Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hello, I’m Your Case Manager and I’ll be Your Superhero Today

I admit that after I started working as a case manager I initially had something of a savior complex. Which is interesting because at the same time I also greatly valued client empowerment and wanted to cultivate this in my clients.

Maybe my savior tendencies had a bit to do with this being my first job post college and my bright eyed interest in getting out there and changing the world. It wasn’t that I wanted to save people exactly. It’s not even that I necessarily thought they were incapable of helping themselves (ex. In advocating for themselves), though some clients, due to their disabilities, needed more support.

I readily recognized my own need to rely on others for help, if in a big project like moving to a new apartment to more simple tasks that were challenging for me. And in many of my clients I saw loneliness and lack of community to tap for help and I wanted to fill in that gap. It took me a few months to get over the instinct of rushing to take the lead on helping to solve a client’s problem.

I slowly learned to distinguish a situation when a client needed more support to work out a problem or need me to advocate on his behalf. A way of doing this was learning to ask “What would you like me to help you with?” to understand what kind of help my client needed if at all. Or my favorite, “What would you like to do about [problem, concern]?” These two variations, but particularly the first, have been helpful when talking to clients whose thought processes haven’t been focused and who may discuss 3 different topics in one conversation – sometimes in one sentence.

Of course, sometimes my clients just want to vent.

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