Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Rich Rewards of Pro Bono Work

Pro Bono is a a Latin phrase meaning "for the good".
Actually, the complete phrase is Pro Bono Publico "for the public good."

Offering Pro Bono professional services means that a person or company voluntarily provides services without payment to people in the community.

The legal profession has a long standing history of doing Pro Bono work. So do the fields of medicine, mental health, teaching, engineering and business. Part of the ethical standards within these professions asks its members to provide services to those who could otherwise not afford such services.

I have always found providing Pro Bono therapy to be extremely meaningful.

But did you know that volunteering is also good for your health?

It’s true.

Helping others benefits more than just the people receiving the assistance.

Research confirms that those who do volunteer derive physical, mental, and social benefits from their efforts. And many national and worldwide programs, like Kids with A Cause are reaching out to help instill the value of volunteering at early ages.

Volunteering need not be done in a big way, small efforts are very meaningful too. So, consider "paying it forward". It can do great things for you and the one you're helping.


Luks, A. & Payne, P. (2001). The healing power of doing good: The health and spiritual benefits of helping others. iuniverse

Rhode, D.L. (2005). Pro bono in principle and in practice: Public service and the professionals. CA: Stanford University Press.

The Power of Reaching Out - The APA Monitor


Christine said...

Hi Dr. Deb: It is rather ironic that this post should come out today. I recently decided to volunteer with Hospice and when my husband asked me if I was sure (I am pretty active with kids, work, etc) because I have a pretty full plate--I thought about it for a minute and told him that I am doing it because it will make me feel good. I don't know if that is the healthiest reason to volunteer-it should be to help the other people-but I know I would feel like I was adding something to someones last days that they may need and in turn, that would make me feel good.

Ian Lidster said...

Over the years I have done a great deal of pro-bono work as both a journalist and as an addictions counselor. I have also served as a director on more than a dozen boards of all descriptions. In stating that, I am not blowing my own horn, I think we all, as citizens, have such obligations if we are able to provide a service to our communities. And I absolutely agree, Deb, that the personal benefits definitely outweigh the expenditure of time and talent. The only thing that sometimes galls me is when people presume -- and this is almost always people who could pay -- that all that I do is gratis, or should be. People who would never dream of taking up a doctor's or lawyer's time without paying for it, will quite merrily ask me to do a written project for them, and are sometimes aghast when I send them my freelance rate. "Oh, I thought you just did writing. I didn't know I would have to pay for it." Anyway, another thought-provoking topic from Dr. Deborah. Thank you.

puhpaul said...

I know what Ian is talking about. As a teacher, parents expect you to be at their beck and call whenever they have a question. It's always amusing to have a parent become irrate with you because you couldn't come to the phone to speak with them in the middle of the day, while you are in the classroom doing your job. That said, I can't imagine doing any other job. The joys of helping young people learn and grow outweigh anything else.


alan said...

Your time here reaches so many, and some who might not be reached any other way!

You provide so much hope in so many way!


Donna said...

Volunteering is a great way to find out if you are interested in a particular field, Deb. I volunteered for almost 3 years at a partial hospitalization program and found out that psychology was for me. The psychiatrists there thought I would be a good therapist (it's their fault I've been in school for so long) ;)

Dawn said...

i used to volunteer at daycares when i was younger, before i went to college for that. it was very satisifying, and i cant tell you how much i learned, and how many amazing people i got to meet. its really a win-win situation for all parties involved, in my opinion :)

happy wednesday

Id it is said...

Never done much of volunteer work and stragely enough I have never felt guilty about it either. But Deb, based on the information you just provided, volunteer work is afterall not selfless afterall; there's something in it for the doer! hehe. Guess that might make some of us (like me) do it now.
A thought provoking post.

PalmTreeChick said...

That makes sense because usually helping people makes one feel better about oneself...hence all the benefits.

drytears said...

Awsome, I really wanted to volunteer at the hospital during the school year because I will need the praticum hours and this gives me even more reason to do so.

But... I'm still a bit scared that they would ask for a medical history and then turn me down because of my depression. :(

Sarebear said...

In a way, I sometimes see my mothering/housewife stuff, as this. It helps motivate me.

