Re: [emergence-of-nvc] Carl Rogers on the "Emergence" proposal
- Wow, (l)An-ok, I am just marveling at this article. I had never read it before and I love how it speaks so clearly and eloquently to my somewhat vague, uncomfortable worries about licensure and certification. Just last week, I was reading about efforts to further increase the licensure requirements for providing counseling in various states in the US, and getting more and more discouraged. Reading this inspires me very much and refreshes my energy.
This sentence jumped out at me immediately: "As soon as we set up criteria for certification - whether for clinical psychologists, for NTL group trainers, for marriage counselors, for psychiatrists, for psychoanalysts, or, as I heard the other day, for psychic healers - the first and greatest effect is to freeze the profession in a past image." I love this clear expression of what bothers me about certification, as a static system unable to effectively nurture evolution and innovation.
Also, I loved at the end when he talked about feedback, a key factor in emergence.
Thank you so much for sharing this with usOn Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 10:04 PM, (I)An-ok Ta Chai <anarchotcs@...> wrote:
Here is a piece written by Carl Rogers that I transcribed a few years
back from an essay entitled "Some New Challenges to the Helping
Professions". This essay can be found as chapter eleven in his well-
known book "A Way Of Being".
I like it, because in many ways this is a precursor to the "Emergence"
critique & proposal, back before there was "NVC" or "the internet" as
DARE WE DO AWAY WITH PROFESSIONALISM?
By Carl Rogers
A challenge that I wish to raise, especially for clinical and social
psychologists, is the radical possibility of sweeping away our
procedures for professionalization. I know what heresy that idea is,
what terror it strikes in the heart of the person who has struggled
to become a "professional." But I have seen the moves toward
certification and licensure, the attempts to exclude charlatans, from
a vantage point of many years, and it is my considered judgment that
they fail in their aims. I helped the APA to form the ABEPP (American
Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology, now named the American
Board of Professional Psychology) in 1947 when I was president of the
APA. I was ambivalent about the move then. I wish now that I had
taken a stand against it.
I am not in any way impugning the motives, the integrity, and the
efforts of those who aim toward certification and all that follows
from it. I sympathize deeply. I wish there were a way to separate the
qualified from the unqualified, the competent worker from the
opportunist, the exploiter, and the charlatan. But let's look at a
As soon as we set up criteria for certification - whether for
clinical psychologists, for NTL group trainers, for marriage
counselors, for psychiatrists, for psychoanalysts, or, as I heard the
other day, for psychic healers - the first and greatest effect is to
freeze the profession in a past image. This is an inevitable result.
What can you use for examinations? Obviously, the questions and tests
that have been used in the past decade or two. Who is wise enough to
be an examiner? Obviously, the person who has ten or twenty years of
experience and who therefore started his training fifteen to twenty-
five years previously. I know how hard such groups try to update
their criteria, but they are always several laps behind. So the
certification procedure is always rooted in the rather distant past
and defines the profession in those terms.
The second drawback I state sorrowfully: there are as many certified
charlatans and exploiters of people as there are uncertified. If you
had a good friend badly in need of therapeutic help, and I gave you
the name of a therapist who was a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology,
with no other information, would you send your friend to him? Of
course not. You would want to know what he is like as a person and a
therapist, recognizing that there are many with diplomas on their
walls who are not fit to do therapy, lead a group, or help a
marriage. Certification is not equivalent to competence.
The third drawback is that the urge toward professionalism builds up
a rigid bureaucracy. I am not personally aware of such bureaucracy at
the national level, but it certainly occurs frequently at the state
level. Bureaucratic rules become a substitute for sound judgment. A
person is disqualified because he has 150 hours of supervised
therapy, while another is approved because he has the required 200.
No attention is given to the effectiveness of either therapist, or
the quality of his work, or even the quality of the supervision he
received. Another person might be disqualified be-cause his excellent
psychological thesis was done in a graduate department that is not
labeled "psychology." I won't multiply the examples. The bureaucrat
is beginning to dominate the scene in ways that are all too familiar,
setting the profession back enormously.
