Are your bum and balls up for some Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?

I have already had one pop at CPD as it is practiced in many quasi-professions.

Don’t misunderstand me… I am totally committed to the constant updating of my knowledge, skills, and attitudes towards any of the quasi-professions in which I practice (which include, but are not limited to, psychotherapy, coaching, teaching (lecturing and tutoring), swimming instruction, photography, leadership, business studies (including HR management), current affairs, and politics.

I do this through a wide range of activities; reading (books, journal articles, magazines – on- and off-line), watching (as in films, documentaries, and others), attending (conferences, seminars, networking events), organising (film evenings, informal networking events), supervision (through peer-to-peer conversation; individually and collectively – both in-person, and online through Reciprocoach). Above all, though, I do and I reflect. I keep a reflective journal, and (while I can have long periods in which I am usually working flat-out and write relatively little in my Journal) this is an invaluable space to put pegs in the ground to do things differently in the future.

Much of my ‘doing’ is documented, especially my teaching, and most lessons have notes on them for inclusion in the next run of a course, or a session within one.

I measure the worth of any of these activities according to what I get out of it, not what it costs me. Thus, a lunch with a possible collaborator, attended by his Art Director, might quite easily figure more highly in my inspiration than a three-day conference with a load of competitors.

Sadly, many of the quasi-professions don’t see things in this way. Some dismiss ANY kind of learning other than attendance at THEIR annual conference. Many only accept attendance at approved training events. You clear your diary, you book into the kind of hotel that you would never want to stay at normally, in a part of the world usually chosen for its Godforesakenness, eating food that you know isn’t healthy from the moment you sense its presence in the same building as you. You arrive at ‘registration’ and collect your ‘goody bag’ from which you remove the tiny bottle of water, and free sample of nutty-snack, before leaving it on a seat somewhere (initially by accident) to be lost, camouflaged, in a pile of identical bags. In the lecture room, you join peers from around the realm, who smile distrustingly, nod the odd acquaintance, and then bury their heads in the paper handouts and programme. Two days pass. You have sat in this seat for six hours a day, and thereby accrued 12 CPD credits. But what have you learned?

That your bum is capable of considerable endurance? But you’re a psychotherapist, so you knew THAT already.

In a room of, say, 30 people, there will be a few who emerge truly enlightened. There will be some who are so completely bored that they spent most of the time dropping off, or furtively Facebooking or fixed to their Kindle. There will be a pool in the middle, who “find these things soooo inspiring”, and yet, when you ask, “so how are you going to use this last talk in your work?” glaze over and notice a friend on the other side of the coffee thermos.

On one occasion, I tried tweeting a running commentary – as much to keep me engaged as anything else. All the tweets were in upbeat terms and usually what were intended to be interesting summaries. During the start of the second day, someone from the organising committee told me to stop because I couldn’t be concentrating on the speakers sufficiently…

At one memorable event, there was a participant at the back of the room knitting. I thought this was particularly creative. My mother used to be able to chat quite easily while knitting (she attended a weekly ‘knit and natter’ group, after all), and at least this lady wasn’t completely wasting her time. I had a chat with her over tea and she immediately confirmed what I suspected – she’d been in practice for 20yrs and was only there for the CPD ‘hours’.

I urge you to look closely at what YOU do for CPD. It may be costing a lot, and mildly inspiring, but what exactly have you learned? Didn’t you do that already? Now, what COULD you be doing that would genuinely improve your confidence and competence in your particular field?

There’s little sign of this ridiculous approach stopping. There’s a whole industry of CPD providers now engaged in it. The leaflet for one came across my desk this morning. Apparently, he is a “world-renowned author, psychiatrist, lecturer, and intellectual giant”. Some folk have kindly suggested that I run some of these workshops. Sadly, though, therein lies my problem. You see, while I am happy to accept that my bum can endure hours of passive mistreatment, I wouldn’t have the balls to claim that I was an “World-renowned, intellectual giant”!

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