For most helping professionals CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is an unavoidable fact of life – often it an unwelcome necessity, mechanical and perfunctory; at other times an inviting opportunity, offering enrichment and expanded horizons, according to your own state and what is on offer.
In this post I’d like to challenge some conventional ideas about CPD, and offer a wider and more humane vision of what helping professionals need, whether they are analysts, counsellors, arts-based therapists, or any other kind of servants of human well-being and healing.
In talking about CPD, the emphasis often falls on the D for Development. There is far more to the continuing care (and self-care) and the fulfilment of helping professionals than just “Development.”
In the theory of management, there is a concept that distinguishes three phases, or aspects of activity: Survival, Maintenance, Development. Clearly, it is only when matters relating to Survival and Maintenance have been taken care of, that Development comes to the fore.
We can apply this concept to the well-being and professional education of counsellors, therapists and other professionals, and look more deeply into what is needed.
Do we really need to think about Survival in the context of appropriate care (or self-care) of helping professionals?
Of course we do!
There are real threats to the mental and physical health and well-being of practitioners in this field: Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Stress, Vicarious Traumatisation and Burnout are well recognised risks. The signs and symptoms have been thoroughly analysed and documented, as these tables above demonstrate.
These signs and symptoms will be familiar to most practitioners from their own and their colleagues’ experience: These things are of course a part of most people’s ordinary experience, and therefore easy to discount as one’s “professional quality of life* ” is insidiously undermined. [*Visit www.proqol.org to check your own score.]
Accepting the threat to the well-being of professional helpers as real and significant, any comprehensive programme of “Optimum CPD for the whole human” designed to support the well-being of helping professionals, would have to include as its foundation ways of addressing and repairing damage done to the practitioner’s psyche, providing healing and recovery.
The first stage of such a programme therefore would necessarily involve a sufficiently extended time of Respite and Renewal and Healing, with nourishing experiences, supportive and undemanding social contacts, and opportunities for new stimuli and playful exploration.
We could, and probably should, been arranging such experiences for ourselves. However, the very times when we need them are times when we have the least energy and motivation to organise it. Organisations could, and certainly should, make such provision. How many do so in practice?
It was to this kind of need that Irene Champernowne was responding when she established the Champernowne Trust and especially its Summer Course in the 1970s.
Even without stress that rises to the level of emergency, the wise practitioner will have established a “wholesome discipline” for the Maintenance of a resourceful, responsive, and responsible professional presence in service of their clients or patients.
No doubt some individuals do achieve this for themselves, but experience shows a widespread disposition amongst helping professionals underestimate the consideration they give to their own personal needs. Likewise, some organisations may address this issue, but too many do not, or do not do so adequately.
In our field we work with insight and empathy, compassion and imagination, a degree of detachment and a feel for healthy boundaries, with a feeling for the breadth and depth of the human psyche, and acceptance of fate and an eye to hope. What practices and support systems do we need to have in place to maintain these faculties and capabilities at the level of alertness and resilience our profession demands?
Our “Optimum CPD for the whole human” optimum system of professional care (and self-care) would need to attend to the nurture of the imagination, creativity, of the heart and soul of the practitioners themselves – whether they like it or not.
What might that look like in practice?
As already stated, it would need to offer plenty of time with freedom from stress, a variety of stimuli, opportunities to explore through imagination, dialogue, and playful creative activity, in a degree of comfort, and a supportive community, with a variety of a self-regulated challenges to self-examination, investigation and research under experienced guidance.
Once a foundation of self-protection, and appropriate personal and professional self-care has been established, it makes sense to turn to the question Development.
In some fields, ( e.g. Tax Law, IT, some branches of medicine and technology,) this means keeping up-to-date with new technical developments. In our field, since we work with our imagination, our compassion and empathy, as well as our knowledge and understanding, since we use heart and soul, creativity and self-awareness as our primary instruments, Development must include Self-Development, as well as the development of new theoretical understanding, or the learning of new methods.
Indeed, it is hard to distinguish Professional Development from Personal Development in our line of work.
Personal Development would include increasing confidence, equanimity, curiosity and spirit of enquiry, openness and creativity, authority and capacity for self-examination, breadth and depth of understanding and vision. All of these are intertwined with development as a professional.
There would need to be sources of new inspiration, new meanings, and an enhanced sense of self, and capacity for relating with others, opportunities for challenging encounters with one’s inner world.
Are there programmes that address CPD in this spirit? If you know of any, we’d be glad to hear about them.
We can be confident there is at least one.
The Champernowne Summer Course is example of such a programme in action. The Summer Course has evolved over its more than 40 years of existence to address all of the needs we touched on above.
Over the five days residential experience there is ample time to relax and destress in comfortable, one might say luxurious, surroundings. Though the programme is rich and varied, there is no element of compulsion: you are free to do absolutely nothing, if that is what is right for you.
The physical setting, both the well-appointed Hothorpe Hall, its splendid gardens and surrounding woodlands, offer both relaxation and stimulus to the senses. And the food is top quality.
There is food for the mind too in the four morning lectures given by distinguished speakers, this year in the field of Jungian psychology, creativity and imagination.
There is stimulus for the imagination in the arts-based workshops – Drama, Writing, Dance Movement, Fairytale and Music, and in the Arts Studio, which is open from early till late.
Group singing, evenings of dance and spontaneous performance, optional seminars on Jung, Social Dreaming Matrix, morning Qi Gong, poetry and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities make up a diverse social programme. And the space between, filled with conversation on every level, with spontaneous music making, walks and adventures is often the place where new insights arise.
It has been described by participants like this:“an enriching experience. Something rare.”“At the end: joyful, new energy, strong feeling of purpose.”