What can therapists do to encourage beneficial discussions around race going on in their practices? How can you be a genuine ally? What does it mean to properly agree to disagree?
In this podcast episode takeover, LaToya Smith speaks with Stephanie Broadnax Broussard about seeing all of each other.
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Meet Stephanie Broadnax Broussard
Stephanie Broadnax Broussard is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Advanced Certified Hospice, and Palliative Care Social Worker (ACHP-SW). Stephanie is also a Certified Advanced Care Planning Facilitator and Trainer and enjoys educating the community and other clinicians on the importance of communication and having difficult conversations with patients.
Her passion for helping others navigate the complexities of life led her to Palliative Care where she specializes in helping patients and their families cope with illnesses and life transitions.
Learn more about Stephanie here.
In This Podcast
- Dealing with rejection by using your own voice
- Willful ignorance
- How can two people see eye to eye when there is disagreement?
- What therapists can do to keep the conversation going
Dealing with rejection by using your own voice?
In a racially tense community, both LaToya and Stephanie have experienced rejection on the basis of their race and to combat this and create a safer space around themselves as well as others, they vocalize it when it happens.
I think one of the things that I feel like I have had to learn to really do is to be vocal and be comfortable presenting my whole self. (Stephanie Broadnax Broussard)
You present all of yourself, your voice, your language, your style, everything. Some people may, unconsciously or not, present microaggressions – you can call them out on it and speak up about it because silence can be oppression.
There is simply too much information available out there now for people with privilege to claim ignorance over racial topics. Everyone has some amount or kind of privilege that they can use to benefit others and be allies to them in this way – and they should learn from those around them how to use it, but not expect people to teach them and do all the learning work for them.
There is action behind your words, and through being vocal you can help to hold space for people around you, as well as for yourself. When you neglect the people that you can hold space for and stand alongside, you fail them more than you help them.
How can two people see eye to eye when there is disagreement?
First of all, you need to be adults. There needs to be respect for the differences of opinion but do not waiver on your human principles.
Some people may choose to be willfully ignorant on some topics when they do not want to understand it from another perspective. They are being ignorant and then choose not to work in their biases. This is where you can show up, be teachable, and listen with integrity and sincerity.
What therapists can do to keep the conversation going
- Look at your privilege and explore it. Notice how you benefit from some systems over others and then you can become an active change agent to equalize the playing field.
- Be more concerned about equality and equity than the power you hold.
- Call things out when you see them, especially within your inner circles, because it creates ripple effects.
- Advocate outside the system you are in and expand your reach beyond your circle.
- Be vocal on social media and wherever you see it is needed, not just where it is close to you.
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Meet LaToya Smith
LaToya is a consultant with Practice of the Practice and the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fortworth Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or the place they became wounded. She encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome.
She has also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal communities through the power of storytelling.
Visit LaToya’s website.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast takeover episode with LaToya Smith, session number 506.
Welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. My name is LaToya Smith, and I am doing a podcast takeover. This series that we’re working on is called pushing the conversation forward. And we’re going to be talking about issues of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. My first guest on this series is Stephanie Broadnax Broussard. She’s a licensed clinical social worker and Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Care social worker. And Stephanie is also the director of palliative care and social work at a large oncology practice. So Stephanie, thank you so much for agreeing to be my first guest here.[STEPHANIE]:
Thank you for having me. [LATOYA]:
You know, I’m excited. You know what, when I thought about doing this podcast takeover when I got the green light to do it, I automatically thought about you. Because just for the listeners to know, you know, Stephanie and I do work together in outpatient work, and we’ve had different conversations about race, we’ve had different conversations about mental health. And I wanted to speak to somebody who I know that we, you know, chilled with, we talked a lot, we had deep conversations. And ideally, in a non-pandemic space, I would love to have this type of conversation in something like a fishbowl, right? So you and I will be talking and if somebody else has a thought or an idea, they’re welcome to like, tap in the conversation and join in. And so as we’re talking, Stephanie, I imagine the listeners sitting there and chiming in themselves, and having a conversation, because I think that, you know, you and I have had some type of, you know, lively chats here and there around various issues. [STEPHANIE]:
For sure. For sure. [LATOYA]:
Yeah. So I want this one to be just that. So I’m going to say to you, when we chat right now, it’s okay. Of course, within reason, don’t hold back, just be you. And let’s chat about these issues. [STEPHANIE]:
I love it. A chat amongst friends. I love it. [LATOYA]:
Okay, great. So, tell the listeners a little bit about you, you know, why you chose social work, where you’re from, all that stuff. [STEPHANIE]:
Sure. So I am from the great state of Louisiana. Louisiana, born and raised. I am currently – I reside in Texas, of course – but I am the daughter of a social worker. And so I spent most of my life not wanting to be a social worker. Just because, you know, this whole thing about who says they want to be exactly what their mother is or whatever. But I spent most of my time volunteering and serving. So even as a poli sci major, I had friends and family who were like, why don’t you just be a social worker? That’s really what you want to be doing. I’m like, no, I don’t. But I went to the Career Center at our school, I went to Louisiana Tech, Undergrad. And I went to the Career Center and I did an assessment and basically it said, like, my top five responses were in the human service field. And so I changed my major and years later, here I am.
