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Assignment Question: The professional-client/service-user relationship is expected to be objective and detached (Storr, 1989). Discuss this statement and other potentially stereotypical assertions we affix to the ‘profession’.
Profession is a vocation or an occupation based on an educational training. It also requires a degree in that professional field. For example, teaching is considered to be a profession because it has both an educational training and a degree. The word profession comes from the Latin word ‘professio’ which means a public declaration with the force of a promise. This means that the profession first presents itself to society as a social benefit and then society accepts the profession, expecting and trusting it to serve some important social goal. In fact, The Australian Council of Professions defines a profession as; ‘a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to high ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and these skills in the interest of others’.
The professional-client relationship, as Storr stated, is expected to be objective and detached. In fact, theories of the helping process that follows the medical paradigm have presented the ideal worker as an objective, clinical detached and knowledgeable professional. The relationship has to be objective and detached because a professional is someone whose efforts or actions are only intended to attain or accomplish a purpose or goal without any emotional involvement. For example, a doctor’s efforts are to cure the patient’s health without any personal feelings involved. In fact, if a worker expresses his real emotional feelings towards his clients, then he is considered to be unprofessional. The relationship between a professional and a client may be defined by boundaries. These boundaries make the relationship both professional and safe for the client. Paraphrasing Marilyn Peterson, from her book ‘At Personal Risk’, these boundaries are the limits that allow a safe connection between the professional and the client based on the client’s needs. The client’s needs should always come first. The workers’ personal values or biases should be prevented from their ethical decision-making. This is because, if their values enter their decision-making process, their personal views or needs would begin to govern or shape the therapeutic intervention. Therefore, in this situation the needs of the workers will be placed above the needs of their clients and the decisions will not be beneficial for the clients.
Boundary can refer to the line that separates the self of the client and the self of the professional. Professionals should not touch or hug their clients because if this happens, the professional-client relationship would begin to diminish. Regardless of who initiates the touch or hug, the client or professional may then perceive the relationship as one between friends whether intended or not. Professionals should avoid becoming friends with clients and should not socialize with them. The need for professional boundaries is rooted in the power imbalance that exists between the professional and the client. This power imbalance exists because the professional has skills, expertise and knowledge that the clients do not posses and they need. This means that the client depends on and trusts the professional to do only good and not cause harm. In other words the client believes and has faith that the workers, while in their professional role, will fulfill their ethical obligations of beneficence and non-malfeasance. Also, this power arises due to the client’s disclosure of personal information. However, despite all this, professionals are human beings working with other human beings. There are days when they are tired and stressed, and as a result, their ethical decision-making may not be good as it is when they are not stressed. They may cross boundaries inadvertently or their clients may innocently push the boundaries. Nevertheless, it is the professional responsibility to maintain or re-implement boundaries and they must take responsibility for their actions.
Stereotype is a belief or opinion that people in a society create on something or someone. Due to these stereotypes, many societies believe that in order to be a professional, one has to obtain an educational training and a degree in that professional field as already mentioned. Therefore, a professional is perceived as someone who goes to university, studies hard, obtains a degree and enjoys a comfortable salary. Such occupations that are considered to be professions to society are medicine, dentistry, law, engineering, architecture, social work, nursing, accountancy and teaching. However, there are occupations that are not considered to be professions but in my opinion they should be. For example, builders and plumbers are not considered as professionals because they do not have a high educational training like the others mentioned. However, in my opinion they should be considered as professions. This is because to be a builder or a plumber one should have a certain knowledge and skill in order to bulid an entire building or to install and repair pipes. Furthermore, both builders and plumbers are really necessary in society. Therefore, I think that they should be considered as professions even though they do not have a high educational training and a degree. In addition, those occupations that are considered to be professions are not really that professional in my opinion. Workers are considered to be professionals because they have the knowledge and skill to cure their patients, however there are other things that should be considered. For example, usually doctors are not friendly and sometimes, especially in hospitals they have the habit to talk with nurses about patients in medical words. This may make the patients feel uncomfortable because they know that they are talking about them and they may not understand these medical words. In my opinion this is not professional. I think professionals should first make their clients feel comfortable as possible.
Workers are required to choose between their personal and professional self during their work. Obviously, professionals have to choose the professional self in order to be professional. However, in my opinion by interacting the personal and the professional self together, one will develop a real skill. Professionals should help their clients in the most important and meaningful way they can. I think that there is nothing wrong if professionals show their feelings and express them to their clients. Professionals should respond in a personal way but at the same time carry out their professional function. In fact the interactional practice theory suggests that the helping person is effective only when able to synthesise real feelings with professional function. Without such a synthesis the worker appears as an unspontaneous, guarded professional who is unwilling to allow the clients access to the worker’s feelings. Clients do not need a perfect worker but they require someone who cares deeply about their success and improvement. Usually, the clients are more likely to see the worker as a real human person rather than a mechanical. If the worker shows no sign of humanity, the client will either constantly test to find flows in the facade or idealise the worker as the answer to all problems. The client who does not know at all times where the worker stands will have trouble trusting that worker. Another way in which sharing the worker’s feelings can be helpful in a relationship is when the effect is directly related to the content of the work as when the worker has had a life experience similar to that of the client. Self-disclosure of personal experiences and feelings when handled and interacted with the professional function can promote client growth.
The professional-client relationship raises many critical argumments. In fact there are also many films created purposely to criticse the boundaries of the relationship between professionals and clients. ‘Good Will Hunting’ is an example of one of these films. In this film what attracted me the most is the relationship between Will Hunter and the psychologist Sean Macguire. Although Will was unaware, blamed himself for his unhappy upbringing life and so he needed help from a psychologist to find direction in his life. In their relationship, Macguire was suppose to be objective and detached. However, this did not happen. Macguire, shared personal information about with Will about his wife and that he was too a victim of child abuse.
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