Entering the world of work

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?

Prayers for helping professionals: St. Francis’ Prayer

A couple of months back my husband and I decided to adopt a few short prayers for certain times of the day.  We decided to go with the Lord’s prayer in the morning, St. Francis’ prayer midday, and use a liturgy (commonprayer.net) together for the evening, or open prayer.

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis) the earliest written manuscript of this prayer was published in a French Catholic journal in 1912, and likely was not penned by St. Francis.

Its inclusion into our daily prayer rhythms was suggested by my husband.  I was hesitant to add it because I have always found its content quite difficult.  I balk at a prayer that is all about taking action for others as much of my life is spent supposedly in that direction.   Aren’t we supposed to emphasize God’s love and grace for us rather than focus on performing deeds? There are so many cautions in our modern-day about giving too much to others.  In the helping professions there is a constant emphasis on “self-care”.  This prayer, in contrast, seems like an invitation to burnout to those in the field.

However, today, unlike most days, I remembered to pray in the afternoon a few minutes before I had a counselling appointment with a client.  It was in those moments of prayer that I let go of my disdain for this prayer and I saw that this was the perfect prayer for helping professionals.

Each line contains a purpose for our encounters with people; they are not idle or random moments but defined moments of grace for God to work through as his instruments of his peace.  As a counsellor preparing to meet someone with depression I pray that through the grace of God (and my training and preparation) that where there is darkness there will be light, and where there is despair there will be hope.  Meditating on such concrete concepts helped orient myself from theory and practice to faithfully entrust this client to God’s hands.

In that moment of being fully present to someone, at its core, is an opportunity for deep healing for another person rather. This is in contrast to it being just another opportunity to meet our needs or our skill or knowledge.   As we do this, like the last few lines of this prayer describe, we realize that through this process of dying to ourselves and giving of ourselves we do find life and receive.

As someone who helps others, how does this prayer make you feel, does it speak to you or feel inauthentic?