We Fucked Up. Here's What We're Doing About It.
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Earlier this week, we failed a Deaf person who reached out to us, and it exposed a way in which we have failed the whole Deaf community. There’s no way to undo the past, but thankfully this person graciously reached out to us, giving us the opportunity to make things right for the future.
The person who answered the phone call had no training or experience in working with the Deaf community, and the caller suffered on account of it. There’s no excuse for what happened: we should have had this training in place to begin with. When this Deaf client reached out to us, they were met with the same oppression that perpetuates mental health suffering, isolation, and othering by the hegemony of an abelist, cis-heterosexist patriarchy that is deeply based in maintaining terrifying norms. This is the exact type of oppressive trauma that becomes stored in the body and hurts overall health in very serious ways.
This was an act of ableism. It is because of local resources like the Queer Philly Exchange that folks with intersecting marginalized identities can rightfully call out the businesses that purport to serve them. Social media can be an excellent accountability tool and one that we are very grateful that is in place. Without this call out, Walnut Psychotherapy Center would have remained in a more ableist and problematic position. And even with it, we are going to keep making errors that hurt the people we are saying that we want to help. We make mistakes, and we are always here to do better and learn more. We also know that we have inflicted trauma. When trauma occurs it is essential that it is given voice and validated. This is the only way towards possible healing. This client shared the truth and we validate that truth.
We know that the mental health industry, itself, is often a perpetrator in mental health suffering. The system is broken on many levels. Diagnosis, as an act, is oftentimes a violation and deeply othering. We rely on the DSM to write codes for insurance companies when we know that the book, itself, is a tool of oppression. To practice mental health ethically, and to function within the system as it stands, is to basically try and dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools, an effort that Audre Lorde argued was impossible. We are going to persist nonetheless and keep course-correcting as we do so.
Here are the steps we have already taken to address this transgression:
1. We have signed an agreement to work with the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre for ASL interpretation services. We have examined their queer and trans competency and will continue to keep a close eye on this piece.
2. We are coordinating with the experts from local Deaf agencies to schedule an assessment of our procedures and learn what else we can do to provide Deaf-affirming care.
The following steps will be completed next:
3. We will update our website to include information about accessibility, so that no one ever has to struggle to get this information.
4. We will be offering training on multiple levels: for our leadership team, our administrative team, and our therapists as a whole.
We will continue these ongoing steps for the future:
5. Going forward, we will explicitly train any new administrative staff about working with Deaf clients, and on Disability access as a whole.
6. We will keep responding openly to call outs in public setting, with the consent of those involved, so as to not hide or privatize our harm.
We know that these plans lack the exact detail that the community deserves and we will be sharing our precise steps as they unfold. Thank you for reading what we have to say, for working with us, and for fighting for yourselves even when you shouldn’t have to. We welcome your continued feedback on this topic. We deeply regret the hurt we caused, and offer our sincerest apology to this person, the Deaf community, and the Disability community as a whole.
**Please note that commenting directly on this post (and all our website posts) is disabled because of a technical problem with our site. We welcome public comments on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere, and apologize for the inconvenience.