Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who decides?

I've been at my clinic for a few weeks now and am just starting to work with my own clients. For the first few weeks I was observing my supervisor and other therapists while they worked so I could see different techniques and become more comfortable with the process. It has been an intense month of learning, not only about the clients but what I am feeling myself. And there is one thing in particular that has been keeping me awake at night...

Who decides?

Who decides which one of us is sitting on either side of the desk? Who decides which one of us needs the help and who gives it? Who decides which one of us had the blessings in life to have an education, a family that cares, and opportunites galore? Who decides which one is sexually abused by a family member? Who decides which one of us has no running water because her father is a crack addict? Who decides which one will cut her arm so deeply just to numb the pain that is life?

How was I born with all of this privilidge? What did I do to deserve it? What did she do to deserve the life she has?

And... how in the hell can I possibly help?

We study in school how to process what we see and hear, we talk about self-care and avoiding "compassion fatigue" and burnout. But until I began to see these things on a regular basis I didn't realize how important taking care of myself really is. There is no way for me to be effective if I can't work through these things.

So, how did I answer these questions? What did I do to work them out? Honestly, for the first time in my life, I've taken true solace in my faith. And although that is still somewhat undetermined (raised Catholic, but by no means practicing) I HAVE to believe that there is something bigger than me out there that knows how this will all play out. Because I can't do this job if I believe that this is the only shot these people get. I've discovered that my belief in a higher power has helped me to hold on to the idea that this isn't it for them. This thing they are calling life--living in horrific circumstances, being told constantly that they are nothing and having that reaffirmed day after day--this is not it--this is not their only chance. I believe that their struggles will be rewarded, either in a beautiful afterlife or another go-round here on Earth where they keep improving on the previous life, until they too reach the beautiful afterlife. Either way, it's totally cool with me...as long as this is not it.

Talk about gaining perspective. This month has been a crash course in perspective. Everyone's struggles are real, we all have a certain capacity for pain. But what some of these people have endured in lifetimes shorter than mine has been mindblowing.

So sure, I've learned all the skills in school to be able to do this. I know all the theories, strategies and processes proven to help. But, really... who's helping who?


Anonymous said...

I completely understand. All the questions you mentioned make up part of the reason why I chose not to pursue counseling with my psychology degree. I always joke that I have my own issues to deal with before I deal with other people's issues.

I'm glad to see you are back. I've never commented, but I have been reading your blog for a few months and really enjoy it. Not to claim too much credit, but I told Cherrye (My Bella Vita) about you because I knew she'd enjoy reading your blog.

Good luck with your time at the clinic!

Where in the World said...

It's so true Andrea. Gotta make sure you are ok, before you try to help anyone else get ok...

Every therapist should have a therapist.

Thanks so much for passing me on to Cherrye! It was great to have her and Michelle to talk to when I was in Italy. I hope that one day I'll get to meet them both!

Anonymous said...

I've never met Michelle, so I hope next time I can afford to make it over there I get to meet her. She and Cherrye are getting to be really good friends. And if you're there when I make it, maybe we can all meet up!

Anonymous said...

Please visit my blog for lots of information about Thailand TravelingThailand Mega Expert
Thanks for your support!!! :-)))