6CIA defining practitioner and client

© 2001 John Heron

practitioner defined

What I mean by a “practitioner” here and throughout this paper, is anyone who is offering a professional service to a client; so the term covers equally doctor, dentist, psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor, psychotherapist, nurse, complementary therapist, creative therapist, social worker, voluntary worker, probation officer, police officer, management consultant, tutor, teacher, trainer, lawyer, architect, back manager, accountant, and many, many more.

client defined

What I mean by a “client” is the person who is freely choosing (in most cases) to avail himself of the practitioner's service, in order to meet some need which the client has identified.


The service will meet a need in relation to the client's person and personal life, or in relation to his physical body, or in relation to his possessions, or in relation to his affairs (legal, financial and other), or in relation to some combination of these.

contract and roles

Between practitioner and client there is a mutually agreed voluntary contract implicit in the relationship: the client chooses the practitioner and his service, and the practitioner chooses to accept the client. There is a formal differentiation of roles between them. And there will usually be a fairly clear understanding between them as to what the practitioner's remit is. However, this primary account of the roles can usefully be extended in two further directions.

first role extension

In the first extension, the terms “practitioner” and “client” can be applied in formal, occupational settings, where two people in the same organisation are relating in terms of their work roles, and where one person is intervening in relation to the other. They may be on the same level of the system, such as manager and colleague; or on different levels such as supervisor and subordinate, foreman and worker. The interventions may be about work, about discipline, or even about personal matters that have a bearing upon work. The structure and norms of the organisation, and the job-descriptions of those involved, will normally provide a tacit contract, an understanding of the extent of the practitioner's remit.

second role extension

In the second extension, the terms “practitioner” and “client” can usefully be applied to non-formal, non-professional settings, whenever one person is adopting, in terms of some tacit or explicit agreement, an enabling role for another. This temporary enabling relationship may be from friend to friend, lover to lover, spouse to spouse, parent to child (or vice versa), colleague to colleague, or stranger to stranger. But in every case, one person is the listener and the facilitator; and the other person is the talker, the one who is dealing with some special issue that needs the time, attention and service of another human being.

wide application

These two extensions give the six category system very wide application: to any human situation where there is a formal or an informal enabling relationship, or a formal working relationship, going from one person to another.

personal development central

The central enabling relationship, in my view, is to service the personal development of the client. And such service is the primary thrust of this manual. So it is first and foremost for the personal growth facilitator, the counsellor, the psychotherapist, and any practitioner such as nurse, doctor or complementary therapist whose work includes a good deal of personal counselling.

other enabling relationships

It is important to stress, however, that this six category analysis is equally applicable to counselling where personal growth is not the prime aim, as in career guidance, problem-solving or management approaches. And in relation to the many other fields of application, any practitioner, whether plumber or stockbroker, can get a great deal out of the manual by selective reading and a bit of imagination in transferring the application of the relevant interventions to their own domain of service.

© 2001 John Heron

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