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 counter balance to this search for creativity and a vision of health was despair and hopelessness. This seemed at the time a truly adolescent theme, and was in truth too difficult a side of life for me. Indeed as I look back, the choice of creativity as a dissertation theme is such an obvious choice for a young man whose best friend at university had, 18 months previously, committed suicide. I don’t know whether I told my tutors about this event whilst I was on the social work course. I do recall a sort of sudden shock in one tutorial with Bill Jordan when he suggested that perhaps despair could be real and appropriate for some people at some time. I think he told me that I had taken the edge off the reality of hopeless depression, that I had sugared it in some way or dismissed it as pathology.
It would be too much to say that this emergent person engaged with the despair, depression and destructive impulses that would be the focus of my chosen career. Seeds were sown however.
I have been trying however to show how ideas, concepts, psychological truths that do inform helping professions, have their expression not just in theoretical formulations but in life stories. I have chosen some themes that seem to me as I look back, to be especially to the fore at the setting out of my career:
- The formation of a separate identity, and how we live whilst it emerges
- The nature of relationships and the space between them in which reflection and discovery can take place
- The nature of influence in relationships – transactions
- Being someone with something to offer, and being able to say ‘no’
- Creativity and a vision of health
I want to explore each of these more fully in the context of work and professional helping. I should explain what I include in this work context. My own training was a social work one that led me to be a probation officer, family social worker, probation manager and drug service senior manager. Obviously a great deal of my material will come out of this professional experience. I think however that what I have to say applies to all sorts of helping settings.