Counseling group growls about Haslam’s comments on therapists

In an interview with National Public Radio, Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s seeking input from “a lot of folks” on whether a veto is warranted for HB1840, which declares therapists could reject clients when counseling them would run counter to the therapist’s principles.

After the interview was aired, Haslam got some input from the American Counseling Association, which opposes the bill and didn’t like what he had to say.

In the NPR interview, Haslam said he had boiled his thinking down to this central question: whether therapists could truly leave their values out of their work.

On one hand, he points out that the American Counseling Association “says you should always counsel from a valueless position. In other words, you don’t put your own values into the conversation; you’re there to help.”

But, he added, “I personally wonder … regardless of whether you’re a religious person or not, everybody comes into every conversation with a particular worldview and things that you believe are right or wrong. The question is can you counsel from a totally non-value-based position?”

…Asked about the argument that therapists should have an obligation to serve everyone, Haslam said, “Lawyers don’t serve everyone. … Lawyers right now can say, ‘I’m not the person to help you on that issue; I don’t agree with what you’re trying to do’; and they can turn down that person and they can go somewhere else.”

Note: The resulting ACA press release is below

Press release from American Counseling Association
In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition today, Governor Bill Haslam discussed HB 1840, a bill recently passed by the Tennessee legislature that would permit counselors to deny services to clients passed on the providers’ personal beliefs.

The American Counseling Association has been vocal in opposition to HB 1840, also known as Hate Bill 1840, because it is discriminatory by nature and is an unnecessary government intrusion that will likely result in costly unintended consequences for the state of Tennessee.

In his interview, Governor Haslam discussed the ACA’s opposition to the bill, noting that he wonders if “whether you’re a religious person or not…can you counsel from a total non-value-based position?”

Art Terrazas, ACA Director of Government Affairs, issued the following statement in response to Governor Haslam’s remarks:

“We are disappointed to hear that Governor Haslam has such a fundamental misunderstanding of the counseling profession.

Counselors’ work is absolutely based on values. We value the principle that anyone, regardless of their religion or sexuality, should have access to the help they need. Our values are codified in our Code of Ethics, something to which nearly 60,000 counselors abide.

Hate Bill 1840 is an unprecedented attack on that Code of Ethics, and on our values as counselors. It mischaracterizes our profession and puts the people of Tennessee in harm’s way.

We remain hopeful that Governor Haslam will recognize that this bill is dangerous for Tennesseans of all walks of life and veto Hate Bill 1840.”