Recently a conversation was overheard that troubled me deeply. Two mental health professionals were talking about another who had recently published in a major journal. I had expected to hear support, possibly some constructive criticism or even that they had been inspired to write an article themselves. Instead I heard what I would define as a diatribe about how they disliked the writer, hoped she never got published again and that they could not believe anyone would support her in the first place. I was shocked to say the least. I was also very confused. Being curious (nosey?) I listened to the conversation that was taking place at the next table. I became more and more concerned and bewildered when it appeared that they were exploring ways that they could prevent her from reaching the next level. They explored the various ways they could block her via people they knew or connections they had. It was very sad to hear and any respect I may have had for them was soon lost. I have been called many things in my career such as an idealist, dreamer and perhaps naive. It is very possible that I am missing something but it seemed to me that those two clinicians were jealous of their colleague and that this jealousy was feeding their contempt for her. Perhaps they felt threatened by her success, or at least that her success somehow diminished their accomplishments? I really couldn’t say. Maybe I am wrong but my outlook is far different when I see a colleague succeed. I mean, none of us is beyond feeling jealous at least for a moment or two, but I would think we all recognize the benefit of seeing our peers succeed. Every success within our field is a success for our field and we all benefit from them. Now I realize that sometimes we just may not like someone and that some of us may try to block that person from moving ahead but if we feel tempted to do that we must take a long hard look at ourselves. I have had it done to me a few times and it is not pleasant and is unprofessional in my opinion but it does happen. Hey, I know that some people like reading my blogs while others have long ago stopped reading for whatever reason; some people may think of me badly, but I would hope they would respect me professionally and allow me to do my work. Thankfully that has been my experience with the ACA, its staff and members. Sadly though, people have shared some horrific stories with me, but this blog is not an attempt to share negativity but instead to illustrate ways that we can help our profession both directly and indirectly. Our names need not be on the byline and we do not always need to be on stage to make an impact. Sometimes helping others succeed is very rewarding indeed. For example, last year I was at a 911 conference that the organization that I was then president of had cosponsored. I was approached by a reporter and asked if I had any personal stories to share about my experiences with the victims and families of 911. I shared a story about working with families through a program that sought to make memorial quilts for the families. The reporter was touched by the story and asked me to write a story for a special commemorative printing that they were doing for the 911 anniversary. I accepted but asked them if the article had to be written by a doctor and if not, though I felt I had a good story, I was more of an assistant in the project and felt that the person in charge of the project could do a great job. Though I would have loved a byline in this publication, I recognized that I could both help a program get some notice for their work and help a person build their resume for publications. The resultant article was very moving and helped bring light to an otherwise untouched area. Though I was not “in” the article, it was a great day in my opinion for the profession. I have been blessed to be able to help people get a chance to get published in books, elected to offices; advance their careers etc. I never looked at it as competition any more than when a person opens up an office in my town. Whenever possible I try to get to know the new clinician, what they specialize in, insurances etc. and use them as a referral source for when I am overbooked. The bottom line as I see it is that lifting others or seeing others lift themselves does nothing to lower us; instead when any of us rise, we as a profession rise with them. I do hope that I never overhear such a conversation again and that none of us ever experience this either. I urge everyone who may view their peers as competition to reconsider. If any field can work together for the betterment of our clients, it should be those of us who have taken an oath to do no harm and who work in the human services. As for me, well I recommended a peer for an upcoming text that though I would have liked to have been a coauthor of it, I felt that it was beyond my scope of expertise but well within theirs. I look forward to getting a copy when it hits the presses. I am not doing anything new; in fact the three books that I have contributed to were a result of a peer recognizing that I had a voice that should be added to the topic and them reaching out to me for inclusion. If not for them, I do not know if I would have any books on my vita. If not for a peer turning me on to the ACA blogs and giving me the contact information they would not be this blog today. The same goes for several of my TV and other professional experiences. Peers helping peers is the way the profession grows and it should not matter if we are friends, have things in common: if we simply have respect for what they can offer the field, we all can go far. The sun in sinking in the west, one last client for the day and then hopefully some tractor therapy: be safe; do good.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).