I've resigned from my job as a child and family therapist with the community outpatient mental health clinic. Hearing Shoes say (over and over and over and over), "We can sell the house, babe. We'll move back to Portland. It will be ok." made me realize how much sadness and grief and stress this job was bringing into my home.
It hit me really hard about a month ago when Shoes said quietly, "You can't go on like this. This depression is eating you alive."
Depression? Well. Not really. I mean, sad and stressed out and trying to rely on God's promises, but I know that I didn't match the clinical criteria for depression. You gotta watch how you label mental health around a therapist. But the fact that Shoes was experiencing my situation as depression was a bit of a shake up. I have more to say about the job I'm resigning from, but I'm looking for a graceful, diplomatic way to own my truth and not slander the agency. And I will probably wait until I've fully left to write that post.
Before I resigned, though, I accepted an employment offer from a parent agency in a town a couple hours away who was looking to expand services in my county. So. I am still a child and family therapist. Now, I am a child and family therapist who will be providing intense, in home therapy to families who are either: 1) At imminent risk of losing their children to Child Welfare; or 2) Having their children returned to them out of foster care. This is gloves off kind of stuff. The kind of therapy that happens as a last chance resort to try to keep families together.
I'm going from one intense agency to another, I know. Here's the thing though. With the new agency, my maximum caseload is 2. 2 families. Now, each family gets 10 hours of in home therapy a week, but I will never be assigned more than 2 families. And paperwork is written into my work agreement. And here's the thing that my heart is the most grateful for:
I will be working from home. I will not be away from the house 12-14 hours a day. The implications this has for Shoes and I is huge. We might actually have space to start thinking about human children. We'll see.
I have 3 more client days at the clinic. This has been tough. Due to the very high turnover at the clinic, I am the 3rd or 4th therapist these kids and families have had in the last 12 months. These families are upset, and understandably so. It has taken all of my professional energy and clinical skills to be able to hold their disappointment, irritation, frustration, fury ... and grief and loss ... while experiencing my own. I have never ascribed to the school of thought that I, as a therapist, should be a blank slate. Especially not when working with kids and families with a history of trauma and attachment issues. (No worries, I'm not letting myself fall apart. It's been several days of lots of emotion, though.) It's also been incredibly difficult to professionally, yet with empathy, respond to statements such as, "That agency must be a really terrible place to work if they can't keep any of their therapists"; or; "I don't know where you're going after this, but it has to be better than (my agency)." (That last one was from a professional I respect and admire.)
I've been working almost every day, many hours a day. My last day with the current agency is Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday, I'll drive up to the parent agency for initial training.
If anything, the past 9 months has taught me how important the health of the agency is in social work / social services. That's obvious, right? Maybe, but it's really difficult to assess that in an interview. I know to ask more questions early on now. I know to ask for what I need. I know to ask, "What makes a person a good fit for this agency?". Maybe I won't always get straight answers, but I can only do what I can do.
It's beautiful outside right now. I went into the agency this morning and worked on cleaning up client files. And then Rosie and I went to the dog park. It's time to start putting this behind me. It's time to start remembering why I wanted to become a therapist.
Oh, social work.