I just returned from a professional conference…not a big national one like the APA Convention, but a great statewide (Colorado) effort to build communication and increase collaboration and shared vision between a variety of different service providers (teachers, mental health counselors, the juvenile justice system, case workers, and academics) working with children and adolescents. I had the unique opportunity to provide a 90 minute workshop on managing vicarious trauma–best defined—at least in my eyes—by Figley (1982) as the cost of caring.
I was excited to have my proposal accepted, mostly because it gave me a reason to travel to Fort Collins, Colorado, but also because it allowed me the opportunity to engage in presenting a workshop on something I have come to be increasingly passionate about.
What I didn’t really consider, until after the conference, was how this was yet another step I have taken that leads me further down the road of becoming a “professional”.
I was struck with so many feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and pressure AFTER the presentation.
“What gave me the right to give this talk?”
“What did I really know?”
“Could I really be effecting change on some grander level by sharing these ideas and interventions?”
“Could this possibly lead to the type of work and systemic change I so desperately want to engage in post-degree?”
“Could I engage in it pre-degree…or am I really already at THAT point? Am I already a professional to some degree?”
That idea is scary to me.
The idea that I may actually already be able to bring something to the table is terrifying. With this idea comes some level of responsibility for my engaging in professional activities, for sharing and disseminating useful knowledge. I want to laugh at myself and shake it off, but it is such a valid point. At what point are we, as professionals in training, supposed to step up and do something with our vast level of knowledge, with our privilege of being in a place of educated power?
Who else feels this level of responsibility?
As you grow in whatever vocational field you chose, as you become a professional or an expert, what level of responsibility do you feel? Am I an overachiever–feeling a responsibility and need to act that may not necessarily be expected? Am I setting myself up for failure, or worse, putting myself in a position where I may be imparting knowledge in a non-helpful manner to others?
Have you felt this pull? This need to do something meaningful with your new found ‘title’ of “professional” or “expert”? If so, how did you reconcile the feeling? What did you do to meet your feeling of responsibility?
Editor’s Note: Ashley Poklar, MEd, is a doctoral student at Cleveland State University. For more information about Ashley, visit her blog: 3 Under 3 AND a PhD.