When in taught in a third and fourth year Criminal Justice degree program, I would often tell students about how misunderstandings can occur between professional groups. Sometimes Social Workers state that police officers are ineffective because they are too desensitized. At the same time, police officers might accuse Social Workers of being too compassionate to be helpful.
Desensitization is a state of mind that occurs when an individual is exposed to a certain situation a number of times and, as a result, becomes emotionally detached from the situation for future encounters.
I remember when I first saw the bombing in Iraq on television that was done through green night lighting. We had company for supper and everyone was so enraptured that we just sat infront of the television, watching without talking. It didn't take long, however, for the novelty to wear off. In fact, it is rather sad when we consider that the images of people being murdered or abused can lead us to merely use the remote control to change channels rather than illicit an emotional response.
The police officers are used t working in troubled environments that include abuse and trauma. Over time, they therefore usually become so detached that they can do whatever needs to be done without having a strong a strong emotional response. They therefore can easily lose patience with Social Workers who they feel are too interested in the emotional condition of the people involved.
You see, the Social Workers connect with the individuals as people and are concerned that encounters with professionals go beyond policies and procedures. They want to make sure that all of the needs of the people are taken care of and this sets them up at the opposite end of the desensitization-compassion continuum.
Well, is either group right? I think the answer is that both groups would likely do better if they were closer to the middle. If you are working with clients who have conflict or abuse or trauma in their lives, you need to have objectivity and the ability to put the appropriate resources in place. At the same time, however, you need to recognize that these are humans who are hurting and that is where compassion comes in.
I remember a training workshop that I attended a few years ago. The topic was "Dealing with Sexual Abuse" and the coordinators wisely registered both groups into the program. This gave us good understanding about the perspectives of each other and allowed us to bond in a manner that would allow better working relationships for the future.
You see, in order to understand others we need to have exposure to their worlds and be able to ask good questions. It's all about learning. And, the same thing occurs with clients. You need to learn about their situation in order to understand what they have been going through. And once you understand, you will likely be much more helpful.