What is the ‘point’ of personal development?

Do you visit a coach or therapist to grow? Can people who are ‘happy’ in themselves benefit from coaching or therapy? If someone is ‘doing alright’ why should they consider personal growth and emotional development?

From a recent online group discussion….

Timothy: Are there any online directories that allow counsellors/psychotherapists to promote their practices specific to the area of positive adult development?

Graham: Funny question, Timothy. There’s lots – some local and some global, ranging from the generic Yellow Pages to specific ones run by psychotherapy membership bodies. In fact, I can’t actually think of any Directory that promotes negative adult development! Could be a good theme for a comedy act though. Best wishes, Graham.

Geoffrey: Just out of curiosity, what’s the difference between “adult development” and “adult education”?

Graham: I’m not sure that there’s a widely recognized difference, but in the circles in which I work, AE would embrace all aspects of intellectual enhancement, whereas AD would refer to enhancing the emotional and spiritual awareness of an individual. Regards, Graham.

Geoffrey: Truly not wishing to seem obtuse, but (here it comes) isn’t the objective of most therapy to help patients/clients develop a healthy physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual life experience? It certainly has been my focus for, oh, the last 40+ years or so. Is Adult Development somehow genuinely different or is it a terminological twist?

Graham: I don’t think there’s any discrepancy here? I can’t think of any form of post-adolescent psychological therapy that isn’t “adult development”. There ARE other adult development interventions which are not therapy, per se, but their followers would say are “developmental” – the most obvious being religions, new age movements, and cults.

And yes, I too would say that therapy has the objective of leading to a “healthy physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual life” though with the emphasis on the last two, and usually where the first two are outcomes of the therapy rather than the main focus. Thus, I would work with a client on the psychological blocks to a healthy lifestyle, but I wouldn’t coach them around a running track.

It is hard to define, but in the UK, at least, AE would embrace all fields of knowledge and skill, not just those about the internal growth of a human being emotionally and spiritually. For example, AE includes carpentry, plumbing, foreign language proficiency, car mechanics, cookery and handicrafts. While these can be used as levers to enhanced emotional and spiritual understanding and hence could be described as “developmental” unless a class was called “Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, or something similar, those signing up for a “Do-It-Yourself Electrics” course probably wouldn’t be expecting any profound insights into their psyche.

It was Timothy who used the two phrases in his personal description, perhaps he would like to explain more?

What I was picking up on was his inference that he was looking for directories that focused on POSITIVE adult development. As I said, I can’t think of any examples of adult development directories that might focus on the NEGATIVE. I suppose the entries might read something like this:

“Dr Graham Wilson, specialist in the creation of distress, anxiety and phobias. If you thought you were ‘fixed’ see me! If you don’t feel suicidal after just one visit then your fees will be refunded.”

I notice that Timothy speaks of “Optimal Adult Development”, so I guess he is embracing both negative and positive. I can relate to that, as personally, I am rather concerned about people who focus exclusively on the positive – this seems to ignore the reality of the hardships of life and could be seen as a form of denial at the very least. As you can imagine, I don’t hang out with people who have had their teeth artificially whitened and their lips surgically enhanced to emphasise their smiles!

I am happy to comment, or deliver keynote sessions, on any of the topics that I post about.
For media and speaking enquiries, please call me, Graham Wilson, on 07785 222380.

Best wishes

Behind the scenes, helping those of power see themselves, other people and situations differently

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.