I'm not one of those mothers who insists all the time, in your face, HEY, it'd cost you $100,000 a year for all the cleaning, childcare, tutoring, nursing, etc. that mothers do. I'm not like that.

At the same time, I get SO FRUSTRATED that I'm not able to go out and be of service to people . . . but when I remember that I can serve my family, by getting up and making a meal, or by folding the laundry . . . that really makes me feel good inside, and like I accomplished something.

See, with my difficulties of not being able to do much, it kind of shrinks my world down to where things like this, are like someone else going out and reading to the elderly in a retirement center, or raking an elderly person's lawn, etc. My world has shrunk down to where these smaller, serving by little things in the home, has expanded to be and take the effort that it takes others to do stuff outside the home.

And that's ok. My pro bono work makes me happy, when I am able and push myself as much as is wise to (if I push too hard, I collapse and am no use to anyone).

So, if you get my feeling of what I'm trying to convey, I get rich rewards from my Pro Bono work. 8^D

Great post, Deb. I like to think out of the box on this one, since my heart desires SO MUCH to help others, but capacity is . . . minimal. Or rather, scope and breadth. I just focus my capacity in the scope and breadth that works for me!!

Thanks, I've realized good things by typing this. Whee!

~Deb said...

I totally believe in this! When I was volunteering for this clinic, I noticed how satisified I was with my life; it was more 'in balance'. My health was better and my attitude towards life and outcomes was less stressful. Doing things for others always gives you a great feeling--especially doing something for strangers. But some people have motives and expect gifts back in return. That needs to be evaluated sometimes. All in all, if you do it out of the kindness of your heart---I think that's key!

Great post Deb!

Dreaming Mage said...

I have to say that I owe a great deal to pro bono work.

The best therapist I ever found worked with me pro bono. My present Psychiatrist works for a paltry sum to give treatment at a busy county clinic where most of the patients, (me included) pay just $10/visit. My meds come to me through the Patient Assistance Programs offered through the often-vilified pharmaceutical companies.

Thanks for this post.


Traci said...

Somehow it doesn't surprise me that you do pro bono work. Thank you.

Tai said...

Yup, it's true.

Volunteering does EVERYONE good.

I think it should be required (but then it wouldn't be volunteer, would it!)

Nancy said...

when my kids were young we as a family did what i called "community service". now my kids sign up them selves to do volunteer work them selves and my husband and i do volunteer once or twice a year with causes that we believe in.
a great post and i agree it does make me/us feel good to give and not just money(which is easier).

Heidi said...

I've never volunteered but I think that will change very soon. I've "payed it forward many times.".Love that feeling of helping people out.

Deb...Hugs 4 u and Pro Bono :)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Christine,
Volunteering in any small way can be a great experience. I think you will find your time at Hospice extremely meaningful.

Dear Ian,
You have done so much in the regard. You can toot your horn about this, my friend!

Dear Puhpaul,
There is nothing like teaching to me as well. You must be wonderful at it.

Dear Alan,
You made me smile :)

Dear Donna,
That is an EXCELLENT point!!!

Dear Dawn,
It is a win-win situation. Volunteering offers mutually beneficial aspects.

Dear Id It Is,
Volunteering in the smallest of ways can be life affirming. I am sure you've held the door open for someone, or "Paid it Forward", etc.

Dear Palmtreechick,
Yup, you got that right!

Dear Drytears,
DO NOT let your depression or the ill-formed stigma that is attached to it stop you from doing things. I experience depression too as do many millions of others. Now, go kick some butt :)

Dear Sarebear,
I thnk you make a great point to highlight that volunteering does not have to be big. Small ways mean alot too.

Dear ~Deb,
We share not only the same name, but many similar thoughts. :)

Dear Dreaming Mage,
I am so PLEASED to learn that through such programs you were able to find great services and meds. I am so so so so happy to know this.

Dear Traci,
I love the pro bono work and the professional and personal volunteering I do. I wish more professionals would join the movement, but, alas.....

Dear Tai,
So funny, but true. In many communities, schools are requiring a volunteering stint in order to graduate from high school.

Dear Nancy,
What a great value system you created in your family. You have given your children a lifelong gift with your volunteerism.

Dear Heidi,
Paying it forward is very much like volunteering. So, you HAVE done it.


Moof said...

