The Question of Competence – Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should!

People who know me well, know that I love movies!

This past weekend the film Jurassic World was released. Which, of course, led to me watching Jurassic Park (the original (and best) film in the series) in preparation for maximum enjoyment of the new film.

My favorite line from the film Jurassic Park is when Jeff Goldblum’s character (an expert in chaos theory) says to the developer/”mad scientist” who brought dinosaurs back from extinction – did you ever stop to ask “just because we can, does it mean we should?”

It is this question that comes to my mind often in my work.

Professional competency is a journey rather than a destination!

Competence should always be under development. Yet it is not uncommon for confidence to trump competence. This leads to rush…..rush….rushing toward potentially high-risk actions with little to no awareness of the risk itself.

Actions such as opening a business whose reimbursement model you don’t fully understand due to

(a) lack of experience, and/or

(b) lack of development of that specific competency through training and supervision.

A license to practice as a mental health professional permits one to provide – without supervision – an array of services to the public. As a result, there are numerous ethical (not to mention legal) risk factors.

This is an awesome responsibility that should be respected and generate some fear with regard to proper preparation for practice and continued practice.

In fact, when I encounter colleagues who never express trepidation about the risks of practice, it represents to me a dangerous underestimation of all there is to learn and know.

I am not suggesting that we become so paralyzed that we can’t proceed.

Only that we stop to ask –“just because I can, does it mean I should?”

  • Should I provide couples counseling if I have not received training and supervision/consultation?
  • Should I train others on topics in which I do not have sufficient expertise?
  • Should I start a CORE agency (community “in home” counseling services reliant on medicaid or government 3rd party payment) merely because I’ve worked in one before?
  • Should I accept a supervision position because I long to distance myself from “having to see clients” if I have developed neither many years of  practice experience nor supervision experience or training?
  • Should I provide substance abuse treatment or anger management (violence intervention) if I don’t have training and supervision/consultation or certification in those areas of practice?

Just because someone offers you the opportunity to do something, that in itself should not be the primary determinant for accepting the proposal.

The determinant should always be your real-world experience, training, and consultation/supervision. One out of three is not sufficient.

It may appear that there is no harm, but there is risk inherent in all of the work that we do… it should never be taken lightly.

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