What is psychological fitness and how does a program determine the psychological fitness and character of a potential clinician? Although grade point averages, scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and letter of recommendation are often considered in the selection process, relying on these measures alone do not provide a comprehensive picture of a candidate (whom wishes to enter the counseling profession).” (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 332) Psychological fitness and character are an integral part of determining of choosing who will represent us as the mental health community. Foremost on my list of qualities I would look for in a potential counselor would be integrity and respect. This essay will attempt to underscore the importance of these integrity and respect, as well as provide insight in their development.
Integrity is defined as “the quality or state of being complete or undivided, with a firm adherence to a code of morals or values.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary [MWOD], 2010) Integrity implies incorruptibility, soundness with unimpaired condition, or an underlying position of honestly and truthfulness. “Integrity is a quality that everyone has to some extent, for no one can survive without it.” (Mellor, 2008, p. 194) “Integrity is a virtuous character trait that is closely connected to reliability, trustworthiness, honesty, and having principles. A person who has integrity can be counted on to be consistent and harmonious; someone who does not is ﬁckle and discordant.” (Hatcher, 2005, p. 1)
Integrity is imperative to being a successful clinician because the majority of us will be left alone with the cookie jar. The concept of competence is a cookie jar that is invariably left open because the first line of defense against incompetence is a clinician defining his or her own boundaries while establishing a clear and meaningful scope of practice. Without integrity, competence is difficult to quantify and largely unenforceable. There is currently no formal or objective measure of competence, so it is incumbent on clinicians to police themselves and make a determination that is in the best interest of the client. Making that determination cannot be done without integrity.
Unbridled integrity can work against us as much as it works for us, however. Billow (2010) suggests that “integrity without judgment, self-examination, and relatedness is not sufficient, and can be inappropriate and even damaging.” Integrity without judgment produces rigidity or blindness to personal contingencies. Integrity may even be of questionable moral value if it is based on principles that are ill-chosen, ill-applied, or wrong. (Billow, 2010, p. 18) And so, the key concept that must be embraced with integrity is the word “balance.” Pentland & McColl (2008) believe “living in occupational integrity can be defined as integrating into one’s occupational choices the values that matter most. The extent to which an individual can design an occupational life that is consistent with his or her values will be the extent to which he or she feels a sense of balance and well-being.” (Pentland & McColl, 2008, p. 136) This speaks to the importance of designing and living personal lives that are congruent with our vision of integrity, and living as models of integrity both in and (perhaps more importantly) out of the office.
In the article Four Faces of Respect (2006), an anonymous author put forth one of the best frameworks I have seen to date as it relates to framing a working definition of respect. The author believes the various ways of showing respect have common elements of attention, deference, valuing, and appropriate conduct. “Attention is shown when a person’s mind is focused on an individual’s particularities and commonalities.” For example, a counselor who shows interest and awareness in a client’s nonverbal (as well as verbal) communication is demonstrating attention. “Deference is a communicative act of acceptance towards another person without forfeiting one’s own individual worth.” For example, a counselor who respects clients defers to them without feeling either more or less worthy than the students receiving respect. “Valuing is the consideration that a person’s character has merit or worth.” (Anonymous, 2006, p. 66) Appropriate conduct is the constraint of certain forms of negative expressions, like arrogance or apathy, towards a person. In my opinion, all of these qualities are absolutely necessary for a counselor to project respect of a client. Perhaps more importantly, these 4 sub-qualities of respect represent an inward expression of self-respect.
Psychological fitness pertains to the emotional or mental stability necessary to practice safely and effectively. (Corey et al., 2007, p. 340) Given the above examples of integrity and respect, and their contextual use within counseling, I would submit that deficits either aspect could appreciably impair our ability to effectively meet our professional responsibilities. Psychological fitness should be built on a foundation of integrity and respect. Who among us would describe someone as psychologically fit if they did not possess some measure of balance as it relates to integrity? Not many, I suppose… Who among us would be well advised to seek out a counselor who displays a distinct lack of respect for self or others? None, I would suggest. These two qualities are pre-requisites to the success of a counselor and, in my opinion, none who willfully neglect them should be allowed into the profession.
Anonymous (2006, Summer). Four faces of respect. Reclaiming children and youth, 15(2), 66-70. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1127531901&sid=2&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Billow, R. M. (2010, Jan). Modes of therapeutic engagement part I: Diplomacy and integrity. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 60(1), 1-28. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1944544101&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Hatcher, T. (2005, Spring). Research integrity: Ensuring trust in the academy. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(1), 1-6. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?index=84&did=810778811&SrchMode=1&sid=15&Fmt=6&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1275164882&clientId=4683
Mellor, K. (2008, Jul). Autonomy with integrity. Transactional Analysis Journal, 38(3), 182-199. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1663742381&sid=1&Fmt=4&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2010). flexibility. Retrieved May 29, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flexibility
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2010). integrity. Retrieved May 29, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity
Pentland, W., & McColl, M. (2008, Jun). Occupational integrity: Another perspective on “life balance”. The Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(3), 135-138. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1510794431&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD