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New Year’s Message: The Beginning is in the End!

Dec 29

G’day all!! I am seemingly very prolific at present and have decided to take advantage. This’ll be short one, but somewhat self-disclosive as I find myself reminiscing about times past. I sit here somewhat disoriented; I was for a moment uncertain as to whether I am just beginning a career in Psychology or just winding one down. My work as a Psychologist, for over 40 years now, has had and continues to have many beginnings and endings. Theoretically I have been influenced by everything from Client Centred Therapy to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; and have worked in prisons, with military and para-military personnel, in drug and alcohol clinics, pain management clinics, and in private practice. I think that my thesis for this short piece is that (for me at least) there are no beginnings and no endings; the end is in the beginning and there is a beginning in every end. Let me show you…..

As my long working relationship with a certain “horribly broken” Federal police agency came to an end, I began to adopt a new perspective in my work as a psychologist. I began to believe that mainstream psychology’s methods, assumptions, and goals did little more than maintain an unjust “status quo”. Moreover, I came to believe that a critical perspective would be more effective for psychologists who wish to assist their patients and influence their profession; more so than abandoning it. Now I ask you this, where would you most expect such a perspective, “….in the beginning or at the end….” of a career in psychology?

You are well aware that at this time in my career I find myself questioning the assumptions that underlay the research and practice of the profession. I would argue that I was able to serve my RCMP patients better by expanding my role to include identifying and confronting the organizational causes (e.g. toxic work environment, high levels of stress, a culture of fear) of their individual distress. I assure you that these are not new ideas that I grapple with. There is a long and rich tradition asserting that psychology’s usual fare of research, teaching, consulting, and therapy does little more than reinforce societal institutions that harbour injustice and inequality (e.g. Fox & Prilleltensky, 1997; Hepburn, 2003; Sloan, 2000). Early on in my career I was more tolerant of the status quo; now, the more critical my approach becomes, the more disappointed I am with myself, and my colleagues, working too comfortably within toxic organizations. Once again I ask you, am I at the end or the beginning?

As an example and to be specific, the “occupational health mandate” (i.e. to return workers to productivity) as applied to the present day RCMP often overshadows employee’s concerns for values such as justice, equality, the universal rights of workers and simple compassion (and if you find yourself cringing at this sentence, you are part of the problem!). It is my impression that psychologists, even those in private practice and presumably free from the RCMP mandate, despite their good intentions, are more often than not reinforcing the oppression of these values.

There will be those of my colleagues in various stages of “beginning or ending” their careers who think I go to far. They will remain content to draw a line between their practice of psychology and their politics. They will no doubt continue to follow the RCMP’s occupational health mandate and adhere to the traditional assumptions, skills and techniques that they have learned thinking that they are doing the “right thing”. Then there will be some like me with a more critical perspective who will view their efforts as enabling the RCMP to continue to oppress its’ workers undisturbed. There are many of my colleagues who view my position as irrelevant at best. It may even annoy and anger those of them view who themselves as ethical and who espouse similar values.

No matter whether you are a complacent RCMP member or a comatose colleague, you needn’t lose any sleep over all of this as a read through the history of psychology shows the field to be highly resistant to transformative change. The cornerstones of the profession have been scratched, rarely cracked, and almost never replaced. The corporate culture of academia continues to parcel human knowledge into separate, discrete little packages that reinforce for psychologists and the general public, what psychology knows and does. Those of you who choose to ignore organizational and socio-political contexts, or perhaps feel out of place with them, will continue to play the game according to existing assumptions, even if you do (as you say) cherish justice.

So once again I ask you, am I at the end or the beginning of something?

“IT’S NOT APPEARANCES THAT WILL BIND YOU; BUT YOUR ATTACHMENT TO APPEARANCES”

Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych.
(#0655)

P.S. Have a happy NEW BEGINNING!!!!

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2 Comments
  1. corbettstu permalink

    All the best, in, the New Year Doc! It should be an interesting one for the force.
    An Association for the grunts and a new government for Bobby. One that didn’t give him the job because it was mutually beneficial to both him and Con’s ie. “we’ll let you (Bobby) control the members as long as we (Harper) can control you.I got a kick out of his latest “mission.” He’s suddenly discovered that there’s racism in the RCMP! It’s understandable why He’s suddenly “discovered” this. Sad and obvious but understandable. Bobby’s hoping the new gov’t will focus on this instead of him and the trainwreck of a culture .
    Sigh.
    Look Bobby. (and yes, we all know you read this site so feel free to defend yourself) Can I call you Bobby? or do you prefer Robert? I’m sure as shit not calling you “Sir.” If nothing else, can you tell the members why you didn’t get a second contract as a CF fighter pilot? It’s extremely odd for a real-life jet fighter pilot to not be employed beyond their initial contract. As a former CF member myself (not a bad-ass pilot like you) just infantry/Reconnaissance Platoon. An actual Soldier) my platoon Warrant asked me to re-sign and offered me the courses I wanted if I’d sign for three more years. What happened with you Side-Show Bob? There’s been unconfirmed stories that the Air Force didn’t want you around despite thousands and thousands of dollars to train you. Journalists have tried to get an answer from you but you keep avoiding answering. Whenever you’re asked about members getting sick, you fall back on “policing is a tough job and not for everyone.” Is that what happened with you? Did you realize, “Piloting is a tough job and not for everyone.” Or was it something else?
    Did any of your leaders ask you to re-sign, Robert ?

    Anyway, I guessing there won’t be a response.At least not here. No worries Bob. It’s a brand New Year, a brand new government and thanks to the MPPA it’ll be a brand new force.Whether you like it or not Robert. I’d love to talk over these things and so much more. If you’re willing to meet, could we do so? I’m happy to fly out to Ottawa. I’ll even buy you lunch. ,

    Happy New Year Side-Show Bob! Enjoy it, while it lasts!

    P.S.
    I wouldn’t wait too long to update that resume. If you need a reference for Australia, let Re-Sergeance know!

    Regards,
    Corbett ex-51709

  2. Good post Corbettstu! As I recall, the CO of “E” Div. Bev Busson put out an email when Robert was Commissioned advising that se had made a special circumstamstance exeption to Commission him (rumour was because he couldn’t pass the OCP and failed it twice). So, he’s not that special…

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