And so I’ve always had a heart for people. I grew up with a family who serves, part of a community that was very service-oriented. And so for me service is a lifestyle, I believe in being able to advocate for others and hold space for others. And so it’s an honor to be able to do it. But specifically when it comes to palliative care and hospice, and oncology care, and even what we do at the practice with holding space for individuals, my niche is basically individuals with serious illnesses or life-limiting illnesses, or difficult transitions. So whether it’s grief bereavement, or just different transitions in life, one of the things I love about what we’re able to do is when people feel hopeless, being able to hold space and help them process, and see a different perspective and really help them find a path in a different situation. So I’m honored to be able to hold space for people in that way.[LATOYA]:
Yeah. And I always say to you, that your niche is a special one. And I think I definitely applaud you for working in that capacity, in that population. And I know that, you know, we grew up in two different regions, right? So I’m from South Jersey, you’re from Louisiana. And I always think about… When I think about the South growing up, I always think that, man, racism was really heavy in the south, like, you know, in my mind or in my textbooks, I’m like, man, you know, where it’s like, blatant and in your face, I would think of the South, but in the North, you know, a lot of times it’s more hidden. You know, you don’t really know that somebody dislikes you. They can smile in your face and can’t stand you. But in my mind, grew up in the South, it had to be, like, in your face. [STEPHANIE]:
Yeah, I think one of the things that I feel honored about growing up, I’m actually… I consider myself bi-coastal, even though Louisiana didn’t have two coasts. But I’m from Gretna, Louisiana, which is the West Bank in New Orleans. But then I moved to Monroe, Louisiana, which is the north part of Louisiana. And so my experiences are pretty similar in both places, but my formative years, like in high school and junior high, one of the things I loved about that experience was being surrounded by a community of advocates and change agents. And so, my family,… and I think it’s because our community had to be, right? Like, my mom went to an all-black school. My uncle actually was one of the first African Americans, his class was the first to have African Americans in the high school that I graduated from. My childhood pastor was arrested as part of, you know, with sit-ins and civil justice work. And so, my grandfather, my uncle’s, like, we’re all part, my grandmother, all part of being change agents in our community. And so, they’re the pillars in my community. That’s what I saw from a very young age was them, because I guess our social climate in our area required it. And so they were voices, and they spoke out about the things that were happening in our area, and a lot of those also had systematic oppression and racial injustice as part of that issue. [LATOYA]:
Mm hmm. Okay, and so you grew up around a lot, like you say, changes, people were actually doing the work, doing their own push with the conversations or the issues. What’s your earliest experience of really realizing that racism, or race, was the issue, or you were different than others because of your skin? Like, can you recall when that was? [STEPHANIE]:
I actually can. So when I first moved to Monroe, so maybe it was like, maybe a year or two after I moved to Monroe, but I was in junior high, and I attended Carroll Junior High, which is on the east side of Monroe. It’s actually the junior high for the high school my mom went to, and it was my very first experience at an all-black school. And so I played basketball there, and we played another school in the region that was a predominantly white school, and we beat the breaks off of them in basketball. And leaving, they bricked our bus. They threw rocks, they bricked our bus. And when the police stopped, like, when we kind of got to… the driver kept going forward, and the police stopped, our parents all [unclear] in a gas station or whatever. And I could hear them explaining to the police officers kind of like what happened because we actually had an escort, which is, you know, the fact that we had to have that anyway. And they were like, well, what happened at the basketball game? Like, what did they do at the basketball game? [LATOYA]:
You know, not like, just asking, like, well, you know, how did we, the people on the bus, like, how did we cause something to happen? Really, when all that would happen is that we just beat the brakes off of them. But for me, hearing the conversation and then hearing later, kind of how the story was translated in the community about what happened, it indicated to me that there was a racial undertone. And I think that was my first experience, kind of like, oh, wait, this kind of happens for real, not just on TV. But I think as I became older, and was more aware, I’d had experiences a lot and just didn’t know that’s what they were. [LATOYA]:
Exactly. Yeah, that’s a good point. Because, okay, you’re talking about middle school years, where you really realized maybe this has something to do with race. This isn’t fair. This is, you know, injustice, right? And then the idea, it doesn’t stop there. And I think for most black people – I can’t speak for all black people – but we’ve had experiences like that, that are layers on top of layers. And some of them, hindsight, looking back, like wait a minute, that has to do with race. And then some we just know, you can smell it when you walk in the room. You can see it before anything else. And the way it’s, like, compounded like that, it’s heavy. And it’s just hard to deal with. Would you agree? [STEPHANIE]:
Yeah, I completely agree. I think one of the things that is so critical for others to identify is that we don’t get to put down what it is to be being black in America. We could have the best perspective, we can be optimistic, we could be the best people, we could have the best intentions, we could love everyone. But at the end of the day, we don’t get to dismiss what is the black experience in America. And that goes with us. There isn’t an economic status that can prevent us from being black. There isn’t an educational status that’s going to change that for us. This is our experience. And I think that’s what’s so important is that people understand that all of that comes with us. So like, even as therapists we think about, okay, like, you look at [unclear], right? We look at trauma. And if we were to really consider what it is to be black in America, and to be rejected from a society you believe you belong in, we don’t get to get rid of that trauma. And we have to process it. We do. Let me take that back. We do get to get rid of that trauma, but we have to process it and acknowledge it for what it is. But also, we are traumatized daily, right? Now, when we continue to have systems that were not created for us and also do not protect us. [LATOYA]:
That’s deep, you said a lot there. Even rejected from the social space, I can’t remember how you said it, but that space that we think that we belong in, and I can say that I felt that, okay, as a child growing up in a neighborhood, in education, and professional workspaces, even like right now owning my own practice, there’s certain spaces where, you know, you try to get your foot in the door, and you feel that. Once you felt it once, you know that feeling. And it’s not warm and friendly, you know? And so it’s the idea of, okay, well, how do I deal with that feeling now? How do I deal with the trauma? How do I deal with that rejection, without minimizing myself but by using my own voice? Like, how do you deal with it? [STEPHANIE]:
I think one of the things that I feel like I have had to really learn to do is to be vocal and be comfortable presenting my whole self. And so I used to – now I have jet locks, but I used to have an afro, and I would wear my hair in all its glory. I show up and I try to be my whole self. So that means that some days, because, you know, code-switching is a thing but I can talk about that in just a second. But some days, I’m going to be all of me, depending on what I decide to present, because all of that is me. So I may continue to speak and not use any colloquialism or any language that I decide… I decide what language I want to put in a conversation, not the social norms. So I’m going to present my whole self when I feel comfortable doing that. And so being able to do that, and also making sure that those around me, I challenge them when I see them doing things that maybe they aren’t aware of microaggressions, or I challenge the systems that I’m a part of.
