Should There Be A Legal Mandate for Group Home Counselors to Become Licensed Before Working With Mental Health Consumers In District of Columbia Group Homes? Part I

Composed by Shunda Wallace

The short answer to this questions is yes, absolutely. In 2018 more than 43 million Americans held professional licenses and certifications with a prevalence in the fields of healthcare, law and education according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Many of those licenses require focused discipline specific (supervised) education. In the field of medicine, for example, it is a requirement that physicians and surgeons are licensed with laws and regulations in place to govern the practice of medicine by their state and local boards. 

Examples of professional organizations that act as regulatory governing bodies to professionals in healthcare include: The American Psychological Association  (APA) for psychologists, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) for psychiatrists, The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) for music therapists and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons (NBPAS) for physicians and surgeons. These associations are put in place to ensure that clinicians and physicians adhere to a strict code of ethical and professional conduct. If physicians and clinicians refuse to adhere to compliance, they can go before the board for review with a worst case scenario of losing their license to practice. 

Hospice Care in many states consists of teams put in place to provide financial resources, medical and psychological assistance, as well as comfort care for sick and ailing patients. Each patient is assigned a five person interdisciplinary team that consists of a board-certified physician, a licensed social worker, a board-certified nurse, a licensed/board certified music therapist (depending on the state) and chaplain. Every member of the interdisciplinary team has an organization that the licensed (and board-certified) practitioner can be reported to in the event of unethical practices.

Mental health and elderly consumers in community residential facilities aka group homes are provided with para-professional workers where these same protections under the law in the District of Colombia are not afforded them. Mental health consumers and the elderly should at a minimum have access to licensed residential counselors that are trained in psychopathology (the scientific study of mental disorders) for consumers in group homes diagnosed with everything from schizophrenia to anxiety disorders. Residential counselors should also require training in gerontology which is the scientific study of the elderly and the aging.  As a clinical professional I have visited my share of group homes in the District of Columbia and the behavior that I have personally witnessed from residential counselors consists of non-empathic, unethical, unaccountable behavior that breaches the confidentiality, privacy and dignity of both mental health consumers and the elderly. To be quite honest, I have been privy to information confirming and personally witnessed residential counselors that laugh at, steal from, put their hands, emotionally punish and share the business of consumers for being consumers diagnosed with mental disorders.

When consumers attempt to advocate for themselves and their rights, many of them are met with gaslighting by residential counselors which is another form of emotional abuse. If a consumer enters a group home with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that same consumer can easily leave the group home with C-PTSD (chronic post traumatic stress disorder). The primary reason for emotional abuse by many residential counselors is ignorance and lack of adequate training in the field of mental health. There is also the consideration that many of the residential counselors exhibit behaviors consistent with a mental health diagnosis themselves. As a precautionary measure every residential counselor and community residential facility director should be required to be administered the following psychological measurement/assessment instruments by law: PHQ, BSI, PCL-5, CAPS, MCMI, MMPI, NEO, CTS and ACES. (for continuation of this article see part 2 under the series on DC Mental Health).

Ms. Wallace holds a Bachelors of Music in Music Management from William Paterson University, Masters Degree in Jazz Arranging and Orchestration from William Paterson University in addition to an Advanced Level Certification in Music Therapy from Montclair State University.

Ms. Wallace’s research on Schizophrenia and Depression was published in Montclair State Universities “Forward Thinking” newsletter and presented/nominated for an award at Montclair State’s Research Symposium.

Shunda Wallace is a musician, composer/orchestrator, filmmaker, music psychotherapist and author.  Visit Shunda on (on any device) or (on computer or laptop).

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