There have been a constant stream of debates recently surrounding the value of being a member of a professional association. The last six to nine months has seen the Internet littered with seemingly disgruntled therapists, exacerbated by the actions, or perceived non actions of their associations.
Many seem to even question the need or benefit of their professional association membership, asking questions such as “where do my fees go?”, “what do I get for my money?”, I'm even hearing lines such as “this is the time we need them more than ever and they aren’t stepping up”.
Understandably, emotions have never been higher, but I would genuinely argue that generally, granted some maybe more than others, the associations have proved their worth during these troubled times more than ever before.
We have all had to make individual decisions based on our own individual circumstances, but the truth is we've been exceptionally well supported in gaining the information and the confidence needed to help us make these decisions in an informed manner by our membership associations.
Much criticism has been levied at the time it takes for them to provide advice and guidance, but I think much of this is misguided. The frustration actually comes from the individuals desire and need to know what to do in order to help their patients and their own business.
I’ve seen therapists shoot the messenger on so many occasions, when the associations were wrongly expected to make announcements based on a political press conference, sometimes days before the legal advice and guidance was actually released. Overall the associations have been excellent at releasing holding statements and doing exactly what you would want and need from a professional body: remaining calm, collected, patient and only delivering contemplated, reflective, fair, impartial and rational advice when able to do so, providing reassurance and peace of mind to us all when we need it the most.
They’ve seen the bigger picture throughout the pandemic and provided a timely (yes, I believe they were timely responses on the whole) when many of us couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
Much of the time they were put in impossible situations that were unprecedented for our industry.
Imagine having had to read every piece of government literature and guidance yourself over these last six to nine months with no support network behind you!
That support doesn't just come from the leaders and the drivers of those associations, it also comes from the community, the forums and the support networks that are fostered by the professional membership of the association.
Of course, we have also seen a growth in individuals and new collectives that are often cross professional groups emerging to offer brilliant support and advice, but this is simply an extension of broader community or network offering the fundamental support and backing which remains the same on offer from the professional associations.
Are the associations perfect? Well that's for you to decide based on your personal circumstances and your individual experiences with your respective associations, but I know that most, with the limited staff and the limited resources they have available have worked tirelessly to be the best they can be.
Did they get it right every time? again that's something for you to decide, but I trust and believe that they tried to get it right. There is a huge amount of work that most of us are often unaware of that has to occur behind the scenes on a day to day basis to make what we may feel simple decisions. A huge amount of time and energy (largely given voluntarily) has been given to produce each and every notification, post, email, and piece of advice.
I'm sure many of the associations and their leads will reflect on their performances, standard operating procedures and communications and try to learn and evolve to offer you an even greater more enhanced service moving forward, but they’ve literally, in large, been learning on the job this year, and I’m sure we can all relate to the difficulty this can bring from our clinical experiences!.
2020 has been a difficult period for all of us. Both as individuals and as professional associations, I think we should all hold our heads up for the way we’ve navigated it to date.
Standard practise as therapists is to reflect and evolve and we can all do that moving forward.
What I would suggest many of us do, is rather than asking “what has my association done for me?”, I challenge you to ask them “what have I done for them?” and “how can I help them more?”, because you are part of the associations, you have a voice and you have the ability to be involved and help them grow into the associations that you may want them to be.
So that is my challenge to you - I genuinely think that the professional associations are a valid part of our industry, the invisible heroes that many of us take for granted. They are often like our much loved mums; we never really appreciate the little things they do day to day.
Reach out to them, offer your support, help or even your time. Try to get involved and help them shape and grow their offerings rather than simply thinking about how much it is to join or what you may get as a member.
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, join us next week when we will discuss what you may need to consider when choosing your association.
Stay safe, stay well.