I rediscovered this favorite, dog-eared page from an old text last evening just before I left the office at the end of a long day – and remembered that I’d had these words framed on my desk, during my years of agency practice. It’s one of the most beautiful descriptions of the work itself.

The words and rhythms mirrored my thoughts and my heartbeat as I flipped off the light, locked up and released the days work for the night.

From The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development

“You apply yourself to the case.

You get to know what it feels like to be your client.

You become reliable for the limited field of your professional responsibility.

You behave yourself professionally.

You concern yourself with the client’s problem.

You accept being in the position of a subjective object in the client’s life, while at the same time you keep both of your feet on the ground.

You accept love, and even the in-love state, without flinching and without acting out your response.

You accept hate, and meet it with strength rather than revenge.

You tolerate your client’s illogicality, unreliability, suspicion, muddle, fecklessness, meanness, etc. etc., and recognize all these unpleasantnesses as symptoms of distress (In private life these same things would make you keep at a distance.)

You are not frightened, nor do you become overcome with guilt-feelings when your client goes mad, disintegrates, runs out in the street in a nightdress, attempts suicide, and perhaps succeeds. If murder threatens you call in the police to help not only yourself, but also the client. In all these emergencies you recognize the clients’s call for help, or a cry of despair because of the loss of hope for help.

In all these respects you are, in your limited professional area, a person deeply involved in feeling, yet at the same time detached, in that you know that you have no responsibility for the client’s illness, and you know the limits of your powers to alter a crisis situation…..”

by D.W. Winnicott 1963

These advices have become the spinal cord of my practice.

Thanks D.W., wherever you are, for articulating a life-long process and professional mission so clearly.

copyright © 2011 Martha Crawford