Work in Progress

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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.

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