Field placement is a time of self-exploration, personal and professional growth, relationships, and skill acquisition and is a major contributor to the evolution of the Child and Youth Worker/Care practitioner. However, field placement can also be a time of positive and negative power relations/imbalances, personal differences, personal triggers, evaluation and criticism. A time of great vulnerability, fear, anxiety and confusion. So how do we get through this new journey in our life?
In my experience one thing that really helped get me through the anxiety, fear and self-doubt was something one of my college professors once told me and that is “trust in the process”. Well, trust me, in the beginning that phrase seemed much easier said than done, and when we were told by our fellow CYC–s, now in their last year of college, that we would be called all kinds of names, have to do restraints or take cover, and many other frightening stories about some of the happenings within their placement “trust in the process” seemed mythical. I sat there and dreamt up all the worst possible scenario’s like getting a shoe thrown at me while being yelled at and closing my eyes and repeating “alright, Ness, just trust in the process” hoping I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking my heels together and suddenly being taken to a wonderful place with munchkins and lollipops. But after a few days, okay weeks, at my first placement which was within a school working with children in the “behavioural classroom”, “trust in the process” evolved into a different sort of image. Let’s just say you know when your leg falls asleep and you’re walking to work at 8am in the morning to get there on time, so you pick your leg up a little to try to move it one step at a time? Well that action is how I came to understand “trust in the process”. Every day when I was scared about running a group for the first time, or a child / youth had their first major blow out in front of me and I knew in that moment I was going to have to deal with it, because just like the work scenario, I knew I had to get to “work” so I had to suck it up, pick up my leg and keep walking to my destination “and that’s exactly what I did. Each time I faced an anxiety-provoking or scary situation I would pick myself up and move forward saying this phrase to myself, “trust in the process,” over and over in my head and really just hoping for the best as I applied all that I had learned in school and all my skills to the situation.
Now, you’re probably thinking that by the end of the second year placement I had stopped using this “trust in the process” thing? Well not exactly, not even close. While things were getting easier and I began to attain new skills and develop a greater sense of confidence in myself, personally and professionally, there were always firsts along the way that brought about my own need to hang on to my professor’s wise words of “trust in the process”. For example in my third year placement going into an open custody setting to co-facilitate our first group session, my heart raced, my throat tightened, I began to perspire “I was scared. Scared of the newness of the situation, of not knowing what to expect of the youth, and also what my supervisor expected of me. I sat down cautiously and carefully, I felt aware of all my senses more than ever before. I scanned the room and as I heard the voices of the youth stomping down the stairs I took a deep breath. The youth came in one by one; some quietly, ever so quietly greeting us, and others would burst into the room with a big greeting that no one could miss. I said hello and introduced myself, very briefly, and through the beginning of the group I tried to smile in spite of all the pressure and anxiety I was feeling. Not knowing how to act, and not feeling comfortable “such comfort seemed innate for some of my peers “it always made me wonder how do they do it? Then suddenly, one of the youth who sat right next to me in the beginning of group and was also one of the youth who was wonderfully vocal and assertive in her feelings, looked right at me (I could see it from the corner of my eye, as I was still in a state of hyper-vigilance brought on by my own anxious feelings) and said in a calm yet firm voice: “Why are you so quiet?! Are you scared or something?”
She was right on, I was terrified. She picked up on it and called me out for it. I admired her for that, and also, given her current life circumstances and the group situation, I admired her resilience and her ability to seek out other people’s voices and her willingness to connect with others. It goes to show how Child and Youth Care work is truly reciprocal in nature, how we learn and grow from the children and youth we work with as they can identify things about us that we cannot even see, and from their input, insight, and honesty, we grow. A kind of growth that would not have happened if that youth, that day, didn’t call me out and reach out to me to engage me in the group process that is something that can be perceived as Child and Youth Care initiated task, but is really only possible if both people, worker and youth, engage in this give-and-take process. What that youth did was remind me to pick my leg up and keep moving forward because in that moment I stood still, I was not trusting in the process or in myself.
Today, “trust in the process,” means so much more than I could have ever imagined. Trusting in the process is saying yes to personal and professional growth; it is a recognition that even through our fear, anxiety or any uncertainty there is one thing we know for sure, that we can always trust in the process because no matter how the end should turn out, from it we will evolve and grow. I will understand a part of myself I may have not reached into, and when the rewards of trusting in the process begin to show, for example, a renewed sense of self, a real sense of accomplishment and growth, another step closer towards integrating my true “self” in all that I do in my practice, that feeling of being myself and being genuine in practice, and the freedom from some of the emotions that might have limited my potential or kept me form moving forward, were all made possible by “trusting in the process”.