Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Things We Learn

As I wrote before, when I started this MSW program, I was convinced that I wanted to work directly with people. I wanted to be in direct contact with a particular population. But, as the last ten weeks have progressed new opportunities have started to present themselves. With new opportunities comes new learning experiences as well as new perspectives.
The MSW program was one that I chose because I have always wanted to be in a helping profession. After my under Grad I was a little burnt out on the whole thing and so tried something else, but life brought me back to social work and I really enjoy what I'm learning. The program is super intense and so I find myself getting stressed out and sometimes a little grumpy, but if I look at the whole picture I know I've made the right decision; at least in regards to the program itself.
As I've moved through the various classes and have contemplated my options for my placement that starts in January, I've learned some things about myself. They were things I knew before, but maybe didn't pay that close attention to. The most important thing I've realized is that I may be too empathetic to be someone who works directly with clients.
What does that mean?
It means that I feel too much. It means that I would probably burn out in the first year or what the profession calls Passion Fatigue. I might even burn out while I'm still in school. It's something Mr. K and I have been talking about. I thought I would be able to separate myself enough, but even when I think I am, I'm really not. Even working with our fake client-a paid actor we interact with once a week-I am so exhausted by the end of the session that I don't know what to do with myself; just mentally and emotionally drained. And, I'm not getting any better at being a good listener and not taking on his issues. I get excited when he's excited, I get worked up when he's angry, I feel sad for him when he's struggling. All of these things in and of themselves aren't bad, but the extent to which I feel them is not beneficial to me or the client. I feel too much.
My professor even pointed it out to me. In not so many words, but after thinking about his feedback I realized that maybe being in a counselling role is not where I should be.
So, what now?
Remember how I wrote about maybe having to switch my concentration for my placement anyway?
Well, I think even if I don't have to switch it for my placement, I'm going to switch it for mine and Mr. K's sanity.
I think I am better suited for program directing, community organizing, fundraising, policy making, advocating. I think, and I never thought I'd say this, but I think I would be more beneficial to my clients at a macro level.
That said, no matter what level I am at, I want to make sure that I stay connected to my clients. If I am directing a program or writing grants for an organization, I am going to make an effort to meet the people I am working for...and I don't mean my bosses. I mean the population that I am serving. I don't want to become one of those policy makers that we hear about and people complain about who makes decisions for people without knowing the people or what their needs are. I don't want to be that person who creates a policy that makes things worse for the people who need the help.
So, now that it's in writing I will be held accountable.
It's kind of surprising the things that you learn about yourself as long as you are open to the information coming your way. If you had asked me in September if I wanted to work in Macro social work I would have told you that that was the worst idea I had ever heard of and that I hated Macro social work. Now, however, I think it's a great idea and I'm actually excited about it. I just needed to be educated: about Macro social work and about myself.

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