And so one of the things I love about my professional experience is that I’ve worked with some amazing people. Being a medical social worker before I was in clinical practice, you know, you work with a lot of different kinds of people, and you serve a lot of different kinds of people. And because of that, a lot of times people have conversations sometimes that they don’t know are microaggressions, they don’t know that they’re part of systematic oppression, or they don’t know that they’re doing things that are refusing to identify the cultural needs of a person or even, you know, failing to provide trauma-informed care. And so what I find is important for me is to call those things out when I see them. I’m not the person that’s always like, oh, that’s the race card, that’s the race card – and if that’s what you think, that’s fine – but I also try to make sure that if I am uncomfortable in a space, if I see something that happens that’s not okay, that I call that thing out as tactfully as I possibly can. But I also make sure that I speak up because silence for me could be oppression and a failure to meet the needs of a patient and then I’m not okay with that.[LATOYA]:
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That’s one thing I do really like about you, your person, your character. First of all, what I know of you is, uh, you seem to be the same person wherever I see you at, which is good. As far as I guess what our friendship… so if I see you in the office, or I see you someplace else, like, you know, you’re okay being you. And that’s what you were saying a minute ago, I’ve learned to show up and be me. This is a great message that you have, allowing us to – I think I heard you say it before – allowing us to see all of each other, you know, and that’s okay. But, you know, something else that you just mentioned, you know, sometimes people don’t know, like, do you really think people don’t know and don’t get it, or they don’t want to deal with it? And they want to keep moving as they move, you know, in their own comfort zone. [STEPHANIE]:
I think those who… Willful ignorance is a thing, right? And so I think there are some people who choose to, decide to be ignorant on some issues because they have the privilege of doing so. I think those who want to be allies and want to know more, and want to know how to be part of the change that we’re so desperate to see in our society are choosing to do so. I think we all have to be introspective and look at privilege and look at our systems that we’re a part of because we all have something that we can do to be part of that change. And so when I hear people say that they don’t understand, um, I think we’re at a point where that’s probably not okay anymore. I can sit down and have a lot of conversations, I can sit down and be open and transparent, I want to be an open space for the people that I care about, who are really trying to figure out how to be the best ally that they can be. So I want to be an open space for those people. But I also don’t want to hold the weight of trying to educate you on what it is to be black in America when you can pick up a book. Because I think at this point, there’s been so many conversations about that, that there is some level of accountability that we have to hold for ourselves.
So for example, for me, I am heterosexual, I am married to a beautiful black man and have beautiful black children, right? But because I’m an advocate, and I am passionate about human rights, when I see something that’s happening that is a human rights issue, whether it’s LGBTQ plus issues, or whether it’s about immigration, or whether it’s about women’s rights, whatever it is, for me, what I do is try to hold space for that group of people and advocate and be supportive of them, especially people that I have personal connections with, because I understand what it is to have a need and a desire and want to be safe in a society that doesn’t see you.[LATOYA]:
Yeah, and I like that. I like that you say that, you know, you are taking action, there’s action behind your words. And you’re actually giving out what you want to receive from other people. So it’s not just like, well, this is what I need in my space where my feelings are in this situation right here. What you’re saying is, listen, this is me, this is, again, I’m going to show up and be me and I’m going to model what it is, the change that I want to see, I’m going to put it out there. Yeah. And I’m hoping that everybody grabs hold of that.
But unfortunately, we’re in certain spaces where everybody doesn’t get it. And by everybody, sometimes, to be completely honest, a lot of our peers don’t get it, that are therapists. And that’s been some of the most heartbreaking – we’ve talked about it before – the most heartbreaking stuff for me is knowing that when these issues of race occur, the people that don’t look like me go silent. And I don’t know why… it’s kind of thing like, man, like, each time, that just hurts. But I’m like, man, at a certain point, man, we just have to stop hurting. I don’t know what it’s gonna take. They change or do I just become numb to it?[STEPHANIE]:
Yeah, I think we might have talked about this when Breonna Taylor verdict happened. Like, I felt, I think there was a heaviness, like, of not having, like, we didn’t expect anything different but we hope for something different, right? We hope that, you know, for once, justice would also mean justice for us, too. And so, when that happened, I think one of the things I wanted so badly was for as I continue to show up and hold space for my patients and carry that weight, I wanted one of my white colleagues to say, hey, today must be hard. Because that’s what I do, like when, you know, even the Supreme Justice, you know, Supreme Court nominations, you know, and I understand that some critical rights issues that are being explored, or even in the state of Texas right now, where they’re exploring allowing the discrimination against LGBTQ plus, and individuals with disabilities, like, I reached out to some of my counterparts to say, hey, like, I want you to know, they don’t speak for me. And I just wanted to check in and see if you’re okay, because I can’t imagine what it – well, I can imagine – but, you know, I want to make sure that you’re okay, because I want you to know that your rights matter to us. And we’re going to continue to advocate for you, but I wanted to check in on you.
