I am looking for some discussion/insight/advice/mentor-ship on how each of
you handles personal feelings of discouragement in our line of work. Don't
get me wrong...I LOVE the work that I do; I can sincerely say that I cannot
think of anything else I would rather do (and yes, I have thought about what
else I might do). I believe that in this work, the highs are HIGHS, but with
that; the lows are LOWS.
How do you cope with the fact that typically (at least if one is not employed in residential care) we only get maybe an hour a week to try and ignite meaningful change in the lives of the youth and families with whom we work. I work as a school counselor, and have begun to find myself feeling overwhelmed by the fact that what I "do" with the youth can so easily be "undone" by all the other influences in their lives.
I recognize that change is ultimately up to the choices of the youth, but what about those times where a youth cannot even see what needs to change due to the innate dysfunction of the family system in which they live? Or maybe they do see it, but cannot acquire the support they need because the rest of the family is oblivious. How do we stay sane and make a difference in these youth's lives?
I look forward to reading your responses!
I am a second year student at Grant MacEwan College, and I can understand your struggles. It is so easy to be discouraged when working with kids and it seems like you put so much into it and it seemed to be working but it collapses and you start to feel discouraged that you did all that for nothing. Yes it may seem as it is easily undone by the other influences around the youth, but don't be so discouraged what you supported or "did" with them will stay with them and when they start to realize that that path they decided to go on didn't work they will pull out wisdom and experience they learned from you or other support and attempt to use it. If the youth cannot see the change... I have to admit the most important thing that we need to possess is patience. We need a lot of patience when it comes to them, and if they cannot see it, keep supporting them, be patient. It seems hard and may appear so discouraging at times, but remember you are there for them, one small success such as being able to make them laugh will even help them at one small point.
Just remember even making a difference in one child out of hundreds truly matters in our society.
Perspective.....at least they have something to have undone. One alternative would to have nothing at all in their life that could be undone.
I heard a story recently where the lady was talking about her addictions as a youth. She was recounting how at that time, when she'd enter the house (residential) she could hear the sniff of the counsellor as she checked to see if she was high. She was and she denied it. The counsellor sniffed and gave her the consequences most often.
Today this lady accounts that horrible, invasive, **$@!
Sniff told her so much more. It told her that at least someone cared. It
told her she was seen and not forgotten. It told her that maybe there was
something worth living for.
That's her story – a sniff gave her hope. Who are we to say that any of our actions are not impact-full, meaningful and life saving.
As for coping from our end – I personally pray a LOT! Not just that the client will 'get it' but that I can hold faith that what I choose to do with the client today is just right. I also practice letting it go because I only have energy for right now, I can not afford to worry issues of the past or the future. Right now is what counts and keeps me sane! :)
aka Grandma K,
Well, you raised a really important issue here. It seems to me that your questions are two fold, if I understand correctly. I think that what you are asking is how do we, as cyc's handle our own feelings around difficult cases, particulary if we are recognizing some overidentification with our clients. In addition, I am thinking you are asking how you can be most effective when you are the only support for a client. The two issues are certainly related because how can we help but overidentify and feel responsible when we are the only support in a client's life and they are struggling.
I don't know that there is really any right or wrong, but since you are looking for some suggestions, I think that you have a lot of self awareness, and we need people that actively engage in self-reflection in this field.
I would suggest a couple of things and they all stem from re-identifying and re-examination of "the problem". I think that many of us have worked with clients and see much change during our time with them, but they are unable to sustain the change because of the environment in which they are immersed.
Is it possible that rather than looking at problems and solutions to those problems, that the client look at what is positive in their lives: parents may not be the parents we want but they are the ones that we have; same with school, teachers, siblings, friends, geography. But if the client can identify what works with their current ecological system, they can begin to identify what doesn't work and you can help them build their own network of support. In doing this work, which, yes, is slow because it takes time to sift through, but much more sustainable-perhaps the client can seek a particular support from mother, and another from a friend, and you can help them to identify healthier supports/outlets, etc. This will allow the client to be empowered to take control in their own lives about what events, experiences and supports mean to them – you become more of a partnership in the process, and the responsibility is shared between you and the client.
What you are really identifying is that the ecology of the client really must be accepted and valued because different systems do play an important roll in supporting and sustaining change.
In terms of sorting out your own feelings, I think that you have already done two extremely important things: one, identify what you are experiencing, narrowing it down and seeking support from your colleagues.
Theresa in Toronto
Well Dazed you have raised a point that is at the forefront for me.
From what you wrote I heard passion and commitment towards your work and the youth you come in contact with. It has been my experience to date that sometime we never know when that pivotal moment of change may occur. I have found that if you are upfront and genuine with youth that they will absorb what they can from that contact. My experience has been that it depends on the stage of change that youth is in at the moment of contact, as to how much they will ingest from you. I find the caring and empathy care go farther than we know when a youth is unheard and feeling unsupported.
I know for myself, as a youth in that scenario, that it took me years to realize who inspired that moment of change. It was not until I was making my way out of my negative head space that I understood that moment. That moment in time is still with me 20 years later.
I also want to remind you to revisit this thought with
supportive people around you or on here. I feel that this is a thought that
can go through all our minds at sometime when we are still in the
developmental stages of out careers. I work with the opportunities that
percent themselves, and sometime the situations are far from perfect. That
is the nature of our reality at times so do what you can with each moment.
If you make a mistake and feel you have missed something then go back and
revisit it, if given the opportunity.
My last thought is to take care of yourself!!! We need support and comfort too, as much as we like put ourselves in the superhuman category. When you feel discouraged find an outlet that works for you, be it journaling, sharing your thoughts with others or revisiting your successes. Whatever you choose, make it something that rekindles your spirit, because if you don`t than you will head down the path of burn out.
Take care of yourself always!
Child/Youth Care Worker
I find by managing my own creation of expectations of others and their performance allows me to regulate my discouragement of their response to my efforts.
I find expectations breed resentment and what seems to follow, is revenge. If you believe this to be true then it is a portable template to carry with you to manage our own emotional responses to the context that surrounds us at any given time. Managing our emotions, either good or bad ones, are helpful in remaining a insightful practitioner. I say "managing" them not eliminating them.
I really like the idea of "managing" our emotions rather than imagining we are eliminating them. I think it comes back to clarity about ourselves in relation to our clients which then allows us to be fully engaged.
We need to be careful where we get "highs" from. A well-managed program has a good "corporate" idea of what it is working on with certain kids and a good "corporate" idea or plan on what to do. It also has the "corporate" sense of reality as to realistic and reachable goals. For one team member to get the "lows" means that he/she is taking too much responsibility for deciding what is "success" and for when this is not forthcoming. Get with the team.
I love these direct impactful statements. Very helpful to the Youth in the Province of Nova Scotia. Even more helpful to in the moment interventions.
Glenn H Stewart