Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Importance of Passion in Research and Training

Entry for 27 September 2006:

Since I began meeting with the MSc and PhD students last week, I have been very impressed by their passion for the research, driven by their commitment to the Person-Centered approach. The students here come at their own expense, unlike UK students in Clinical Psychology, who have their way paid for, or at least heavily subsidized by the government. And, although tuition here is much less than at the professional psychology schools in the US, many of the students travel a long way (some from London or other countries) to study here. So, the students who end up here tend to be quite dedicated, especially at the masters or doctoral levels. Part of what drives them is the strong sense of being discriminated against by the National Health Service and CBT-oriented academics, and their desire to defend and support the person-centered approach, which they believe in because it is consistent with their values and life experiences. Many are here on a mission!

I find that this connects with me at a deep level, with my own sense of mission. I have always felt privileged to be able to teach at a university, and have felt a strong sense of responsibility to make the most of the opportunity to help others learn and to discover new and useful things. The result is that I love this passion in others, and am pleased and surprised to find it here. I shouldn’t be surprised, but there you have it, there are many things that I didn’t get around to anticipating, even though they are logical in retrospect! The result is that I am really looking forward to working with these passionately committed students.

Interestingly, at our strategic mission meeting today, when we reviewed the many strengths or resources of the Counselling Unit, the senior staff didn’t cite this passion as a strength, although they immediately agreed with it. Apparently it is something they take for granted, as so obvious as to be overlooked. Sometimes it’s nice to be an outsider, because you can see things that insiders don’t.

The lesson I think is that passion and commitment are an important but perhaps overlooked contributor to quality of the learning process. It would be good to develop a valid way of assessing this in prospective person-centered or process-experiential therapists.

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