Therapists are trained and advised to steer clear of open political discussion for many reasons. However, the current situation in the United States — of children being separated from their families and held in detention centers — is one that warrants comment from all people.

Regarding the possibility of media spin: I have heard from trusted colleagues who’ve witnessed first-hand the situation. With confidence in their reports, here are my thoughts:

I began my studies of families — the development of human beings, the impact & influence of culture on parenting practices, and the things that lead to emotional wellness of individuals and family groups — in the 1970s. While there is no one (or even two or three) “right way” to care for children, or raise a family, there are a few points that are unquestionable. One of the most crucial is regarding the key connections between the caregiver-child bond and the child’s emotional health. Many times, I find myself hearing stories from clients of all ages (and perhaps especially those in middle-age or older) who are still experiencing results of disrupted caregiver-child bonds. The emotional pain experienced by young children who are being separated from caregivers has what we call a ‘formative impact’ — the pain of that situation is so intense and occurs at such a crucial developmental period in the child’s brain, it will necessarily curve how that individual begins to experience the rest of their life.

By intentionally putting these children and their families in these separation situations, we as a country are setting up the very scenarios that can create a tsunami of mental illness.

It is very important to reflect for just a minute from a trained perspective on the educational, professional, and other backgrounds of the people who are making and carrying out these decisions. It is quite possible in this country to become extremely successful as a professional and financially “at the top of the food chain” without ever knowing much at all about typical human development. In fact, the bulk of what we understand about human emotional wellness has been learned in just the past century — before that, folk tales prevailed, stories of “how things should be” passed down from generation to generation, virtually all without any factual basis other than anecdotal evidence. In short, the people who have been the most successful (in terms of financially-based power in this country) have never had a reason to know much about the optimal developmental needs of humans. And so, they have not and do not. And they act accordingly.

This is not a political issue. This is one of the most seriously detrimental symptoms of what can happen when uninformed people use politics as an excuse to act inhumanely. I invite my professional colleagues to join me in speaking out — take the risks, whatever it is you fear, and position yourself on a continuum of belief in treating others humanely. I stand with the emotional well-being needs of humans.