Deepening Skills

knowldgeIn my last blog I spoke about competencies and their importance. When we look at solidifying our competencies, the question arises: How do we deepen and expand our skill set most effectively?

For someone who by nature is more withdrawn, introverted, and intellectual, online courses and books may be the best way to go for further education. In contrast, someone withdrawn, introverted, but hands-on may find it easier to learn with one-on-one mentoring or in small professional groups. And their extroverted artistic colleague may be looking for conferences and classes she can join in order to grow and learn.

There are many different types of continued education options available:

  • Most associations and organizations offer national (or international) conferences and often those are accessible to non-members for a slightly higher fee. See this website for some of the international conference dates in 2015.
  • Online schools offer everything from Continued Education Credits (CEU), to free university courses, to full degree programs. Check these websites for examples of what is available:, Middlesex University, Coursera
  • Local schools and organizations offer small to mid-sized courses for professional development. For example, check out these for Toronto area classes: Sabine Cox, The Livingbridge, The Traumatology Institute, CAMH
  • Individual supervision, group supervision, and mentoring offer great opportunities to work on very specific skill sets and get direct feedback and input (see here for some of the advantages of supervision)
  • And then of course there is an endless list of books, podcasts, and films we can turn to for the most individual and personal study time possible.

While these and other learning options offer us important and exciting knowledge, that knowledge doesn’t actual turn into a real skill until it is applied to real life. And thus skill development in the end is about relationship.

First, there is our own relationship to the knowledge we gained. We have to ask ourselves: “Have I made this knowledge my own, integrated it into my own approach to my work and my work philosophy? Do I have other knowledge that can supplement and deepen this newly gained information? Does this new information draw me, fascinate me, call me to explore it deeper and to make it part of my repertoire?”

Then there is the relationship between our knowledge and our clients’ needs. We wonder: “Does what I have learned have a practical use in my work with clients? What kind of client or issue can most benefit from this new information? How can I begin to practice this new skill safely?”

It is in the interplay between our own curiosity and interest in the new information and the opportunity to practice with clients in situations that are appropriate for the application of it, that we deepen a new skill. Without one or the other our new-won knowledge remains superficial and impractical. As they say: “Practice makes perfect.” Or as Vince Lombardi said: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”