Today's dominant political discourse has served as fodder for countless comedic parodies. But in some clinical addiction programs, the divisive political environment has become a serious concern.
Earlier this month I posted a question to our LinkedIn Addiction Professionals Group about whether politics has become a topic of distraction in clinical settings. A deeply personal response came from licensed clinical social worker Keith McAdam, who works in a program that treats addictions and HIV. He wrote of the threat of cuts to HIV funding and diminished access to medication and support services, and the anxiety it has bred both in patients and in staff members who soon may not have a job.
“We talk about feeling helpless ourselves; having to tell people 'I can't help you' is not something social workers are very comfortable with,” McAdam wrote. He added that relapse and an onslaught of hate crimes have been among the byproducts of the nation election.
Hilding Ohrstrom, who works in an area of the country designated as a frontier region, described how concerns among residents who have a general distrust of the government have ranged from worry about losing gun ownership rights to fear of seeing their health insurance and Social Security disappear.
“There seems to be an increase in underlying unease and anger, and I have wondered what that might contribute to the high rates of substance use disorders or to relapse behaviors,” Ohrstrom wrote.
But Kansas Cafferty, executive director of True North Recovery Services in California, sees the services his agency provides as having a protective effect on politically generated anxiety. “I think group therapy provides an opportunity and a tendency to empathize with people even if we do not agree with their views,” Cafferty wrote. “We have found most people to be overwhelmingly tolerant of one another because they are choosing the relationships with one another over the debate.”
Has today's divisive political environment become a clinical issue in your program or practice? What kinds of conversations have you had with patients about this? I welcome your thoughts on this subject.