Competent Compassion is a concept that aims to promote best practice in healthcare services – particularly in helping people with drug and/or alcohol problems. The principles here could also make a significant difference in all spheres where one to one interactions with people are the core activities.

It is just not about what we do – but how we do it. In real life – this can be what makes the big difference to someone who needs help. Indeed – this will make the difference to those who are trying to help as well. It could transform organisations as well as individual people’s lives.

These are early days though but I hope to develop the idea that to be effective, we need to be competent as well as compassionate. One without the other is just not going to work out well – and can end up going seriously wrong

Competence and compassion are not mutually exclusive but act together to help deliver the best possible help – whatever form that help comes in.

One of the reasons for promoting the concept of Competent Compassion is that it can be a simple and effective framework to assess the quality of interactions and to inform training needs.

It is not about any particular type of therapy  – for example person centered therapy or shared decision making. It is much broader than that. Different therapeutic modes can all benefit from this approach where the therapist needs to be competent in that modality but also have compassion for the patient/client by actually getting a real connection with what they are feeling and thinking. Compassion is about feeling some what the other person is feeling, recognising that, and then adjusting your actions/therapy accordingly. It shows the client/patient that you are actually listening and trying to understand some of what is going on in their head. Compassion is more than empathy because compassion has a dimension of “suffering with”  – and if there is that connection in therapy/treatment – then the competent therapist/doctor will be able to apply that competence all the more effectively and the client/patient will know that they are understood and cared for.

Therapy and treatment is then likely to be much better accepted and therefore be more effective because it will be received from someone who is trusted for their competence  (they know what they are doing) and also for their compassion (they know what I am feeling).

I hope we can raise the profile of Competent Compassion and develop it as a new way forward in as many people related activities as is appropriate.

Quite simply, if Competent Compassion became the default way of helping and treating people – particularly in the substance misuse field, it could transform services and outcomes.

I have found that it works in my own practice and I commend it wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to improve the way they practice.

Please contact me via this website with ideas and suggestions and I would be very happy to explore the concept further with anyone who is interested in doing so.

Dr Joss Bray