I remember when I was in my mid-twenties, had just received my Master’s in Social Work, and was working at my first job with the Prince William County Department of Social Services. I worked for a special grant program in the foster care department. I had a supervisor that had been at the agency for decades and I remember meeting with her about one of the families on my caseload. She was advising me on how to proceed with the family and I thought, while sitting in her stark government office, “how will I ever know what to do?”.
At that point I was feeling a bit confident about the intake session, that first appointment when you meet a family. It was straightforward, fairly prescribed and basically just gathering information about the family, getting history and demographics. I didn’t think I could mess it up that badly. What was supposed to transpire in the subsequent sessions terrified me. There were treatment plans to be written and decisions to be made about how to help the family, what services they needed and the idea that I was supposed to provide some kind of counseling? I.WAS.PETRIFIED.
Fast forward twenty years.
Last week a couple came into my office. Within the first thirty minutes of the intake session I had diagnosed each partner, assessed the faulty dynamics of their relationship and had a plan in my head as to how to proceed. Each client isn’t always as simple to assess, but I have continually been amazed at how I have learned, grown and developed as a therapist over the past two decades.
I don’t always do it right; I have clients disagree with me, get angry and even, yes, fire me, but overall I feel like I can get beyond the first intake session without crumbling into my own panic.
I have worked with certain clients for a period of months to years. Not only have I witnessed them change, grow and heal, but I have been able to see my patterns and skills improve as I work with these clients on a regular basis.
I have shared in other blog posts about my peer supervision group. These are the women that hear the panic; when I have a difficult client, or one of those “OMG I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT” moments I can’t call them fast enough. We have spent hours processing cases and guiding one another with clinical advice. The good news is that I have many more “Ah, that was a great session” moments than the aforementioned sessions, but when I am faced with a difficult case, it is so nice to have these talented clinicians with whom to consult.
I am not writing to toot my horn. I am simply writing because I have these moments that I realize, “I know what I am doing” and it makes me giggle. I can still picture that young woman in her supervisor’s office in the early 90’s, what a long way we’ve come.
My sister called me early this morning, giddy, excited and chatting enthusiastically before I had my coffee. She had just gone for a run (another thing I hadn’t done) and was totally pumped for her favorite day of the year: The Boston Marathon.
We grew up on the Marathon, either standing on Comm Ave, or somewhere in Wellesley or Newton. In 8th grade I remember riding out to Hopkinton to take my dad to the start of his Boston Marathon moment (the moments turned into 4+ hours, but who’s counting?)
When I learned today what had transpired in Boston, my heart sank. How could there be a bombing on my sister’s favorite day of the year? How could this celebration of months and months, miles and miles of training be detonated in such a way?
This annual tradition is forever changed. Like our airports, our schools, and our public venues, our races will now be affected. It hurts to know that our kids are growing up in such a different world.
Be safe, hug your peeps, and DON’T MESS WITH BOSTON, we are one tough group.
Many of us in Northern Virginia heard our alarm clocks for the first time in over a week this morning. After a slower paced spring break we are back to the school buses, packing lunches, homework and shuttling around from one practice to another.
It was so nice to let go of the schedule for a bit. We slowed down, slept in, travelled and played. The kids seemed lighter, slower and relaxed. Many parents that I know took the week off from work, or at least a couple of days. Throw in Passover and Easter to the mix and it’s been one big party (well, mostly, unless you observe the Passover dietary rules which is an entirely different blog post).
Last night as we sat around the dining room table for the first time in over a week and ate a home cooked meal, we were laughing and being silly with an edge of “it’s time to get back to normal”. We had spent MANY hours together, in the car and at meals and in a hotel room, there had been little alone time and we just might have been starting to rub each other the wrong way. My big announcement was “in the morning, everyone is going to leave”. One kid rolled his eyes dreading the school bell while another one was somewhat relieved to get back to school and his friends and the routine.
There is something to be said for routine. We depend on some sense of normalcy and patterns. Despite the monotony of it, our kids do thrive with a schedule. I work with a family whose father defied all routine. He wouldn’t adhere to meal times, bed times or a homework schedule. The kids were suffering; they fell asleep in class and were struggling academically. With the help of many professionals, this dad began to implement some routine into his daughters’ lives and they are doing much better. With a good night’s sleep and a consistent schedule the girls (and all of us) perform better in our daily lives.
Flexibility is key; a night out once in a while or breakfast for dinner in front of the television on occasion, but overall, spring break or not, routine is a good thing. Our bodies crave it as do our minds and souls.
As we get back to the grind, keep this in mind while we are rubbing our eyes from lack of sleep and cursing the traffic, there is something to be said for getting back on that hamster wheel.