Then there is the other side of the coin. I think of the "hot-line"
workers whom I have been privileged to know in recent years. Over the
phone, they handle bad drug trips, incipient suicides, tangled love
affairs, family discord, all kinds of personal problems. Most of
these workers are college students or those just beyond this level,
with minimal intensive "on-the-job" training. And I know that in many
of these crisis situations they use a skill and judgment that would
make a professional green with envy. They are
completely "unqualified," if we use conventional standards. But they
are, by and large, both dedicated and competent.
I think also of my experience in groups, where the so-called naive
member often has an inner wisdom in dealing with difficult
individuals and situations which far outclasses that of myself or of
any other professional facilitator. It is a sobering experience to
observe this. Or, when I think of the best leaders I know for dealing
with groups of married couples, I think of a man and a woman, neither
of whom has even the beginning of satisfactory paper credentials.
Very well qualified people exist outside the fence of credentials.
But you may protest, "How are you going to stop the charlatans who
exploit persons psychologically, often for great financial gain?" I
respect this question, but I would point out that the person whose
purpose is to exploit others can do so without calling himself a
psychologist. Scientology (from which we might have learned some
things, had we been less concerned about credentials) now goes its
merry and profitable way as a religion! It is my considered judgment
that tight professional standards do not, to more than a minimal
degree, shut out the exploiters and the charlatans. If we
concentrated on developing and giving outstanding personal help,
individuals would come to us, rather than to con artists.
We must face the fact that in dealing with human beings, a
certificate does not give much assurance of real qualification. If we
were less arrogant, we might also learn much from the "uncertified"
individual, who is sometimes unusually adept in the area of human
I am quite aware that the position I am taking has disadvantages and
involves risks. But so does the path to certification and licensure.
And I have slowly come to the conclusion that if we did away
with "the expert," "the certified professional," "the licensed
psychologist," we might open our profession to a breeze of fresh air,
a surge of creativity, such as it has not known for years.
In every area - medicine, nursing, teaching, brick-laying, or
carpentry - certification has tended to freeze and narrow the
profession, has tied it to the past, has discouraged innovation. If
we ask ourselves how the American physician acquired the image of
being a dollar-seeking reactionary, a member of the tightest union in
the country, opposed to all progress and change, and especially
opposed to giving health care where it is most needed, there is
little doubt that the American Medical Association has slowly, even
though unintentionally, built that image in the public mind. Yet the
primary initial purpose of the AMA was to certify and license
qualified physicians and to protect the public against the quack. It
hurts me to see psychology beginning to follow that same path.
The question I am humbly raising, in the face of what I am sure will
be great shock and antagonism, is simply this: Can psychology find a
new and better way? Is there some more creative method of bringing
together those who need help and those who are truly excellent in
offering helping relationships?
I do not have a final answer, but I would point to one suggestive
principle, first enunciated for me by my colleague Richard Farson
(personal communication, 1966): "The population which has the problem
possesses the best resources for dealing with the problem." This has
been shown to be true in many areas. Drug addicts, or former drug
addicts, are most successful in dealing with individuals who have
drug problems; similarly, ex-alcoholics help alcoholics, ex-convicts
help prisoners - all of them probably more effectively than
professionals. But if we certify or otherwise give these individuals
superior status as helpers, their helpfulness declines. They then
become "professionals," with all the exclusiveness and territoriality
that mark the professional.
So, though I know it must sound horrendous, I would like to see all
the energy we put into certification rules, qualifications, licensure
legislation, and written and oral examinations rechanneled into
assisting clinical psychologists, social psychologists, and group
leaders to become so effective, so devoted to human welfare, that
they would be chosen over those who are actually unqualified, whether
or not they possess paper credentials.
As a supplement to guide the public, we might set up the equivalent
of a Consumer Protective Service. If one complaint comes in about
ineffective or unethical behavior, it might well be explained away.
But if many complaints come in about an individual's services to the
public, then his name should be made available to the public, with
the suggestion "Let the buyer beware."
Meanwhile, let us develop our learning processes in psychology in
such new ways that we are of significantly more service to the public
than the "instant gurus," the developers of new and untried fads, the
exploiters who feed on a public obviously hungry to be dependent on
someone who claims to have the answer to all human problems. When our
own lasting helpfulness is clearly evident, then we will have no need
for our elaborate machinery for certifying and licensing.
