Oct 6, 2015 in professionalism, Skilled Helping

Professionalism in the context of fluid boundaries

Management Leadership with Elmo Pienaar

Professionalism in the context of fluid boundaries

It has plagued me for some time. I am the kind of person who wants to get to the essence of things (its nature, its core, the whole thing about (big-word-coming-up) ontology. I want to take it apart and see what it is made of – only, surprise, there are no essences. How frustrating. I have wrestled with this enough and intensely to be certain (personally convinced) that there is no certain centre, no universal stable proposition, no static reality except the ones we try to uphold.

You see I have come to learn just how different natural science is from, say, social science and humanities. But even some in the natural science have said “Okay, I give up. Every new thing, raises two others that we have to figure out.” Case in point is naturally the whole inconsistency between the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Now if we don’t have clear boundaries even in natural science then why on earth do we think we can artificially uphold professional boundaries informed by social science.

There are a great many disciplines that take interest in social sciences and of course psychology is one them. Let me say that again ‘one of them.’ These other disciplines have been interested in human behaviour and life science in different contexts for ages: from anthropologists to communication departments, to arts and so on.

There are three that I would like to particularly mention since they, more than having interest, are also engaged in what knowledge in these sciences means for our professional roles and engaging people where they are in life (personal or corporate). They include psychology (as one would expect), social work, and then practical theology. Interestingly there is also something called philosophical counselling.

These professions’ ethical standards do not differ, their competency frameworks (coaching, counselling, facilitation, etc.) differs minimally, and all three of them are all over the place (in personal and corporate domains). We live in a time, some call it postmodern, where boundaries have shifted irrevocably, yet we want to claim our little turf of professional practice with arguments from the ideology of modernism. Something has got to give. If you see yourself as taking part in the social fabric of a global postmodern, and post-secular world, that implies that these professions will differ only, not necessarily in context, but in the place they are coming from: variations in lenses, approaches, epistemology , or methodologies perhaps.

The biggest consideration herein lies in what paradigm (not what profession or context) you position yourself. If you are a systems-psychodynamic practitioner then that is your lens. It doesn’t matter what your context is or whether you call yourself a coach, counsellor or facilitator. These last descriptions then only matter in so far as they are self ascribed identity labels but they have very little if anything to do with what is supposedly the difference (essence, core, boundary) between coaching and counselling.  The same would go for any other deliberately chosen epistemology such as narrative social-constructionism. This is why I present an advanced corporate coaching course in  theology or why we can responsibly focus on organisational studies in practical theology.

This is also why dialogue is so extremely important. In all of these ventures there is fluidity, an acknowledgement of diversity and more respect even for my colleagues as part of a multidisciplinary team (each having a unique disciplinary story). The subject matter is the same, add though more emphasis on certain ideas (stories, values, relational knowing, workplace spirituality).

This is my theory and it works in practice. I am interested to learn what you have to say?




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