This summer I will be doing an RT workshop session that will offer each participant an opportunity to examine his or her philosophy of practice. Putting together this session has allowed me to think about my personal views relating to philosophy of practice. As a result, I have become further convinced of the close relationship between philosophy and practice -- and the need for recreation therapists to occasionally revisit the beliefs that underlie their philosophies.
Thinking about philosophy is far more than an intellectual exercise to be engaged in by academics. It is something that every thoughtful and reflective practitioner should do. Philosophy of practice does not deal with a lot of meaningless abstract notions but, instead, it drives our actions. Our philosophy directs what we do in our practice on a daily basis.
If you are engaging in "yes, but..." thinking I can certainly understand. When in grad school at Illinois I recall telling my friend Jerry Kelley (who didn't agree with me) that RT was a practice discipline and it was what we did that was really important and not what we thought. I have long since changed my mind.
Granted we are an action orientated profession and the things we do with our clients are certainly critical. I strongly believe that a philosophy of RT practice must be relevant to what we do everyday with our clients. Philosophy for its own sake is of little help to the practitioner.
What makes philosophy meaningful is understanding how our philosophy of practice underlies and affects what we do as practitioners in our action orientated therapeutic enterprise -- and I can assure you that our philosophical beliefs do influence our approaches with our clients. For example, if you believe that people have a natural tendency toward achieving health and well being, your approach will be a positive one in which you nurture your clients in their attempts to recover their health and well being. Such philosophical ideas guide our everyday practice.
As reflective practitioners, we must engage in thinking about our philosophies of practice. If not, on what will our practice be based? We must think about the purpose and value of what we do as recreation therapists. If not, we will have empty practices in which others will tell us what is important and how we should approach our life's work.