Q & A...
I had an opportunity to help an MSW student with a question and answer for a research project she is putting together. It was a good opportunity to reflect on my process and also a chance to tell a little bit of my story in relation to beckoning a therapist. Here are the q & a’s:
What inspired you to get into the social work field?
I've always liked helping people. I got my bachelor's of fine arts in painting 20 years ago and started working in non profit arts organizations right away. I did not realize at that time (many people don't), that non profit organizations are macro social work practice. So, in essence, I'd been working in social work for many years as an administrator before I decided to become a clinical social worker. Then my son passed away from a heroin overdose in 2015. I had spent a lot of time working with him closely during his battle with opioid use. That experience really solidified my desire to learn more about the whys, hows, and whats that evidenced based social work practice offers.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job and how do you practice self-care?
I think the most difficult aspect of my job is really being cognizant that there are limits and boundaries to what we can do to help others. Often this is simply related to time constraints or the fact that people really do need to make their own choices when engaging in change. I practice self care by recognizing there is only so much one human is capable of and honoring that in myself. I also practice a lot of yoga and mindfulness exercises.
If you were in my position what advice would you give me?
My advice is to take your time and enjoy the process. Hold on to the articles and books that really resonate with you as far as theories you would like to use in your future practice. If you identify an area that you are really interested in theoretically try to find the time to dig into it and explore how you can apply it to your own life with an eye to your future skill set for working with clients. Pay attention to new theories - we are learning more each day about how the human brain works and affects behaviors.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I enjoy seeing the progress clients make as they learn new skills. I'm honored by their trust in me. It is pretty profound to have the opportunity to work with people in this way.
What obstacles have you had to overcome? How have you coped both positively and negatively?
Quite a few! I have faced challenges with grief and anxiety. I think most of us bring some form of emotional challenges to the table from life experience. One of the reasons I like the practice of both dialectic behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy is because I have found that practicing the skill sets I teach has been very helpful in my own life. Negatively, I cope by being somewhat of a "workaholic" and having trouble sleeping. I think we can very easily fall into the pattern of using work, school, projects, etc. to cope with stress. It can be difficult to be alone with our thoughts and it is easier to fill the space with new or "other" thoughts or actions. From a positive place, I have been able to use my skills to continue to grow and become a better person. I find that practicing mindfulness during these times of stress is extremely helpful. Also - it's very important to self-advocate and be sure to really show up for yourself, just like you would others.
What is your favorite treatment model or social work theory?
I really enjoy using Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
What techniques do you find being effective with your clients?
I generally start my clients off with some narrative processing. Then we move into skills practice with both CBT and DBT. This gives them a chance to share their stories and process, but in a way that has structure and where they can experience tangible progress, which is rewarding for them.
What measures of self care do you take? Are there any activities you feel work best to relieve the stress of the job? How often do you practice self care?
I practice some form of self care every day. For me the best practices are yoga and walking/hiking. Also - body work is really helpful - along with flotation tanks. Another really important factor is making sure to eat well - watching nutrition, vitamin intake, organic foods, and drinking lots of water.