I have been struggling with this CPD (Continuous Professional Development) concept since its inception. On the whole, I think the concept underlying CPD is a good one, encouraging professionals to continue to interact within their professional arena. We continue to learn, interact with colleagues and to broaden our knowledge base rather than stagnate or disappear into our individual practices. No longer will therapists in practice for 20 years be using outmoded theories or psychometric tests.
The regime of CPD ensures that professionals undertake a certain amount of structured and organised learning every year, guaranteeing the transfer of up-to-date knowledge and ideas within the certain aspects of the field of psychology. Friendships and networks are also often formed at these CPD gatherings, further reducing the isolation of the private practioner.
The annual submission of CPD points by professionals to the HPCSA (Health Professionals Council of South Africa) further serves to regulate and maintain a standard of professional learning, so that what is being offered to psychologists is sanctioned and approved by the Health Professionals governing body as relevant, ethical and topical.
On the other hand however, the CPD regime is structured in such a manner as to cost psychologists (and other professionals alike) a lot of money and time every year. Courses offered are often expensive and may even involve travel and accommodation costs. Some courses run over a number of days, resulting in a loss of earnings on those days. Of course professionals are at liberty to choose the courses they attend and the costs involved in this; however, in order to amass the required number of points every year, a certain amount of time and money must be spent by everyone.
It is on this note that I struggle with the concept of CPD. Every time I attend a course I receive points which should ensure my growth and development as a professional in my field. However, the HPCSA has not informed when or where to submit this accumulation of points, to what end they will be used or monitored, nor what consequences will befall the professional who fails to comply. So I spend a fair amount of money and time every year, amassing CPD points, to no discernable end.
I strongly feel that if the HPCSA wishes to ensure that its professionals continue to develop within their chosen fields and to continue to learn, then perhaps some CPD endeavours should be sponsored or subsidised by the HPCSA. I know some institutions will fund CPD for their staff, but it is a myth that those of us in private practice earn more and can therefore easily fund our own CPD activities. Do not forget that those of us in private practice, who are the sole means of earning, lose money while attending such CPD activities.
There is also the question of earning a certain number of Ethics CPD points which either have to be included in every workshop or attended separately at specifically designed training days. I do not believe the basic and fundamental ethical issues in psychology or any health profession for that matter, have changed much over time. Yes, the circumstances around each ethical issue can be debated, possibly making for a workshop, but essentially all the ethical issues we studied for the Psychology Board examination still apply in my mind and cannot have changed. So, why is there the need to spend time and money gaining ethics points? Just because one attends a workshop on Ethics and gains the necessary points, does not ensure ethical codes.
Finally, I feel that the formal gaining of CPD points undermines the value of experience gained daily whilst working in the professional field. I learn everyday from my interactions with my clients, (and with family, friends, colleagues, the man at the shop etc) both about myself as a therapist and professional and as a person. I continuously develop in this manner and yet this is not recognised by the HPCSA and therefore undermined. In this manner, my professional work seems to be of little or no value because I cannot quantify it nor produce a certificate outlining exactly what it is that I have learned. A little boy of 10 years old, taught me more about my professional ethics when it came to issues of disclosure to his parents, than any workshop I have so far attended. Surely the value of CPD is then in the application the individual professional makes to his/her work. And as this cannot be measured nor monitored by the HPCSA, the very body trying so hard to ensure continuous professional development, I am left ambivalent as to the value of CPD overall.