An account of how I learned to be a helping professional – not an instruction manual, but a prompt for you to explore your own story .
The integration of intellectual clarity and emotional subjectivity has been tackled in another way by the use of ‘competencies’. This was an intellectually attractive attempt to respond to the obvious problem that ‘knowing things’ does not make a person an effective worker with people. It was attractive in that it seemed to offer a way of bringing the messy subjective personal world into the world of ‘clarity’, of explicit intellectual categories. Interestingly, the movement towards defining competences has attracted some hostility and even dismissive contempt. More commonly, lip service was paid, but competence frameworks were unused, or for all their laboured attention to clarity of meaning, remained mystifying and tied to their own special language.
Competences do pose a problem – why is the idea so obviously attractive but the reality of their use so limited and unsatisfactory? They cause unease because I think they seem to drain the uniqueness out of the personal, which is seen in so many contexts as prejudicial subjectivity but which is really core to our sense of security about ourselves in the world. Rather oddly, in this respect they share a quality with psychoanalysis – the quality that attracts hostility and scorn. Whilst Freud seemed to threaten a sense of secure identity by adducing a disturbing and shocking unconscious, competences threaten that identity by reducing the personal to sets of words that divide it up into universally shared components.
Both competences and psychodynamics deserve more attention in the exploration, but I do not wish to divert the reader in this introduction into playing with these ideas . I started with poetry, a rhythm and music and this is what I want to be added to knowledge, intellectual categories, ideas, competences as I explore what it is to be effective in working with people in trouble.