I mean, working in forensics would probably feel more strange to me.  Being a ghost hunter might also be more strange. Still, this is strange.

I wrapped up the last of 60+ days of training yesterday for the new job I took in May.  {Disclaimer:  all identifying details about this family have been changed.}  After following in another therapist's footsteps for 30 days, and having my supervisor watch every move I make with a client for 30 days, I am feeling more than ready to be out on my own.

I have been working with families for a long time.

So yesterday was the closing of 30 days of services with a family.  Brief reminder:  I provide time limited, very intense, in home therapy to families at risk of the kids going into foster care.  It's definitely present with me that it's either my therapy or bust.  And while that doesn't, to me, feel like much of a choice to the families, I'm also constantly reminded that it's the better choice.

Our data's good, by the way.  (I'm trying to keep this pretty informal, but, honestly, when I write sentences like that, as a former Research Assistant, I cringe a little.)  But, anyway.  It's pretty good.  2 years after our therapeutic services, 80% of these families who were at immediate risk of placement still have their kids.  And what we know about bonding, attachment and long term overall goodness is that, if safe and if possible, it's better for kids to stay with their families.

O, what was my point, anyway?  O, yes.  So.  I wrap up 30 days of intense in home family therapy.  We've done a tad bit of narrative therapy, a tad bit of solution focused therapy, a whole lotta' cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment work, parent education and a whole lotta' old fashioned social work advocacy.  Not enough food in the house?  In the car with you!  We get to learn about food benefits!  Monthly budgets?  They're awesome.  Let's work on one.

And with that, of course, is the gentle confrontation that comes in therapy regarding inconsistency, how actions don't mirror stated values, etc.  And when you're working  with PARENTS about their KIDS, you're treading on pretty sacred ground.   I wasn't sure how this would go.  I mean.  Although this service has a lot of the same elements of mental health therapy, it feels significantly different to ME.

But here's what happened on the last day, after 30 days of ups, downs, middles, and kiddos singing crazy songs in the car:  this family gently thanked me for coming into their home (even though *I* didn't feel like it was much of a choice for them) and said, "You helped all of us learn how to be better with each other."  And one of the parents choked up, tears welling, and said, "There are better ways to be a parent.  I understand my kids a little better now."

It's not always going to go this well.  I've been in the field for 12 years.  I know that.  What I'm left with today, though, as I'm writing my closing reports, is that this might be one of the more strange social work jobs I've had.  I've never really worked with NEAR mandated clients before.  Wait, no.  That's a total lie.  The kids in juvie were absolutely mandated, but that was a little different.

And what I can already tell is that this job is going to be a humbling lesson for me, as a therapist, in the art of asking for change, challenging to greatness, and celebrating any victory that comes along.  I'm also reminded that, even though I provide almost the same amount of therapy hours in 30 days that I provided in almost a year in mental health, change takes time.  I'm asking parents for a significant paradigm shift in a very short amount of time:  to very quickly explore how they were raised, what children know, what has worked for them and why. This process is going to be what it will be.

Hopefully, in the middle ground of asking for change and therapy, I'll continue to have these moments of connection with parents and their kids.  That's why I'm in it.  That moment where a person understands that I'm seeing them as a human being and I'm honoring them as a human being, no matter what the circumstances, is critical.  It'll be on me to offer these services in a manner that's empowering, honoring and authentic.

O, social work.  My strange, sometimes undecipherable, constant, familiar companion.  What AM I going to do with you?  Today you're my dear friend.  Next week, you might be my biggest headache.    You are what you are.  I guess we're in this for the long haul.

1 Comment

  1. AandW Drive-Thru on July 28, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    I think it takes an amazing person to walk into a situation such as this and offer help in a way that is accepted. You have a huge heart Lisa dear.


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