I am a student in the CYC program at Fleming College. I am currently working on a assignment regarding how best to cope with triggers while working in the role of CYC work and I was hoping to gain some insight and input from those with more experience than I have, so I would like to ask a few questions of the CYC-Net community:
What kinds of coping skills and resources are you using in the field to navigate and manage triggers and their impact?
How does supervision impact that process for you?
What kind of support do you notice or make use of within your workplace that helps with this?
I so appreciate you asking this! I think many of us get triggered at work and don’t even realize it. I don’t know if I can answer every part of your question, but I’ll share some of what helps me.
I know for me, my coping depends on how I’m responding.
If I find myself detached, I often get into Problem Solving Mode and ironically become super attached to the outcome. This can look like spending the whole day thinking about a young person’s situation, putting aside self-care to help, and approaching the interaction as a chance to offer a solution. For times like these, I’m learning to tell myself “this is not my journey” and “I am not the only key to their success”. Instead, I focus on feeling compassion for my inner child —which can be as simple as conjuring up “warm fuzzies” towards my past self.
If my brain/body is allowing me to have a more obvious emotional or visual flashback, I find calming the nervous system is a priority. I tell myself “my body is safe at this moment”, and I focus on that feeling of compassion again. Taking care to breathe slowly and deeply, and not to clench my muscles too much, I imagine myself feeling calm but strong. Some folks find mindfulness exercises (like counting 5 things you see, etc) helpful. But if I notice a trigger is really persistent, I try to engage my executive functioning brain in a healthy way. This might mean excusing myself to go play brain teasers on my phone for a few minutes —it’s amazing how quickly engaging that part of the brain can reset you!
I should mention that I have a lot of friends who are in similar fields, and friends who generally practice lots of emotional labour. Having this kind of social network has been imperative to my wellbeing. If you haven’t already, I totally encourage seeking that out.
I’m also doing an at-home cognitive therapy to help retrain my own trauma responses using neuroplasticity. I could go on about it, but google “limbic system retraining” if you are curious.
There are so many possible answers to this question, but I hope some of that resonates with you.
Are you able to elaborate more on in which you are inquiring about in regards to triggers? Are you wondering about matters that can trigger sensitive emotions within yourself as a cyc worker? E.g. Hearing abuse stories – or transference triggers from students or staff?
I can speak that for me; self-care is one of the most important things to establish from the beginning! Also ensuring you have an outlet to work off some of the pent up emotions you may experience, is also very useful.
Ensuring you have a strong team to digress with is also ideally
important as well. Of course keeping client confidentiality in mind; if
there is a team assigned to the child (counsellor, caseworker etc) that
you can hash and digress with it would help a lot. That ties in with
your question in regards to supervision. I found that having a
supervisor that also knows the case helps with the digression. For me I
try to re-direct my emotions and turn them into motivation and support.
Especially when the team can sit down, discuss the matters and how to
best support the child.
Having regular meetings for the child will be an important practice to apply. In a caseload of 25-30 kids that can be difficult; so for the higher coded kids it would have to be more often then kids who may only need moderate levels of support.
Hope that helps a bit !! Good luck !
Falon, I really enjoyed your response, thanks for sharing.
I too was wondering if the question related to yourself or the children/youth with whom you work. If you are talking about yourself I think, as already noted, that self-care is necessary. In addition, while it is impossible to completely leave work behind, for some people having a leaving work ritual can also be helpful to remind yourself that you can create boundaries between your work and your home. Some people do things like clear their desk, leave stone in the yard, touch the ground before they get in the car, purposefully say goodbye to others, particularly the kids, deep breathing saying something about leaving the energy before you go.
If you are asking about triggers in the moment then the main issue here is related to your self-awareness. If you can predict what might trigger you because you are aware of your own history issues, such as having been bullied in a school and now you work in a school, then this is key. Being able to predict allows you to prepare with strategies such as maintaining your presence and self-talk. If you cannot predict what might trigger you then it is important to have body awareness since your body will give you clues that you are about to react. For example, you might start to notice your heart racing or your breathing is changing. These are clues that you are being triggered and you need to bring in a strategy such as regulating your breathing and again self-talk. If you practice self-regulating with the kids you work with then you can also use these on yourself.
Hopefully that is what you were looking for as a response.
I suggest reading some of Laura Steckley's writing on Containment for CYC practitioners working with youth who have experienced trauma. One of her articles in particular that might be helpful can be found in the March 2011 edition of the CYC-Online journal.
(You can read the article mentioned above here: http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/mar2011.pdf - Eds.)