Living in Two Worlds: Addendum on Conflict and Stigma

Co-Authored By Sabrina Johnson LMSW

Working as a mental health professional with lived experience I had to make a choice whether I would go into peer work or be a social worker.

There are two distinct worlds as explored in LIVING IN TWO WORLDS: BOUNDARIES AND THE ART OF SELF-DISCLOSURE by Max Guttman LCSW and Sabrina Johnson LMSW.

There is no choice except for people to choose which world they want to be apart of as a mental health professional: 1) become a social worker that discredits and places sanctions on uses of self-disclosure, or 2) practice mutuality that can create conflict when the peer enters the real world and find that there are regulations and rules that complicate pure equality and freedom of choice.

Natural connections, supports and what it means to be a colleague has a relationship with the profession people choose in the mental health system. This means, as a social worker, support and consultation will look and feel different than the counsel I get from a peer practicing mutual support. This seems odd when we are all doing the same thing. Call it Treatment, Case Management, Peer Support, we are all looking to resolve the mental health issues of our clients and patients.

Should the treatment pathways or peer support connection we make when we engage with clients make a difference in how we understand our roles in the profession?

Labels will make us realize that how we see each other and how we understand our role differently because of stigma and the evolution of the mental health system. If you refer to THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM’S MOST BROKEN ASPECTS, the system will create identities for people enrolled in its institution and label us as something less than or other than a professional.

This is why until stigma is dislodged from the mental health paradigm we cannot expect to see outcomes that reflect on the importance or peer work or mutuality as a intervention that creates a lasting space for change and results in resolving mental health issues.

The paradigm shift will mean every mental health provider will be able to practice mutual support without removing the humanity that is so strict and calculating when practicing social work in isolation of peer support. Human connections are made by identifying ways of reducing human struggle and divisiveness in our population which make mutuality more distant and difficult to practice as our interests and human connection dissolves from stigma.

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