Controversial is Not Political

Controversial is Not Political | Association for Mental Health Professionals

"It's too political!" I've heard this comment several times in the past few weeks in relation to the civil discussion of ideas and it gave me pause to consider its usage.

Controversial is Not Political

First, I'm not convinced there is any such thing as "too political". What does that even mean? Can something be too Republican? Too Democrat? Too conservative or too liberal? I acknowledge that those terms are linked to ideology spectrums of thought but it's not possible to abide in a spectral segment and exceed the label.

A large segment of society that is uncomfortable discussing conflicting ideas, or does not want them discussed, is using the word, "political", when they should be using, "controversial". And of course politics is one of the two main verbotten topics at any socially acceptable Thanksgiving dinner. So announcing, "It's too political" tends to quickly and conveniently shut down a conversation, as we've been trained to do.

Just because an idea may be controversial doesn't automatically make it a political topic. And simply because a topic is controversial does not mean it shouldn't be discussed and debated, except if there's turkey and stuffing involved. Then, chill, dude! That a topic is controversial is the very reason it should be publicly debated.

Can We Talk?

Healthy debate used to mean two rational people with two conflicting or opposing ideas, hammering it out from a common base of beliefs; a level stage. It's how new ideas are developed, or scrapped, and it's how we get at the truth. It's worked for millennia in the various professions including, and especially in, the medical field.

Am I the only one that's noticing that that's not working well anymore?

What's This Have to Do With Counseling?

Everything. We don't live in an isolation bubble as counselors. What goes on in the rest of the world will eventually find its way into our practice environment and it's not always good news. That's happening right now. At the very least, we need to engage the world on topics that will affect the counseling environment, our licenses, and our clients' lives. Actively encouraging the healthy debate of ideas is one way to do that.

We do this already (hopefully!) everyday in our counseling rooms, holding clients accountable for their various behaviors and helping them understand themselves by asking questions. That's all I'm proposing you do. Ask questions.

What Would That Look Like?

Here's how I'll be doing it. If I encounter the phrase, "It's too political", I'll ask them to explain their position. "How do you mean? Why do you see that as political?" and I'll do it with a kind spirit. They'll likely deflect and say they just don't think it's appropriate to talk about that, etc but I won't let that go. I'll channel my inner 3-year old and keep asking "but why?" until they engage with some substance.

The goal here is to plant a seed and make them think, not necessarily to change their mind about anything. It's just a question. You can ask questions can't you, counselor?


I think "too political" is a conversational phrase which means, "I'm too uncomfortable discussing this" or "I don't want my beliefs challenged". Letting that avoidance technique rule the conversation is what helped put us in this societal mess we're in. Confronting it with a kind heart and loving spirit is one way you can participate in a Godly re-building of our world. Challenge wrong thinking. How will you deal with a debate killer like, "it's too political" the next time you hear it?

You got this.

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About the Author

Controversial is Not Political | Association for Mental Health ProfessionalsPhillip's background has blessed him with a variety of interests, skills, and tools to get things done. He spent 25 years in the printing and marketing industry before meeting Kathleen Mills in 2015. They quickly figured out that they made a pretty good business team and, owing to Kathleen's story, embarked upon a mission that would see the creation of and eventually the Association for Mental Health Professionals.

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  1. Kelly on November 14, 2023 at 10:44 am

    This post makes me think a bit. Back in 2020, I realized my adult son had contracted such a bad case of the woke mind virus that discussing anything controversial with him was sending me into sympathetic activation. Being smacked with the reality that my own flesh and blood has abandoned everything I taught him and now spouts nonsense with the conviction of a priest was just too much. I can discuss controversies calmly with most people, but I decided it was just too painful with him. So either there are exceptions to the rule, or I need to reconsider. Not sure which one! But thanks for the food for thought.

    • Phillip Crum on November 14, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      Yeah, when flesh and blood enter the picture it can indeed get very painful. Do you confront them and risk losing what little relationship you have left or just love what’s left of him and pray for the best? Take consolation in two things:

      1. You raised him right. He’s off-track right now, but Proverbs tells us that if we raise them right they will return to those ways. He’s still in there. He just may need some help getting back on track and you may not be the person to do it.

      2. You can, however, engage with those that you do not have an emotional, familial connection with and in doing so, be that someone who helps some other parent get their child back on track.

      All you need is your very own, “someone” for your son, and there are thousands of us out there! You’ve done your work with him and you did it well, I’m sure. Your someone is out there. Trust that it’ll happen. We got this.

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