Fears about dependency

There is a considerable level of anxiety in helping professions about the dangers of ‘creating dependency’, even in probation where you would have thought that failure to engage with and turn up to appointments at all would be a more pressing anxiety. There seems to be wish that change can be something that goes on in the client, prompted only by a piece of advice here or a cognitive behaviour programme there, with no real emotional engagement between client and worker. Faced with a real emotional person, anxiety immediately comes to the fore.

As with all anxieties, there is some real basis for it, but I always felt that dependence was not something to be avoided so much as part of the process of change that has to be grown through. This first articulation of change as maturation takes us back to how people develop through infancy. We do not in these circumstances describe dependency as a problem to be avoided – we see it as a natural and necessary part of childhood and only start to see it as a problem if the dependency remains after adolescence should the individual fail to achieve a functioning independence.

Actually, although dependency in childhood we would not describe as a problem in itself, we do recognise it as problematic and it is source of anxiety as is obvious if you watch a clinging child and the frustrated worried response of the parent to that clinging behaviour.

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