Where I Go on the Marijuana Issue, by President Nolan
OK, so we decided this was an OK conversation to have in public, in blogs and comments. and I am glad we did. We have gotten some pretty varied opinions online, and some even more extreme ones offline. (And if you think those all SUPPORT use of marijuana, you would be dead wrong.)
I have my own “position” on this topic, both personally and professionally, but that is less important than co-creating an atmosphere in which to keep a discussion going, and open at the top. This topic SCREAMS for dogmatic responses, and we have gotten some. It reminds me of the “somewhat pregnant” argument, where “you can’t have it both ways—you’re either for it or against it.” But of course almost nothing is that simple, unless you create a small enough consciousness within which things ARE that simple, as dogmatists and fundamentalists do. At Southwestern College, we try to model something else…
Anyway, in situations like this, I try to go toward these questions:
1) Do I know everything there is to know about all topics? (Of course not)
2) OK, is there any chance in the world THIS is one of those areas or topics where I do not know everything in the world there is to know? (Of course, if you are willing to allow yourself to ask yourself this question, and you are honest, you HAVE to say “Yes, there is a chance.”)
3) “So is there any chance I could hold some space for an opinion I have not heard, or that is different from the one I currently hold, or would I prefer to shut down the dialogue?” (OK, shutting down the dialogue does not sound like the way to go….)
4) Is there any chance that although a LOT of people are affected a certain way by a substance, maybe even MOST people, that there are SOME people, or maybe even ONE person whose experience is DIFFERENT from most people’s experiences?” (Damn, I am good at this…OK, yes, there is some chance…..I guess….…..)
5) And so on…
It is inviting the “Me that would be Dogmatic” to check himself, and ask hard questions. It is a good exercise. I often end with exactly the same position I started with, as I have, so far, with this one.
But as I have been saying all along, there is another track of this conversation where there is much less, or no, wiggle room.
When it comes to the Counseling and Therapy Practice Board, or AATA, or ACA or other national approving or accrediting or licensing boards, there is no real invitation to a great big conversation about energy fields, or Ayurveda, or artistic visioning, or holes in the auric fields, and this and that.
Here is the basic proposition of these kinds of entities: “This is America. You can do whatever you want. We don’t care. We are not telling you you suck as a person. What we ARE saying is this: These are our rules and ethical codes. If you want a license, you have to agree to abide by them. If you do NOT, and we catch you, you STILL do not necessarily suck as a person, but we CAN take your license away. You can still go out there and be a “Personal Achievement Coach”, a shaman, or whatever, but you CANNOT be a licensed counselor or art therapist if you insist on doing things that contravene our ethics codes. It is pretty simple.”
These entities, as well as the Higher Learning Commission, the Department of Education, and the Feds in general, are also not interested in philosophical treatises, diatribes, harangues, expositions, speeches or arguments about the wonderful benefits of behaviors that contravene their codes of ethics. If Southwestern College and/or its clinical supervisors,or especially its president, took the stance that “Well, we kind of GET that you guys don’t want OUR guys to do things that are against your ethical codes and standards, but dude, this is COMPLICATED, and well, sometimes we really think it probably IS OK, or let’s say, it is not completely IMPOSSIBLE that it COULD be OK for our students and supervisees to date their clients, or go into business with their clients’ spouse, or smoke dope, because, well, you know, each person has a different truth, and far be it from US to impose ours upon THEM, if you know what I mean, I mean, with all due respect, guys…”
Yeah, no. That conversation is not happening.
When it comes to licensing boards, and the ethical codes of professional organizations, there is no wiggle room. They get to make the rules, plain and simple. We agree to comply, or we do not. If we SAY we do, and do not, and “get caught”, we get the consequences. Come on, we teach our clients this every day. Teenagers get this one. Well, some of them do, anyway.
But there you go. Personally, I have a great capacity, when I challenge myself, to remain open at the top. But in my role as CEO, with its necessary relationship to licensing, accrediting, and fund-granting entities, I have to go to a much more black and white place. That is all there is to it.
If you were to challenge that stance on Kohlberg’s Socio-Moral reasoning grounds, you could argue that this is a Stage Three, and at best, Stage Four, position, and you would not be wrong. It is. The discussion taking place on our blog site is MUCH more of an open-ended kind of event. Everybody can stretch there in expressing their viewpoints.
My own personal viewpoints on marijuana in general are not relevant here. But smoking up before seeing clients? Especially as a trainee? While working under somebody else’s license? And doing so in a place where others are aware that you are doing it? Are you kidding me? Do you think we need a conversation that takes longer than three seconds on that one? I don’t.
This blog post is in response to the blog post found here, and to the comments that followed it… http://swc.edu/blogs/the-heart-of-the-matter/marijuana-and-the-profession-of-psychotherapy/