The ‘active’ technique necessary for family therapy, the sense of ‘letting go’ of familiar securities reflects the need to act ‘intuitively’, to trust intuitions. This is difficult territory – how do we distinguish between and intuition and a prejudice? In order to understand this, it is important to recognise that an intuition is not an inexplicable feeling. The person with the intuition may not be able to explain their feeling at a particular moment in time but that does not mean it is ‘inexplicable’.
There is no doubt that acting on an intuition involves risks. ‘Intuitions’ can lead to disproportionate numbers of young black men being subject to stop and search process. ‘Intuition’ can lead to disproportionate numbers of men being excluded from exercising full responsibility for the care of their children. ‘Intuition’ can stand in the way of women fully achieving their potential in their career.
Three things must be said about using intuition in professional practice. Firstly, it must be noticed. This is important both because it may be a significant insight and in order that it can be subject to critical evaluation. It is easy, as I’ve suggested before, to become preoccupied with being right and then defending oneself against real or imagined criticism. Once we realise that ‘being wrong’ is often helpful so long as it is open to challenge and exploration , intuitions become easier to use constructively. Being wrong in an interview with a client can be very helpful if it is done in a way that allows for correction – a client will often explain something about themselves to correct a worker’s misunderstanding , something they may never have said in other circumstances. Even a prejudice, if open to challenge, can open up something useful – it may for example be that your prejudice is one with which a client is all too familiar and therefore colours the way they relate to people. The dangerous intuition then is one that is not noticed, explored, challenged.