This past week I had two interviews, received all of my grades, and was offered and accepted my first job with an MSW. I will be working as a mental health therapist at my former practicum site.
One of the questions that the interviewer asked me was what I felt about safety: both mine and clients’. At first I thought of this question mainly in terms of my own personal safety; I felt relatively little unease or concern regarding that. However the interviewer’s wanted to know how I would deal with clients safety, more specifically how I would deal with the responsibility and the emotional challenges of the dealing with suicide and client self-harm. As I was studying for this interview I had been madly reading everything I could on suicide risk assessment. As I did so the responsibility of my future role started to weigh on me. I began to become worried that I would miss something important and then I would lose someone. It is important to have that sense of responsibility but what the examiner’s wanted to know more than anything (as they could see I had read up and knew suicide risk assessment fairly well) was whether I could handle someone whom I had done everything possible to help and protect them…dying. The interviewer candidly related how she had experienced this in her career in mental health. I related how important self-care and seeking good family and social support would be for this job. However, I have to admit that the thought of someone committing suicide on my caseload scares me- as it probably should- and I think it would be an incredibly difficult thing to deal with as a social worker. Nonetheless I am determined to plunge into this work and field with courage, skill, and openness to learning.
My question to you, fellow professionals (social workers, counsellors, etc): how have you dealt with risk/difficult situations (whether it be the difficult call to remove a child or not, or to hospitalize someone, or have someone on your caseload die). How have you learned to cope keep strong even with the huge responsibility you carry?
Let me know- help me be prepared for the disappointments and challenges ahead.
Also: how has your faith helped you through such challenges?