Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 910712

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'very' concerned about professionalism

Posted by friesandcoke on August 7, 2009, at 0:21:48

A poster here said I seem "very" concerned about professionalism regarding therapists. I really appreciate them reading all my posts to know that professionalism is very important to me. Being "very" concerned about professionalism serves me well because it protects me from sharing my self with people who other than having a license and a degree are no more qualified to treat me than I am to treat myself.
My concern doesn't trouble me though. I mean I don't find it get's in the way. It actually helps me weed out providers if that makes any sense. Maybe I seem like I am obsessive about professionalism. Maybe I am. But I do know that it really has come in handy in picking a therapist after interviewing several. And I do mean interviewing them. Going once and meeting them, etc. In my case, having a therapist I am interviewing take off their sandles and interview me in bare feet is unacceptable. But to many on this board, it seemed like to them it wouldn't be an issue. Having a therapist I am interviewing dressed like she just came in from gardening outside is to me unacceptable. Is professionalism in a therapist important to you? I can't define what I mean by "professionalism" because the person who said I am very concerned about it didn't define it. So I guess whatever it means to you is what it means. Wait a minute, to me professionalism means competent, respectful. Caring enough to portray a demeanor that radiates confidence in their ability as opposed to appearing to simply being someone who has shown up at work. A no nonsense attitude while at the same time being cordial and fun loving when the topic demands it.
Those are some of the things to me that define professional.


Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism friesandcoke

Posted by Daisym on August 7, 2009, at 2:05:53

In reply to 'very' concerned about professionalism, posted by friesandcoke on August 7, 2009, at 0:21:48

We have this discussion all the time in my office. We can all list things that are "un"professional - but it is harder to define professional. Especially in human services. I'm glad you wrote that different people have different pet peeves - what they need and want can be very different from what I need or want.

For me, I'd say I'm on the conservative side of professional. I want my therapist in slacks, casual shirt and office shoes. Dark shoes. I want him respectful and well-informed. And I don't want to have to keep adjusting this or that to accommodate him.


Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism

Posted by Nadezda on August 7, 2009, at 11:06:35

In reply to Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism friesandcoke, posted by Daisym on August 7, 2009, at 2:05:53

Professionalism is important to me, but imo it takes you only so far. I notice the appearance of professionalism in the concrete sense and probably would be a bit curious about a T who took off sandals. But I would consider professionalism to inhere in elements other than clothing. I prefer conservative or well put-together clothing, but I don't see it as a highly significant marker of professionalism, unless there's some real problem with it.

To me, professionalism involves a certain intuition, combined with the discipline and experience to use that sensitivity on my behalf, a deep enough sense of the varieties of human experience and how it goes wrong, and how it can be worked with over time-- and other much less tangible qualities like that. I would emphasize training, years in practice, reputation with people I respect, and overall skill in interacting helpfully in my first meetings.

So while professionalism is important, it matters where you place an emphasis. People are often rather quick to point to various therapist actions, or statements as "inappropriate" or 'unprofessional.' But the private relationship can often takes strange twists and turns that seem odd or discordant outside of the context and emotional history of the two people. I just don't think you can easily categorize therapist behavior or even choice of clothing, as long as it's clean, relatively well-fitting, and not seductive.

I personally have always seen Ts who wear white-collar type clothing-- and are pretty well dressed-- nothing flashy or highly fashionable, but perfectly presentable. Sandals and capri pants might seem slightly casual-- but my judment about the person would turn on other things.

Possibly it's the number of posts in which you've criticized the professionalism and or questioned the validity of someone's choices in clothing that has evoked the comment. A certain more polished or formal self-presentation was important to you-- but it's different to say that than to say that the person's professionalism is in question. One thing is your, quite legitimate and important (for you), preference; the other implies that the other person is in the wrong.



Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism

Posted by pegasus on August 7, 2009, at 11:41:07

In reply to 'very' concerned about professionalism, posted by friesandcoke on August 7, 2009, at 0:21:48

Hi there friesandcoke,

I think I'm the one who observed that you seemed to be very concerned about professionalism. What I meant by "professionalism" in that context is only what you had been talking about in your posts: casual versus more formal attire and behavior. If I were to try to define what I generally mean when I say "professionalism", it would probably include other things. But I don't recall that I meant more than the type of attire and behavior that you had previously mentioned, in that context.

I hope you didn't think that I intended to point out a flaw, or imply that you seem obsessed about it, or anything like that. I meant it only as an observation, without judgement. As in "you seem to prefer to wear your hair long." Some of us have one preference, and some of us have another. It's all great. I only mentioned it, because sometimes I find that taking a look at those things, as you are doing, is helpful.

That said, I have had some experiences that lead me to have some negative assumptions (as you seem to have positive ones) regarding more "professional" behavior and dress, at least in the context of my own therapist. Some of those are:

- People who always dress more formally are likely to not be authentic with me.