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- Heya Conal & Holly,
I'm struck by your two responses, how very similar they are! I am glad
that I was able to contribute to ya'll.
Since you both enjoyed this piece so, I just now up-loaded to the
files section of this group the entire article of which that piece was
a part of. You might find the rest of the article interesting/useful
> How about forwarding the essay to the cnvc-certification group andI just forwarded it on to the NVC Evolves group. The
>to the NVC Evolves group? Or if you'd rather not, do you mind if I
"nvccertificationcandidates" group I sent it to back in Feb, 2005. You
can go to that group and search for the subject-line "Carl Rogers on
certification" to read the discussion that happened around that then.
You're welcome to send that out to that list again, over three years
later, to see if people respond differently.
- I really enjoyed reading this as well. So well thought out and clear.
Something that jumped out at me was the line "terror it strikes in
the heart of the person who has struggled to become a "professional."
I think of certification something like hazing. As in people start
feeling like "I went through this, you should have to too".
I feel lucky to live in a state (Oregon) that does not (yet) require
licensure to do counseling. Recently I've been contemplating learning
to offer counseling to people (combining NVC, Hakomi, mindfulness,
and whatever else is helpful). I simply cannot stomach formal
education any more - I've experienced it as very deadening. And I'm
heartened to clear from my consciousness the idea that I "need" to
get a M.A. or jump through similar hoops. Instead I'm asking
myself "What training/practice/etc would help me feel confident that
I am genuinely helping?". It feels so much more alive and inspiring
to me than looking at a list of requirements.
I believe it also inspires a sense of responsibility for self. If
I'm "self-certifying", I'm going to have to really ask myself "Am I
ready? What more do I need to learn?". This kind of honest self-
evaluation and responsibility is what I hope all
helping "professionals" would have. And yet it seems to me that the
idea that "200 supervised hours" or another arbitrary external
criteria magically makes one qualified inherently demotes self-
evaluation in favor of external evaluation. It reinforces this idea
that other people know you better than you know you. Which is exactly
the opposite of the kind of self-awareness that I hope to inspire in
people I'm offering to help.
I'm very happy and inspired reading this, and if I do decide to
become a counselor and/or NVC teacher and have a website and
an "about page", I'm going to include that article under an FAQ
saying "Are you properly licensed, certified, and rubber-stamped?".
- I felt compelled to put in a note on
licensure/certification/competence. I hope that it contributes to
As someone who spent 15 years working in state government making
policy related to licensure in the health professions, I thought that
I would add my two cents. Licensure tests knowledge, but not
competence. Competence is a judgment. There is no objective
measure. Clients want professionals to be competent, and not just
have the requisite knowledge. Most licensed professionals are
competent in some aspects of their profession and not so competent or
even totally incompetent in others. Because I believe that most of
them, at the very least, are doing no direct harm, I also believe
that most of them are practicing within their scope of competence.
Licensure is designed, in principle, to protect the public, but it
also protects the interests of the professions. Most legislation to
establish new licensed professions in New York, for example, is
initiated by profession associations, not by consumers clamoring for
more regulation, nor by ardent bureaucrats yearning to protect the
public. Professional associations employ lobbyists to get their
legislation through the system. These same professional associations
write the terms of the legislation, including the definition of the
profession. And, in New York, for example, once a profession has a
legal definition (scope of practice), ONLY people in that profession
or other licensed professions (in the case of overlap of scope of
practice) may practice that profession, EVEN IF IT IS CALLED
Competence might show up as a "felt sense," as the folks who practice
Focusing might say. You feel it in your gut as a result of x amount
of study, observation and practice. Competence is dynamic: It
depends on the what, when, where and with whom. I used to tell
licensed professionals to make an internal assessment and ask
themselves, "Am I competent to do this?" before touching each and
every patient. I would say the same about NVC. I really liked what
Emma said about competence. She will self-certify when she is she
feels that she is competent. Certified or not, it's about taking
responsibility for yourself and your actions.