Respecting Diverse Professional Perspectives in a Collaborative Team Environment

There is an increased focus on the creation of multidisciplinary collaborative teams in the community formed by persons serving in diverse roles to achieve a specific purpose. Although working on a multidisciplinary collaborative team toward the same purpose and goal, navigating diverse viewpoints on how to achieve that end can be another story. Often these perspectives are mitigated by the role of each specific discipline, the context they operate within, professional identities, beliefs and ethics, personal beliefs and worldviews, and their idea(s) about what achieving that goal and success looks like. Sometimes, the diversity among perspectives between team members can overtake the immediate focus and blur the team's shared ultimate purpose and end goal. Lankshear (2003) succinctly overviews the literature on this topic and points out that many factors can contribute to differences between people that have to be managed by a multidisciplinary team. However, one strategy for traversing this difficult terrain is to be mindful of the uniqueness of each member's perspective and purpose on the team. In other words, respecting and embracing the diverseness of the team, and at times, be willing to compromise, put differences aside, and/or allow others on the team to have more say opens the door for understanding, cohesion, and efficacy. To give you an idea of how this may play out in a real setting, I will share with you my experience as a multidisciplinary team member. I serve as the Director of Juvenile Drug Court and Clinical Services for the University of Louisiana at Monroe Marriage and Family Therapy Programs, in which I oversee therapist interns providing treatment services for youth and their families involved with the 4th Judicial District Juvenile Drug Court in Monroe, Louisiana. This Juvenile Drug Court multidisciplinary team consists of the Judge, who is considered the leader, Case Manager, Probation Officer, District Attorney, Indigent Defender Board Attorney, and Treatment. All members are a part of the team for a distinct purpose and expertise they bring to the table. The hope is that each member contributes uniquely to assisting the youth desist from illegal behavior and substance use by combining forces, opening lines of communication, and making decisions together as a team regarding implementation of interventions for change. In fact, it has recently been shown that the multidisciplinary collaborative team approach for drug courts to be extremely effective, and a 50% decrease in effectiveness when any one of the team members is absent from a meeting (Garcia, 2013). This research indicates an importance for all members to be involved in the team process for increased efficacy. With such variation and diversity in professional roles on the team, it is common for differences in opinion to arise about how to move forward with a case. Sometimes this dialogue can be pleasant conversation and other times it can become heated and personal. Showing respect for another's perspective, role, and underlying intention of helpfulness can quickly dispel team-splitting, defensiveness, and entrenched positions. A therapist's perspective of client problems and their role as client advocate can often be seen as contradictory to a district attorney's role as prosecutor and a judge's role as imposer of consequences for rule-breaking behavior, yet all are working together to promote change. By respecting and embracing the diversity in views and roles, it is easier for the team to work together toward change on the same path rather than separately within their own realms and with their own agendas. From a larger social perspective, the multidisciplinary team in the community and its idiosyncrasies may be a microcosm of the diversity that represents society. Perhaps if we were to use this example as a model for how to demonstrate understanding, respect, and appreciation for diverse perspectives, contexts, beliefs, roles, worldviews, etc. working together for common purposes, our society would be a much different place. Bethany Simmons, Ph.D., LMFT Director of Juvenile Drug Court and Clinical Services Marriage and Family Therapy Programs University of Louisiana at Monroe

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