And I think that’s what we expect to see. We want our colleagues to show up. Because if you’re not going to hold space for your colleagues, if you’re not going to identify all of us and the weight that is being black and American having the black experience, how do I know you’re showing up for our clients and our patients in that way? Because you can’t neglect that part of them. If they come in and they’re dealing with whether it’s physical issues or emotional issues as well, but you fail to identify and call out that they are having… or even help them process the emotional trauma that comes with being black in America, you neglect that part of them. You are not serving them, you’re failing them.[LATOYA]:
Wow, that’s big right there. When you neglect that part of them, be it, you know, who they are culturally, racially, include all that in there, then you’re failing more than you are helping. [STEPHANIE]:
Exactly. Its retraumatization actually, is what it is. [LATOYA]:
Yeah, and even – and you said it too – in practice, with the patients, like our clients that we serve, and then also with our peers, like, are we failing more than we are helping? And so a lot of this is going to be like a heart check within ourselves. What are we doing? Am I showing up? Am I being present? Am I being my authentic self, using my voice, and my helping and not hurting anybody in the process? [STEPHANIE]:
Right, right. Because if we’re not aware of our biases, if we’re not aware of what’s going on in the social climate, we act like those things don’t exist, we could potentially be doing harm. And we can’t make assumptions, right? Because the black experience isn’t monolithic. We can’t… Everybody’s experienced – and we’ve talked about this ourselves, right – like, how different our growth experiences were growing up. So we can’t assume how black people feel, we can’t assume how people of color feel, we can’t assume how any community feels. But what we have to do is equip ourselves with how we can help engage and help them process and be there so that they feel comfortable being their whole self. If they can’t feel comfortable being their whole selves in a therapeutic space, where is the safe space? [LATOYA]:
Right? Yeah, that’s good. Right there. That’s good. And then how do we even… because even, again, you and I chatting, there’s different conversations on different topics we talked about, and we didn’t see eye to eye. And we may not, like, this is just where it is, you know, we chat about it. We talk about it, and we’ll leave it. But how can two people do that when they do differ on opinions? Like, what type of feedback do you have about it, whether it be to coworkers, whether it be to friends? What’s your take on it, even when it comes to these issues of race, social justice? How can we agree to disagree? Or how can we have these conversations and still work together? [STEPHANIE]:
You know, I think that, you know, first of all, we just have to be adults; let’s just start there. Because I think, you know, we have to be able to respect each other’s differences in opinion. And I will say I am one of those people, I do have some very firm areas that I don’t waver on. So one of the things is that I’m not going to waver on not seeing certain types of people as whole people. I’m not going to waver on treating people differently because of their sexual orientation. I’m not going to waver on racism, I’m not going to waver on Black Lives Matter. There are some areas that I’m not just going to waver on. But what I will have is an intelligent, intentional conversation with you, so where I hope to hear you, and hope to be able to share with you where I am.
