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Working on yourself

2015

To all my fellow workers,

The journey of a child and youth care counselor is difficult. I am just beginning to embark on my own and am wondering if what I am experiencing is shared.

It didn't take me very long to realize how powerless it can be as a professional, or for myself, a student in such a unique field. I went into CYCC with a desire to give back and fight for the youth and children who have been unable to fight for themselves, and a yearning for discovery myself. To somehow take back what was once take from me. However it didn't take long for me to realize how ill equipped I felt as I faced some of the most traumatic and daunting stories of abuse and pain.

The scariest part sometimes being my own internal reaction, as I reel back my own story. How do we continue to find our own answers to our deepest questions, while aiding another through their journey? How do we take care of our needs, before they get in the way of our taking care of another? What has been your experience with this as professionals further along in the journey?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Rachelle Tang
...

Hi there,

Michael Burns has a wonderful book.., the Self in Child and Youth Care. It's an excellent book to guide your journey in self reflective practice.

Good question!

Michelle
...

Hi Rachelle,

I know from personal experience how difficult it can be sometimes to manage working with youth/children who are dealing with so much more than they deserve while at the same time managing my own issues.

It's so important in this line of work to be aware of your own struggles and triggers, and be motivated and willing to work through them yourself and grow. I make sure to have multiple coping/support structures as I go.

Taking time to get support yourself is important, and there is nothing wrong with a CYC worker seeking counseling themselves when needed. I have done so myself. I am of the opinion that if I am unwilling to seek counseling for my own stuff when I need to, it's a pretty hypocritical move on my part, when I am encouraging clients to reach out and get support. Counseling can be a great space for you to work on your own stuff to keep it from impacting your work.

Finding a way to separate work life from professional life is really important, so that the encounters you have during the day don't take over your home life as well. There are books that you can get specifically on this topic of leaving the office at the office.

I think it's also important and helpful to remember when working with your clients that they are strong, they are not victims. No, they don't deserve the stuff they've been through, and it hurts to see them struggle sometimes, but we do a disservice to them if we think of them as not able to come out on top. I think of all the adults I know and the strongest and most empathic among them are often those who have had a rough start to life.

It's important to care and have empathy, yes, but there is a difference between empathy for clients, and emotionally taking on their issues for them. I have found that by seeing them as capable of coming out of things stronger and wiser, it is easier to keep that level of empathy in a healthy balance.

One last idea would be to find a group of professionals in your area and start a peer support group of some kind, where you get together to discuss how you're doing while working in the field and support each other.

Good luck with everything

Miranda Conley
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