"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Story of My Life

My favorite professor in graduate school gave our class this story. At the time I thought she wanted to inspire us. Now that I look back I realize it might have been more that she wanted to prepare us. Sometimes being a therapist is a thankless job. Rarely do people share their appreciation for you or do you get to see the results of your hard work. Often, if people are positively effected by your treatment, it happens long after you terminate with the client. And sometimes (or most of the time, depending on the week) the adversities you are trying to help people fight seem too powerful to overcome. I can only hope that I made a difference to at least one kid out there and changed their life's path for the better.

One At A Time

A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things out into the ocean.

As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at time, he was throwing them back into the water.

Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said, "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."

"I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."

"I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"

The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, "made a difference to that one!"

By Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen
from Chicken Soup for the Soul

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beware MSW Interns!

So when you decide to get a master's in social work, there are so many things that you are not prepared for whatsoever. No one tells you that student loans are unmanageable or that you will be spending 80 percent of your time chained to a car or a desk far far away from the kids who you want to help. But the thing that took me the most off guard, was how much politics rule this world. When you decide to go into social work, you assume that everyone in it is just like you. You assume that everyone in social services has a good heart, wants what is best for the clients, and is considerate of others. What other kind of people would choose to be in this profession?

WRONG. After some years of working in and with social service agencies, it has become clear that I was very incorrect in all of my assumptions. In my experience some of the people at the top of the hierarchy at some of these social service agencies are extremely difficult to work with. Micromanaging, inappropriate pressuring of employees, poor social skills, and complete mismanagement are rampant. Therapists often describe feeling like worker bees in a factory. The management can often create excess work, stress, and pressure for the therapists who have little time to spare. Therapists in these agencies are not given the tools to thrive and provide the best services to clients. Therapists, like county social workers, are forced to make daily choices that challenge their ethics due to constraints imposed by the powers that be. No one tells you that part of the job will be a balancing act between standing up for what your limits are, what clients need, and stroking egos of the administration. No one mentions or expects that you will have to put up with inappropriate passive aggressive comments from those above you. No one warns you that you may be asked to compromise your values and ethics for your higher ups who make three times as much money as you do, while you are barely breaking even every month.

Thankfully, the other therapists and some of the clinical supervisors are the special kind of people that I did expect in this field. They are supportive, kind, and thoughtful in the workplace. My best advice is to use their support as much as possible because without it, you will end up the client not the therapist. And pick your battles... never compromise your values and ethics for your boss, its your conscience not theirs.