Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

The Meaning of Time for Human Service Professionals

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

The Meaning of Time for Human Service Professionals

Article excerpt

In philosophical terms, time is an elusive concept or construct. Augustine, in his Confessions (Confessions 11, c. 14, translated by Outler, 2007) stated "What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asked, I know not." Philosophers continue to debate the nature of time arguing on the one hand that time is limitless and dynamic, and on the other hand, a measurable order of events (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010). Psychologists view time according to their theoretical perspectives. For instance, from the cognitive and behavior lens, time may be linked to measuring client outcomes and recording the number and length of interventions (Dapkus, 1997). From a psychoanalytic perspective, the meaning of time relates to features of personality uncovered in therapy. Existential psychology explores the meaning of time as experience by the person within his or her context or place in the world (Pollio, Henley, & Thompson, 1997).

The focus of this manuscript is the meaning of time within human service practice. Although human service and counseling literature address time in textbooks and in research, the coverage is limited. Introductory human service and counseling literature reference time primarily in (a) discussions of time-limited interventions with clients (Kim & Franklin, 2009; Mullahy, 2009; Shennan & Iveson, 2005; Woodside & Clam, 2007; Woodside & McClam, 2009), (b) explanations of time management strategies (Meier & Davis, 2011; Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008; Young, 2009), (c) descriptions of the cultural differences of the meaning of time (Neukrug, 2013; Woodside & McClam, 2009) and (d) ideas about the phenomenon of burnout as it relates to time (Morrissette, 2004). In addition, the literature indicates that time and how it is spent becomes more important when resources are limited, human needs increase, and funding for services decreases (EurActive, 2009; Johnson, Oliff, & Williams, 2010; Johnson, Nicholas, & Pennington, 2009).

Service delivery strategies have been designed and adopted within the helping professions to address time limitations. Time-limited interventions with clients include therapies such as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) and strategies such as case management. Both were developed to address issues of resource expenditure and outcomes (Kim & Franklin, 2009; Woodside & McClam, 2007). Specific to SFBT, outcome studies focused on efficacy of the approach across populations and settings ground their research questions on the time for the intervention. Shennan and Iveson (2005) purported the "miracle question" could stand alone as an effective training intervention in counselor training. Woodside and McClam (2009) indicate that SFBT provides a short-term intervention using client strengths and an action approach to make changes and increase self-efficacy. In addition, the development of the role of case manager focuses on coordination and care for clients in a cost effective way (Mullahy, 2009; Woodside & McClam, 2007). The use of case management includes settings such as corrections, mental health, substance abuse, and children and family services, to name a few (Mullahy, 2009). One principle of the case management process related to time is to provide "best" services for the "fewest" resources (e.g., limited services and time spent with client).

Culture provides its own contribution to the understanding of time. As indicated by researchers and scholars, time has multiple meanings (Diller, 2011). From the Western perspective, time represents a commodity or a resource (Diller, 2011). The phrase, "Time is money," conveys this Western sense of time. In addition, in the United States, time structures activities, and being "on time" is important. In other cultures, such as Mediterranean, Arab, and Latino cultures, the construct of time represents more flexibility. Life unfolds and is less regimented than in Western culture (Slatterly, 2004). …

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