Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Draw, Podna!

Or not.

Some of you may know we have a new gun law here in Georgia. Basically, it says you can carry a gun anywhere, with or without a permit, concealed or 'open carry'. And of course, as you have read in the news, some folk have been exercising that right -- resulting in at least one arrest, but I digress.

The topic came up among colleagues recently, who are all bestirred about exactly what the law says about our ability to prohibit guns in our offices, and several have expressed the felt need for legal consultation before doing anything. There was also some discussion about what to do if a client doesn't like it.

Here's my take on it.

I have always expressly forbidden weapons of any kind, legal or otherwise, permitted or not. No pepper spray, no nunchucks, no knives, no throwing stars, no guns, no clubs. This is a clearly stated, up-front policy: New clients sign a form stating that they have read and understood this. So new clients who do not wish to abide by this policy can go find another therapist. Easy peasy. But I've never had a problem with it. Everybody's reaction, from day one some thirty-three years ago, has always been, "Ok, cool, no problem." Even my gang-banger, whose posse used to stand guard downstairs during his sessions.

I don't anticipate that any of my existing clients will have a problem with it either, if only because (a) they've already agreed to my policy, and (b) because there's no political struggle for them to win here, no point for them to make. After all, I'm a good ol' girl myself, with a gun and a carry permit of my own, and I don't bring my gun to the office! Also, it's not a policy in isolation of other operating procedures I have in place -- all of which I follow as well. I expect 24 hours' notice of cancellations, for example, and in return I let you know the minute I know I'm not going to be able to be there for your appointment. If you no-show, I charge you; if I double-book, the next one is on the house. You can't show up drunk and expect to get a session, but then again, I don't show up drunk to work with you, either.  

There was also a flurry of worry about how to terminate appropriately with a client who violated the policy. Again, I am not concerned about that, because if a client brings a gun into my office or repeatedly shows up drunk, doesn't pay their bill, whatever -- they have already clearly stated by their behaviors that they do not respect me or the terms of our contract. They are in breach of contract and I'm no longer obligated, not to find them another therapist, and not to see them three more times to wind up their treatment. And that is not abandonment, because they knew in advance of the fact that such behavior would terminate our work together. Therefore, by doing so, they are in effect leaving the therapy, same as if they'd walked in the door and said, "I quit." I'm not going to schedule my usual three termination sessions in such a case, knowing they're going to bring in a gun and endanger me, my coworkers, and our other clients in that manner. Now that would be unethical.

I would, because it is a therapeutic issue, a profound statement about how they feel about me/their mother and about their therapy, attempt to analyze it at the time that it occurs. But if we couldn't resolve the issue, then we would be at an impasse which would make any future therapeutic progress impossible anyway. 

Again, this is not about the gun, but about the process. If a client could not come to treatment sober, I would not refer them to another therapist because it would undermine the basic message I wish to send, which is that you can't do outpatient therapy while you are using. You need inpatient first, then come to therapy. Nor would I schedule three termination sessions in such a case, without some assurance that the person would be able to show up clean and sober for same. To do so would send the message that I don't really mean what I say -- that it's ok to show up drunk when I say it's ok. Same points could be made in the case of nonpayment.

So I will continue to forbid weapons -- all weapons, but especially guns because of the irrevocable lethality. The only exception is on-duty cops, who are required by the Job to carry, as has always been the case in my practice. By my reading of the law, it is legal for me to do so as a private person on private property which I have control of by means of my lease of the space. You think I can't? You can take it up with my attorney.

But it's my rule, and it stands. 

1 comment:

Wendy Burnett said...

YES! THIS! A private person on private property has an absolute right to refuse to allow whatever they want on that property. Even though you provide a service, and can be considered to be a "business," your office is, and always has been, limited access.

The situation is different for a retail business where anyone who meets the legal requirements for entry (old enough to buy alcohol, wearing shoes and a shirt, etc.) can freely walk in and out.

They don't have contractual relationships with the people who are customers/clients, so they don't have a pre-existing agreement they can enforce. A *legal* contract between two parties supersedes this law, because the signers have both agreed not to carry weapons in a specified place at a specified time. This is a legal agreement up until the time that a law is passed REQUIRING, us to carry a weapon at all times.