Why Google+ is Good for Therapists: Respect for Diversity

Why Google+ is Good for Therapists: Respect for Diversity

“Don’t be evil”—Google motto

I just created my new Google+ account yesterday and I’m very pleased. No, it’s not because it’s the latest and greatest social networking tool (though, those circles are pretty cool). And no, it’s not because finally, after holding out from joining Facebook for all these years, my friends and family will finally get off my back about needing to move into the 21st century. Nope. Those things are fine but, what I’m really impressed by though was what I found as I was going through the process of creating my account. Specifically, under the “gender” box you could choose from an option of “male,” “female,” and “other.” Wow! Now that’s not just “not being evil,” (Google’s motto) — that’s pretty darn enlightened! Yes, of course I’d like to see them use a fill-in-the-blank format so people who identify as something other than “male” or “female” don’t have to identify as “other”, but it’s a great start. This is a great example of how something as small as demographic questions can reflect our values. We have come a long way in terms of inclusivity and awareness of the rich diversity of our world when a Fortune 500 company like Google makes a statement like this.

It also got me thinking about ways that we here at Portland Psychotherapy can further advocate for our clinic’s core value to support diversity and inclusivity and to make quality, evidence-based mental health services available to all member of our community. I came across this brochure published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association that offers some great suggestions to help make your practice more inclusive and affirmative. I also found this sample of a “culturally competent intake form” from the King County Public Health Department that includes ways to structure your intake forms around issues of relationships and sexuality that are most inclusive.

Ways to Improve Inclusivity in Your Therapy Practice

Here are a few other suggestions of things you might want to consider to make your practice more welcoming to all:

  • Use fill-in-the-blank spaces rather than check boxes on intake forms for categories like “gender,” “sexual orientation,” “relationship status,” and “ethnicity”.
  • If you ask about religion on your forms, be sure to also include an option for “atheist” as a viable choice.
  • If you have brochures or magazines in your waiting room, consider whether or not they represent a diverse range of experiences and lifestyles (e.g. Do you only have “Parenting” magazine in your waiting room or do you also have “The Advocate”?)
  • If it seems clinically appropriate, ask clients which pronoun (e.g., he, she, it, they) they would like to be referred by.
  • When talking about sexual or relationship partners, be cautious about assumptions about gender, legal status (i.e. married versus partnered), monogamy, sexual orientation, etc. Using the term “partner or partners” may be more inclusive than “spouse” for example.

So, take a cue from Google+ and maybe revisit your office forms and practices to see if there are ways in which you could create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all those you serve. I know we’re going to be revisiting that issue here at the clinic as well.

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