- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

Creating a Competent Community

June 6, 2015 – Fairfax, Virginia

Should we move away from the current professional ethic that focuses only on our individual competence as mental health professionals and move instead toward a more collaborative professional ethic?  Research has raised serious doubts about our capacity for accurate self-assessments. Can we take more responsibility for monitoring, supporting, advising, and caring for each other?  It has recently been suggested in the professional literature that we need to collaborate in creating and maintaining a more ethical practitioner community. What would be involved in creating a “robust communitarian ethos” and a “culturally pervasive ethic of care”? Are we interested?

Collaborating in a Communitarian Ethos

Introduction: Professional Competence as an Ethical Obligation

  I.  We Are Not Good at Assessing Our Own Competence (or “Why We Need Colleagues”)

 II.  Addressing Competence Issues Early  (or “Moving from ‘Intervention’ to ‘Prevention'”)

III.  Creating Competent Communities (or “Maybe Competence Takes a Village”)

Creating Developmental Networks
Providing and Obtaining Peer Mentoring
Promoting Self-Care, Burnout Prevention, and Wellness
Preparing Ourselves and Others for “Lifelong Competence”

IV.  Competence Constellation Model* (or “Where Do We Start?)

Professional Culture:

Collegial acquaintances
Values, legal requirements and ethical standards
Standards of practice and customs bearing on competence

Collegial Acquaintances:

Tertiary collegial connections and experiences
More formal professional friendships
Lower levels of intimacy and reciprocity

Collegial Community:

Rich network of more distal yet caring colleagues
Mutual support for sustained competence
Moderate levels of intimacy and reciprocity

Inner Core:

Primary mentors, closest colleagues
Highest levels of emotional support
Highest levels of intimacy and reciprocity

*This Model was introduced in a series of recent articles by W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D. and colleagues. Complete citations are available in the handout packet that will be provided to workshop registrants.


1. List some arguments for moving away from an individual approach to professional ethics.

2. Describe your version of a “communitarian ethos.”

3. Name some of the steps that would be involved in making that change.