiencing a personality disorder. People with personality disorders do not have a defect of character, they have a diagnosable, treatable illness that could have happened to anyone. People with personality disorders who come to your practice seeking help for managing whatever is going wrong in their lives do not deserve to the booted out the door with zero referrals and zero hope because you hold toxic beliefs about the illness they cannot help having.
So, here’s what I, a person with a mental illness, thinks about you, the supposed professional.
I think you are terrible at your job, you have burned out, and you have no compassion remaining. You need to get out of this line of work immediately because you are actively harming people you come into contact with. It seems that you don’t care that you’re hurting people, and that makes me question YOUR character.
Maybe you’re the one with a character disorder.