- It's dangerous to be myself around people who have more formal behavior and dress.

. . . and more along those lines. As you can see, it's all my baggage, and clearly you interpret those same things differently. It's an interesting thing, isn't it? I'm getting a lot out of this discussion, especially as I consider my own interactions with clients as a "professional".




Posted by alexandra_k on August 8, 2009, at 7:54:51

In reply to Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism, posted by pegasus on August 7, 2009, at 11:41:07

i guess i'm fairly relaxed about clothes. i've seen therapists / p-docs in board shorts and t-shirts (especially on weekends or during the summer) and that is fine by me. for me... professionalism isn't really about clothes. it is more about attitude and professional competence. i guess i don't find clothes to be a terribly reliable indicator and my experience is that typically the more 'professionally' dressed they are the more arrogant and unreceptive they are, too.

i think part of it is culture. in a place where air con isn't really standard and it gets pretty hot more casual dress is accepted as appropriately professional. that being said i surely couldn't take a therapist seriously if they were wearing stubbies or a short skirt or something like that lol. or maybe... it would be harder for me to take them seriously because of that.

i know some therapists do 'quirky' things in an attempt to try and 'level the field' and help 'create rapport'. therapist and client drinking coffee in session or having a cigarette or something like that. i used to have a therapist who did that. it was okay... i guess i had worries about his professionalism but they weren't so related to that... drug and alchohol counselors in particular tend (in my experience) to be more relaxed like that.

i don't know. maybe it comes down to personal preference. i guess i wonder 'what is important to me - and why?'


Re: professionalism

Posted by alexandra_k on August 8, 2009, at 8:00:46

In reply to professionalism, posted by alexandra_k on August 8, 2009, at 7:54:51

maybe part of it (for me) is in some kind of 'longing to merge with an idealized other' (ugh that does sound awful). things like... intelligence, the ability to listen, emotional sensitivity, professional knowledge (e.g., being part of some kind of process of self / other discovery), and the ability to take me seriously (i.e., not be patronizing) are really important. for me... qualifications and those personal qualities are most important.


Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism friesandcoke

Posted by Garnet71 on August 8, 2009, at 11:08:53

In reply to 'very' concerned about professionalism, posted by friesandcoke on August 7, 2009, at 0:21:48

It appears everyone can have a different view on professionalism. I have some experiences to share that add to this conversation.

My very first T, almost 10 years ago, wore fuzzy slippers in the office. He was a LCSW, older and male-hardly what you'd expect when you looked down! He was very laid back...

He was the most professional, insightful, caring, empathic, kind therapist I'd ever had so far. He dedicated his life to the profession-he did community service, spoke at seminars, wrote letters to newspapers and buainesses, did advocacy stuff for mental illness stigma; many things he did were not the type of things you get compensated for, He passed away shortly after I started seeing him. I told my new T how devastating it was and she told me she heard sooo much about him and how highly he was regarded by his former patients and colleagues. Yet the guy wore fuzzy slippers!!!

My most recent T-a MD/psychiatrist, psychoanalyst-based psychodynamic therapist-dressed formally, appeared professional-in terms of superficial indicators - had letterhead for his practice, was incorporated, returned calls quickly, no self-disclosure, etc.; where he seemed to have a business sense....But he was cold and unempathatic and unfriendly. If you went one minute beyond your allotted time, he would abruptly say you had to leave no matter what you were discussing....At the time, I thought it would be good for me since my parents were distant like that, and he reminded me of my father so much that the transference was overwhelming. It was a terrible mistake on my part-I opened my emotions to him and he was judgmental and hurt me. I have experienced PTSD symptoms since seeing him, and he offered no support.

Really-perceptions of "professionalism" can deceive you. I also agree with others professionalism is more about how you relate to others, ethics and standards, dedication to the 'job', etc, rather than superficial things like dress. Be careful!


Re: 'very' concerned about professionalism

Posted by Garnet71 on August 8, 2009, at 11:40:41

In reply to 'very' concerned about professionalism, posted by friesandcoke on August 7, 2009, at 0:21:48

Oh-one more thing to share....

So only 2 therapists I have known seemed to be judgmental at one time or another.

One-she wore a business suit while others in the same practice dressed casually. She seemed to be perfectionist like-not one piece of paper or item on her desk ever. Her routine was exactly the same everytime-how she'd greet you, start off, end session, etc. Her office was so neat and orderly, nothing out of place. She seemed a bit inhibited.

The PDOc I previously mentioned seemed perfectist like as well and appeared very self disciplined-initially. I had a strong sense he had a fear of losing control. I don't know if my perception was on target, but it was very noticable to me.

Both were judgmental; both lacked empathy, though she was ok most of the time...

So I suppose what I am going to watch out for is this type of behavior. I guess we don't have much to go by initially-it takes a while to get to know someone. Maybe for those of us who have had considerable child abuse-maybe we are a bit hypervigilant (or maybe it is just me).

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