Recently I shared some clinical dilemmas with a colleague of mind concerning situations that involved staff, professional ethics and issues surrounding LGTB clients in a substance abuse aftercare setting. She immediately challenged me to engage in writing a brief statement on the expectations of Substance abuse professionals and ethical obligations with the LGTB population.
First, Ethics is a term that is usually implied as lofty philosophical discussions, inner engagements, etc, that are far removed sometimes from the day to day activities of this everyday world. As professionals in the field of substance abuse treatment, prevention and aftercare, we are usually faced with many ethical dilemmas that will cause a challenge for us both professionally and personally from a societal level. The NASW states (1997) that ethics is an intellectual approach to moral issues, a philosophical framework from which to critically evaluate the choices and actions people take to deal with various aspects of daily living. The basic ethical principles should apply to all members of our community, partners, clients, patients, etc. Therefore, as a certified, licensed Substance Abuse professional, we should treat all equally and give everyone fairness to the services we give without losing the mission of our programs and the expectation of the referral.
So if an individual applies for services at your program and list themselves as transgender, would it make a difference to you as a professional, a provider? Would you treat them differently, even if the primary diagnosis is appropriate for admission and services? Would this possible intake call for a philosophical discussion of staff and self? According to basic ethical principle of Justice, there should be impartiality and quality. Another ethics principle (autonomy) assumes that the individual has the right to decide how to live their own lives, as long as their actions do not interfere with the welfare of others. I have learned a great deal from these two principles and have tried to educate my clinical team at Hope Haven on the value of these principles. It is important that the organization and the professional be shown as accessible to anyone based on written guidelines of the organization. The administration of that organization makes sure that there are no restrictions that could impede the care of one referral just because they (the referral) are different in some way. As a substance abuse professional I think we should all go back and read the Ethical Principles for Substance Abuse professionals and engage in discussions concerning situations we are facing or will be faced with in the future how to professionally handle them.
- Train all of your staff to be inclusive, sensitive and respectful
- Use language that is inclusive and non-biased with LGTB population or any client under your care
- Use preferred names and pronouns respectfully
- Review and keep close at hand the ethical principles as listed by the NCSAPPB and NASW for guidance
- Identify the cultural issues within a culture or population
- Examine your own feelings as a person and as a professional about any situation wherein ethics is questioned
- Always seek supervision
- All programs should have a consistent process for dealing with all ethical concerns.
I am in no way an expert in this area of discussion but through my recent experiences, I have learned a lot. I hope these thoughts may help someone out there. We are here to serve so let’s do it and do it ethically sound and be culturally sensitive to all situations.