Now, there are some people that I understand just don’t… they’re choosing to be willfully ignorant in some of those areas. So I just keep my distance. I can be cordial, I would be concerned… I wouldn’t receive services from people who think like that because of my personal feelings about care. But I also understand that people have their own things, right, we all have our issues, we all have our biases. What scares me is when people have them and aren’t aware of them. Because that means not only are you ignorant, but you also aren’t trying to work through them. I think when we’re aware of our biases in areas that we need to do some work and need to make some impact, we’re more intentional, we’re trying to figure out, we’re more cautious because we don’t want to do harm. And I think that’s when we can show up and be, you know, even as humans, we’re humans having human experiences, even if we are the expert in the room. And that allows us to give ourselves some grace, but also to meet our colleagues, just as we would with our clients, where they are. But that means everybody has to show up and be open and honest and have a heart that’s willing to process and receive. I just don’t do hate well, you know?[LATOYA]:
That’s good. Yeah. You don’t hate others well, or and you don’t receive it…? [STEPHANIE]:
And I don’t receive it. [LATOYA]:
Okay. Got it. Got it. I like that. I don’t do hate well, okay. You don’t hate others well, you don’t receive it well. [STEPHANIE]:
Okay, I like it. I like it. I like that a lot, actually. So you dropping [unclear] here in the conversation as you always do. This is good, Stephanie. Any last thoughts you have for a therapist who needs to work on moving the conversation forward, needs to work on not just saying, because we heard of a lot in the summertime, you know, we heard these companies jump behind it, we heard people say they’re allies and all this ever going to do – any lasting thoughts you have for therapists to keep the conversation going, and actually put up, you know, model certain behaviors or put some action behind the words? [STEPHANIE]:
I think there’s a lot that can be done. The first thing I think, is that we all have to look at our privilege, right? And I include myself in that because I think there is some level of whether it’s economic privilege or educational privilege. If we all explore our privilege and how some systems are designed to where we have a hand up in the process, then we can all be part of the culture change we’re desperate to see. We have to all explore, like, is there… Because what happens, I think, is that we choose comfort, because we want to maintain the power that we have. But when we are more concerned about equality, and making sure that inclusion is a real thing, and diversity is real, outside of just a theory, then we’re all challenging the norms that make the privilege, any type of privilege, okay. We want to tear down the layers of power, we want to make an equitable society. And so we all have to start with that heart work and self-exploration.
But then also, once we do that, we also have to call things out when we see them. If we challenge our inner circles, if we speak up when we hear things, if we challenge the norms around us, then we are more likely to see the change we’re desperate for, because it’ll be a ripple. If I challenge the systems that I’m in and you challenge the systems that you’re in, and the people that are around you that are challenged, like it’ll just keep going. And I think that is how change really happens. But read, process, explore, educate yourself. There are a lot of books, there are a lot of great authors, there’s a lot of great resources. And that’s why I think right now, when people say they don’t get it, or they don’t see it, they’re choosing to be ignorant. So decide where you are, explore, do you have some biases? Do you have some issues? Are there some microaggressions that you’ve been comfortable with, or things that you’ve allowed to happen around you just because it’s what happens?[LATOYA]:
And then I think the last thing that I really encourage people to do – I mean, not last, but for this timeframe – I think the last thing I will encourage people to do is to really advocate outside of just the systems that they’re in, but on a larger scale, too, right? Social media is real. We all have an opportunity now to have our voices be heard. And so use those intentionally. But then also, when choosing to serve, I think what’s so beautiful about being able to hold space as therapists and clinicians, for people who allow us to journey with them in life, is showing up and having human experiences with them. So show up your whole self.
So I want to just talk for just a moment to my therapists of color. I want you to take up all your space. Don’t shift. Be all of you because that’s how we change the societal norms. When we show up and identify and don’t diminish anything that’s innately and uniquely about us, then we say this is great too, who I am is great too. And I want to be part of this system. I want to be here, but I want you to take all of me. And as our allies welcome and create opportunities and celebrate spaces where your colleagues are doing that, you know, because we like to see people shift, we like to see them do that because it makes us more comfortable. But when people choose to be their whole self, celebrate that and acknowledge that and how difficult it must be to choose to do so.[LATOYA]:
That’s good, celebrate others. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for your words, and not… And even showing us how you model behavior. You model the things that you want to see, you are the change that you want to see. So I appreciate it. I appreciate your voice. And I appreciate you being my first guest on this series, most importantly. [STEPHANIE]:
I feel special. Thank you so much for having me. And speaking of celebrating, I just want to celebrate you for always being bold enough to step in spaces and saying, you know what, this is a conversation that needs to be had. This is something we need to be discussing, and always giving opportunities for people to use their voice, so I celebrate you for always doing that. [LATOYA]:
Awesome. Thank you, friend. I appreciate you. Alright, thank you so much. [STEPHANIE]:
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music; we really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate, authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.