It's pretty easy for the problems of the system and the clients to seep into social service agencies. You might think an agency of therapists would be a super healthy, nurturing and empowering place to work.
Sometimes it is. When I interned in NE Portland, I was blessed beyond measure to work with a group of therapists who had a code of honor that included things like: I'm not going to listen to you complain about another therapist - go talk to that person; and; what do you need to take care of yourself right now? go do it. The administrative help in that agency walked around saying things like, I never want to work anywhere but here. What can I do to help you today?
That takes commitment, folks. It takes a good daily examining of what's going on inside you and to not get caught up in what some folks call low brain thinking. And when it works, it is simply fabulous.
I also worked for an agency that was a lot like Survivor. Only, we all suffered infections in the brain, the production crew and any chance of rational help deserted us, and there was no cash prize at the end. Things like this happened: therapists covertly took unflattering pictures of other therapists in staff meetings and sent them to other therapists.
I just can't really even think about that job. It was as if I fell into some hell version of Wonderland.
So now, I work at another healthy agency, where my supervisor says, What do you need from me today? What can I do to help? Where are your families at? Now. At this agency, we are all currently at risk of being furloughed, indefinitely, because the State hasn't passed a budget yet. Children's administration and the Attorney General's office have all received layoff notices. I won't know until Monday, 7/1/13, when I check my email, if I'm going to work that day or not. Shoes is also at slight risk of being furloughed.
This doesn't sit well with my planning nature. And the thought of both Shoes AND I going without work makes me queasy.
But I was sitting in this emergency staff meeting this week, and we were all receiving this news, the first words out of my coworkers mouths were, "I can't believe this. Do they not know how this is going to impact vulnerable children? What can we do to support our clients during this time if there is a government shut down?" And today, during my group supervision and team business meeting, one of our agenda items read:
How are you challenging your own unhelpful self talk about the current uncertainty with the budget?
My first thought? Honestly? This is ridiculous. It's not unhelpful self talk. It's a stinking reality. Both Shoes and I are going to lose our jobs and how are we going to make our mortgage payments and my student loans are due soon and ...
...oh. Oh. So THERE it is. That's the little bugger I need to challenge. There's the fear. The lack of faithfulness.
Then again, 100% of the change I ask my clients for is also not easy. And those of us in the field tend to believe (although probably not all of us) that we can only take our clients so far as we ourselves have gone.
This job is helping to change me. Thank. Goodness.
I have a lot of refining that needs to happen.