Change in Our World


Tracy Todd

Change in our world is infinite in its variety and finicky in its speed. Mt. Everest took millions of years to form, while the tsunami of 2004 only took 20 minutes to start wreaking death and destruction. A mass shooting today, governmental actions that create immediate changes in the populous, a building collapsing that kills many, all have both immediate and long-lasting impacts.

Potentially overlooked in the rapid changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are many other areas of equally fleet and disruptive transformations impacting us simultaneously. We have spent the last year and a half coping with major changes in service delivery, behavioral patterns (quarantine, masks), and social justice matters. Change in social and physical ecologies have prompted revolutionary and, often times, deadly transformations. While the felt outcomes of some were more obvious to us, the ramifications of others may still be not fully realized.

The future does not send messengers – Andy Stalman

Today, every aspect of life is experiencing accelerated and amplified change—community, economic, familial, technological. However, our awareness and responsiveness to these changes is likely very much tied to our personal impacts and our ability to triage and react to that for which we hold capacity. Immediacy and short and long-term impacts have a different meaning today than they did just a few short years ago.

No longer is the idea of swift change simply a psychological concept; it is a universal experience. We now know that change can be swift, leaving us little time for preparation.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch once commented, “Change before you have to” (Lowe, 2008). The presumption was that you have time to “change before you have to.” And that time affords you the ability to change on your own terms.

To be fair, Welch was commenting on business strategies and operations, although the analogy could certainly be applicable to a much broader context. But even within the more limited business scope, as marriage and family therapists, we have certainly witnessed sweeping business model changes. Those never considering telehealth services found themselves confronted with the necessity to make a rapid change. Those who relished training tomorrow’s therapists with in-person connection quickly shifted their techniques to adapt to new ways of learning.

Whether change in technology, business, social or physical ecologies, the speed of change is potentially exceeding most human adaptive capabilities—including those of family therapists. How do you adapt to a wildfire wiping out your home and community? How do you adapt to witnessing killings in our streets, seemingly weekly? How do you adapt to climate changes that wipe out resources and force migrations of people? How do you adapt to corrupt governments that execute and persecute its citizens? Complicating matters is that each event would tax one’s adaptation abilities but adapting to multiple events, at the same time, well, that may not be attainable.

Nearly 100 years ago, it was believed that “advancement” would create a reality of ease and calm. For example, in 1930 John Maynard Keynes wrote, “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

Yet, fast-forward to today, in the same article, Michael Simmons (2021) quoted Geoffrey West, “Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.” I think most would agree, it hasn’t worked out as well as Keynes predicted.

We are at a point where resiliency is, and will continue to be, severely tested. While we are helping more individuals, couples, and families with the stress of change and adaptability, we cannot forget that we, too, are being emotionally taxed. This is a time for engaging in personal and professional self-assessment and care. Maybe more than ever before, we are at a point where even the most experienced therapists should be engaging in some form of peer-to-peer clinical discussion. Change is happening that challenges our technical skills in service delivery within the telehealth environment and social changes may be challenging our judgement and performance. The Code of Ethics offers this direction under Professional Competence and Integrity:

3.1 Maintenance of Competency
Marriage and family therapists pursue knowledge of new developments and maintain their competence in marriage and family therapy through education, training, and/or supervised experience.    

3.3 Seek Assistance
Marriage and family therapists seek appropriate professional assistance for issues that may impair work performance or clinical judgment.

Please, take the time now to engage in a self-assessment and self-care of your emotional and professional space. Even if you are feeling “fine,” it isn’t a bad idea to check that reality. Remember, we have, and continue, to experience unprecedented times.

There are countless changes afoot and many have incredible long-term consequences. We must be prepared to deal with the emotional challenges these changes inflict on our communities of interest and ourselves. For marriage and family therapists, now is our time to shine and bring light to systemic thought—not tarnishment. Please, don’t let a breach of judgment jeopardize your ability to help all systems navigate today’s turbulent times—whether clinical, climate, or social. Our communities need your best temperament, knowledge, skills, and expertise now and in the days and years to come.

Wishing you the very best.

Lowe, J. (2008) Jack Welch speaks: Wit and wisdom from the world’s greatest business leader. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Simmons, M. (2021). Google director of engineering: This is how fast the world will change in ten years. Retrieved from https://medium.com/accelerated-intelligence/google-director-of-engineering-this-is-how-fast-the-world-will-change-in-ten-years-6f1e653b5374

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