Flaunting Experience

February 25th, 2012 | Posted by Michael Taleff in Uncategorized

What drives some people to parade their experience as a sole and high standard of their addiction counseling proficiency?

While some elements of addiction counseling experience are laudable, many do not realize the many dark sides of experience.

One example centers on those providers who display their experience as the singular basis of their clinical competency and proficiency. With just a modicum of thought, you can establish that experience by itself cannot constitute the entire bulk of professional know-how. It is simply not sufficient. While important, it merely comprises a portion of one’s addiction counseling capability. Critical thought, research knowledge, the ability to develop a professional relationship with clients, among others all rank high in overall counseling proficiency if not higher.

Another unrecognized dark side of experience is its potential to constrict or narrow one’s field of view. Why? Experience frequently crowds out other options, other possibilities because of its inherent conviction. Conviction rarely allows opposing views of thought.

And for what its worth, conviction is a mere step away from dogma. And our field could use a little less of that, while using all the science it can garner.

Moreover, experience comes loaded with bias. To use experience one generally has to rely on intuition. It has been fairly well established that intuition is loaded with imperfections. The human brain never evolved to assess the world with clarity. Human are terrible at statistics and probability theory that are far more accurate about clinical assessment that is our institution.

Lastly, some in our field strut their experience with a gait of pride. This swagger of vanity is betrays the tip of something pretentious. And pride and professional competency are not very compatible. If anything pride will damage competency because pride is prone to crowd out new and needed information because its feels it has all the answers already. Believing your have all the answers already is not an element of clinical competency.

I suggest that there need to be questions directed at a sole reliance on experience and it supposed rank with professional competency. These would include:

  • What has experience really taught you? List the core elements against the peer-reviewed literature.
  • When was the last time you measured the accuracy of your experience to a real live test?
  • Is experience the master educator you think it is?
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