Initially I equaled success with my client’s ability to become more self sufficient and empowered. I assessed this through client involvement in self improvement workshops (like budgeting, health related topics) on one level. On the other, I aimed to encourage my clients to find work
Two things were at work here. One, my background and ability to work biased me when it came to assessing other folks’ ability to work. It was very difficult for me to fully comprehend the challenges people faced while looking for work, whether they had a disability (SSI or SSDI) or not. [I should note that this was around 2 years ago, when US economy perhaps wasn’t booming but not facing the crisis of the past year]. I was able recognize those folks on my caseload who had serious ailments that prevented them from physically or mentally being able to work. But for others I overestimated their ability to do so. Or maybe I had too much of a grand view on how easy it would be.
I remember trying to persuade one client to join our job counseling services. This was a gentleman who had worked but became disabled for mental health reasons. He complained about his income and I suggested that maybe he find a part time job. He told me he wanted to work but that he couldn't come to job training orientation days because he had to take his medication. I said that he could take it at home or take it at the office. He just repeated that he has a process and a specific time to take his medication and that he doesn't want to do anything that would get in the way of that. Eventually he said he would go to job counseling but then didn't come. Again he told me that he didn't want to go because his medication regiment. I was quite frustrated with this because I saw it as something so simple to solve. Later I thought about it more and tried to understand that this man was in his mid-40s,
I set my goals differently now. I have more realistic expectations. It’s not going to be a simple formula by which all my clients go back to work. I continue to encourage empowerment by recommending workshops to clients and through running various presentations for the community. This is something I haven’t changed. But through working with clients I learned that many weren’t aware of their rights – or obligations (in regards to public aid, health benefits and so on) and knew this was an important baseline that needed to be established. And that’s an important step to empowerment. And importantly, I do my best to adjust myself to a client’s pace and interest in what she wants to do.