Excelling post, Dr. Serani! If more professionals thought like that, we'd have fewer people falling through the cracks ...

Thank you.

JD said...

Another great post! As others have pointed out, there are so many ways to volunteer. My own personal thing is to do it freely and quietly, without any desire for recognition or 'pay back.' This only possible after years of self-esteem building and learning who I was and what was important to me. If that makes sense. The blood center where I live is in dire need, so off we go to donate this weekend.

~Deb said...

By the way, I used you as an example on my site. Thanks for the "help". ;)

Clare said...

I've never done volunteering but have organised a few charity events in the past. Like Heidi it's something I would like to get into. It's finding what's right for you so they get the most from you but you get something out of it too. Hope that makes sense.

drytears said...

Thanks, I WON'T let it stop me! Now... off to kick some butt! :P

Dreaming again said...

Dr. Deb ... here is the link to the tag I tagged you with ;)

Wendy C. said...

Some of the best times I have had with my kids were when I took them along with me on volunteer jobs like the food bank, health fairs and working on the Reservation. I know that the kids feel good about contributing, and they make a lot of friends because they have learned to value diversity. We all win.

Andrew said...

Does this mean all the work I'm putting into my "advice site" blog is good for my soul? Hallelujah! Good post Deb!

Flea said...

If giving it away instead of charging for it is good for a flea's health, I should live a very long time indeed!


Wanda's Wings said...

Helping others always makes me feel better. Great post.

dragonflyfilly said...

yes, i agree with alan, your blog is both informative and healing at the same time...i love it!

Shirazi said...

Dr. Deb, You are a Pro Bono Publico.

mysti said...

When I am volunteering my talents and skills I know i feel better. In fact I think I enjoy it more because it is something that comes from my heart, and it is helping others. Nothing better then that in my opinion.

jumpinginpuddles said...

Volunteer work comes in many forms, a caserole for a sick friend a shoulder for someone to cry on and lift for someone in need, they are all called pro bono and all as valuable as each other

Rose said...

I think volunteering is wonderful. It feeds the spirit and soul in so many wonderful ways. Plus it reminds us of how thankful we should be....

Godwhacker said...

Hi Deb,
I worked as a literacy volunteer and found it one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There is an epiphany you reach when someone finally "gets it". We you teach reading to others, you open whole worlds for them and it does wonders for their self-esteem (and my own).

My question is this; is it still "pro bono" if I get reward out of it? (this question boarders on the playful and rhetorical) Great post!!!

Heidi said...

Just checking in..Hope all is well and that your enjoying the weekend.

Peter Kua said...

Hi Dr. Deborah, you have written a wonderful and timely article that serves to remind people that $$$ is not everything, and that you can actually reap great rewards through generosity! I've written a related article called "Reaping the rewards of generosity" and can be found at
Hope you enjoy reading it :)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Moof,
I agree.

Dear JD,
I think donating one's time is valuable in so many ways. I wish I donate blood. I don't get past the screening as I have mediteranean anemia. But you rock!

Dear ~Deb,
I gave you some suggestions there.

Dear CLare,
It makes perfect sense. Charity work is very very important work too :)

Dear Drytears,
You go!!!!

Dear Dreaming,
I answered your tag in the comments on your blog.

Dear Wendy,
I have also shared many meaningful moments showing my kids the value of volunteering.

Dear Andrew,
Oh, yes, indeed.

Dear Flea,
Some of the best people I know offer their time in the same way as you. You are one in a million, Dr. Flea.

Dear Wanda,
I always feel a sense of happiness when I help another. Even if it is to open the door. Y'know?

Dear Dragonfly,
I thank you darlin'. I feel that every blog offers something special.

Dear Shirazi,
You made me blush.

Dear Mysti,
"From the heart" is such a powerful offering. I agree with you 100%.

Dear JIP,
YOu are so right about that. Offering your time can happen in complex ways and in simple gestures too.

Dear Rose,
It DOES feed the soul. So right you aret!

Dear Godwhacker,
The "A-ha" moment *is* so wonderful. I love when that happens too. And yes, still pro bono any way you look at it ;)

Dear Heidi,
Weekend was busy. I'm just getting to my comments now. Hope you are well.

Dear Peter,
I will check it out. Thanks.