why professionalism (not professionals) is of the devil

this is a guest post by evan hadkins. his blog is wellbeing and health where he writes about all aspects of health (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social) with a bias to psychological health and a focus on practical things to do that can make a real difference. he also has a membership course, living authentically, that begins on monday 13th of october – an eight week course to finding satisfaction through authenticity.

this is probably a bit of a contrarian view to the prevailing one in the healing arts so i want to make two things clear at the outset:

1. i’m not talking about individuals. those i know who practise the healing arts are well motivated and competent. i am not attacking any individual, i am talking about a system of organisation.
2. i’m talking about professionalism as it exists. some people regard “professionalism” as meaning practise that is both ethical and skilful. i naturally have no objection to “professionalism” understood in this way.

what do i mean by “professionalism”?

it is a system of organising practitioners (my interest is in the practitioners of healing arts) that is characterised by conferences, insurance policies, meetings, codes of conduct and associations.

why is “professionalism” of the devil?
1. the devil lies. the prestige of the professions, rather than those who just ‘hold down a jobs’, is meant to be due to the profession being dedicated to the care of the client first.

in fact professional associations are dedicated to looking after their members first. (this is not a bad thing – it is just a bad thing to lie about it and say that they are dedicated to clients’ needs first.)

if the professions were dedicated to clients’ needs first we would see the healing arts primarily given for free. we would see practitioners on the same incomes as those their clients.

anyone who has brought a complaint against a member of an association will have experienced the hoops that need to be jumped through. it is by no means the rule that the person in the first instance is supported – sometimes they are not believed.

2. the devil doesn’t heal but destroys. the processes used when a complaint is brought are usually legalistic and often enough abusive. for these kinds of processes to be used in the healing arts is scandalous. it is inconsistent with the mission to heal.

3. professions prevent the learning of practitioners. members of professional association are constrained by rules. it is usually necessary to abide by these rules in order to obtain professional practise insurance.

these rules are based on past experience, sometimes called ‘evidence based’. for an art to progress it needs to learn. but these codes are not devoted to the encouragement of innovation. they are instead devoted to encourage routines. (what else could be codified?) this is hardly the way to put first the needs of individuals.

when a professional is asked to defend their practise (say in a court of law) the defense is mounted in terms of consistency with others and the prevailing rules. this clearly is not a learning process.

4. which brings us to all those conferences.
if they are so worthwhile and necessary why are professional development points necessary? how many professionals have had their practise revolutionised this year by what they learnt at a conference? ok then, five years? ten? during their working life?

it is ok for people to get together with those in the same profession. gossip and so on can oil the wheels or interaction. it’s great to get together with those with common interests. but the idea that this is the way to improve the practise of healing is an altogether different claim.

if the professionals are so dedicated to learning and the information so valuable then their should be no reason for compelling people to attend – by requiring people to earn professional development points.

which was the last professional conference in the healing arts that was a genuinely healing experience for those who attended? they may exist, they are very far from being the general rule.

neither are these conferences particularly good educational practise. the gluteus maximus is not the primary organ of learning. sitting around listening to someone read a paper is not the best way to learn. that the healing arts, which want to present themselves as wholistic, adopt this approach is so ludicrous that it defies belief.

professionalism is of the devil because:

  • it puts the needs of the professionals before those of the clients’ while claiming to put the clients’ needs first.
  • the structures and processes of professionalism impede learning and stop improvement in healing.

my hope in writing this post is to encourage thinking about better ways to organise healing and healers. contrary views are very welcome. looking forward to seeing your comments discussing ways forward.


  1. Hi Isabella and Evan,
    Good post and it addresses many of the issues we deal with in the American Health care system and their “professionalism”. When I was ill the word healing was never even used — the doctors just looked at what could control the pain — yet MANY healing modalities exist. A good call to attention for many and hopefully as more and more people become aware of the alternative approaches even mainstream medicine will incorporate them and get back to HEALING people. This is one of the reasons I started the Heroes of Healing Group writing project – to bring attention to the issue and to introduce people to many different modalities of healing. Isabella is contributing Evan — do you have the time to? I’d love to have you write about someone that inspired you! Thanks for this post! Gratefully, Jenny

    Jenny Mannion’s last blog post..Rachel Naomi Remen — Heroine of Healing

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’d like to contribute – though probably not for a fortnight or so – I have a membership course starting in a couple of weeks. Also I don’t have a webcam or any of those techie things. So if I need those I couldn’t contribute I’m afraid.

    I think in some ways mainstream medicine is becoming more wholistic and ‘alternative’ modalities are becoming more medicalised (which trend I view with horror).

    I think the heroes of healing project is really valuable and I am delighted to be invited to participate. It will be after a fortnight or so though. Feel free to email me or find me on facebook.

    Many thanks for your comment.

    Evan’s last blog post..Why Professionalism (not professionals) Is Of The Devil

  3. You play on so many words and like the way the sentence sounds so much it seems, perhaps just tired, but don’t understand at all your point, as it seems a circle… almost like a politition. Everything works and nothing works? or it works without or with the people? Whatever is okay and not ok? What are you feeling?

  4. Hi Suzanne,

    The case I am making is that professionalism is incompatible with healing.

    What I am attacking is a way of organising ourselves. I want to be clear that it is this way of organising that is the problem not individuals and their motivations.

    Ways of organising can have unintended consequences – healers do not intend the negative consequences of professionalism in my experience.

    Professionalism is not OK by me. It has negative consequences for both healers and their clients.

    Thanks for your comment. It is important to me that people care about this and I think I hear from your comment that you do.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. If you don’t feel I have responded to what you have said I’m happy to try another way if you can tell me what hasn’t worked for you. Thanks again.

    Evan’s last blog post..What Do You Say?

  5. Hrmm, this is such a weird and novel way of looking at this. I think I will go meditate on it more to ponder this.

    Dante’s last blog post..Learned

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