Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Restroom etiquette

OK, what's the point of knocking on a door to a bathroom stall if it's going to immediately be followed by an attempt to open it? At least give me a chance to shout out "Come on in!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Practical Life Skills Workshop

I'd like to run a workshop where I discuss practical skills with clients. These would include:

Keep ALL your rent receipts
It's your only proof you're paying rent. If you don't get a rent receipt keep a copy of your money order.

Out of Your Monthly Expenses Pay Rent First
Very few emergencies take precedence over the one payment that will keep you in your apartment.

Always get a photocopy of an important document when you get the chance.
Imperative for case manager and extremely helpful for client to have a copy of ID, social security card, income info, health insurance cards, to name a few big ones.

Get the Name, the Name of the Person You Talked to
Me: "Who's your public aid case worker?"
Client: "I don't know, I think she's Asian."

Doesn't help me find out who she is. In the worse case scenario, talking to someone without getting her name means the conversation never took place. Get last name too if possible. And for larger agencies like IRS it's sometimes possible to get a representative's ID #.

Get the Phone Number of the Person You Talked to
Close relative to getting the name of the representative/agent you talked with. Sure, once you get disconnected from a phone conversation with a large cable company the chances of finding the same rep again are the same as winning the lottery but in other cases reps have their own direct number. And on that thought:

Leave Your Number in Voicemail so I/Other Providers Can Call You Back
Otherwise how would I know how to find you, potential new client identifying herself as Sara Unclearlastname?

Making Your Own Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Agents
All right, so this would easily be made into its own workshop but I wouldn't be able to resist sharing a few tips. Did you know lemon is kills mold? Many green home made products can be concocted easily and cheaply.

Monday, June 21, 2010

~ World Cup ~

Unfortunately I won't be able to watch all the soccer games this time around. As a way of trying to make this up for myself, I've been happily bothering my coworkers by playing this song incessantly:

K'naan's Waving Flags

Happy World Cup Season!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Accompanying a Client to the Psychologist

A client of mine who struggles with paranoia asked me a month ago to help him find a new psychologist. He wanted to find someone to talk to because he was feeling depressed. It was a big decision for him and he asked me to go with him to the first few sessions. I was able to put time aside and go to four appointments with him so far.
 
It's fascinating to observe the dynamic between the psychologist and my client: How they interact and the psychologist's impression of my client and how he's doing compared to my impressions. A simple example was during one session when I could tell my client was having a great day. He spoke positively about how things were going while the day before he was talking with me in anguish about a number of difficult situations he was going to need to deal with. But when the psychologist asked him how he was doing otherwise since they last met he didn't bring up what he talked with me about. With his permission the psychologist asked me for my impressions and I brought up one concern my client had and they discussed it.
 
These visits are giving me a tiny glimpse into the experience of getting therapy. Having the same phrases or ideas be repeated by the therapist is sometimes reassuring for me to listen to, to be honest.

I did catch myself thinking in the last visit that on some level it's easier for a psychologist, who sees a client once a week and only works with her on specific issues, than a case manager. As a case manager I meet with my client more regularly and work on a lot of aspects that include day to day concerns from health to finance to apartment issues. It's easier to focus on one aspect, I thought. I then reminded myself of the danger of observing what others do fairly superficially and deciding they have it easier.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Becoming Senior Staff

I had a small realization earlier this week: Only three case managers remain in the agency who are more senior (in terms of time) than I am and even that may change in the near future. I didn't really think about it before and it caught me with a hint of surprise. Similar to the feeling of going to peel a banana and realizing that I already ate half of it.
 
My coworkers' approaching me with questions has reminded me of my tendency of not wanting to commit to an answer or statement ("You should do this to clean the kid's urine stain off the mattress") unless I'm 100% sure of it. So if I don't know and need to give an immediate answer I hmmmm and turn to the internet or a binder and that's when I see the true patience of my coworker. Will he wait while I skim through a website or start taking a few steps back before skipping to the next office and ask another coworker?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Work Pet Peeve

One of my client annoyances is when clients stop me in the lobby as I'm walking in in the morning or as I'm leaving at the end of the day. Specifically when I'm barely through the door and a client comes up to ask me for a transportation card or hygiene items or alternatively, and sometimes before me saying anything, embarks on a detailed monologue about an issue she's dealing with. Of course I'm not talking emergency situation monologue.
 
It no longer surprises me the detail people go into when talking about their personal concerns in front of other strangers. It's like during a budgeting workshop a client starts mentions casually how much money she gets each month from social security.
 
When I leave the agency (which is usually about half an hour after our agency is closed for clients/case manager appointments), I tread through the lobby and my brain has started to mentally close from work. At these moments interruptions that don't fall under category of 'goodbye' or 'let's make an appointment' mean that a client wants to have a longer conversation with me. And I'm already halfway to being in walking home mode. So, yes, I redirect my client but I still wish secretly I had a back door to leave the building from.
 
Perhaps I should try wearing huge sunglasses and changing my walk when I do my entrances and exists in and out of the building. Or get into my office through the window... Hmm... Not first floor though.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Awareness that Client's Behavior is Not a Reflection of Me

I don't share this easily but I expect I'm not the only one who has this gut response in certain situations. Namely, when my client does something positive, from getting involve in the community to getting a job, I feel proud by association ("My client did that"). However, if a client of mine does something like get in trouble or cause a behavioral incident at Empoder (like being verbally abusive to staff) I feel a similar sense of ownership of this behavior through association (A similar "my client did that" in a slightly different tone). The closest way I can describe my feeling in this case is guilt though it's not exactly that.

I'm grateful I'm mindful of this initial reaction so I can put myself in check. Now I don't really take ownership of what my clients do. I'm very aware of free will and that my clients' behavior is influenced by a host of internal and environmental factors that have nothing to do with me.

I wonder if this gut reaction is more likely to happen when as a social worker (or in a supportive role in rehab or juvenile hall) has intensive or long term relationships with clients. I've worked with some clients for over three years and I tend to feel this gut reaction more so with clients I've worked with longer.

I wonder if this feeling has to do with the fact that in my first year particularly at Empoder, I thought that I played a positive -- at times almost heroic -- role in many of my clients' lives (as long as they wanted to have an active working relationship with me). After all it's a motivating factor in social services to believe you are making a difference. Later I started downplay the focus on myself in the working relationship between me and my client -- going back to me not wanting to think I'm a savior who has a magical touch to transform a client's life. I'm walking side by side along the metaphorical path with my clients. That doesn't mean I still can't play a positive role in their lives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Who's in Your Emotional Support System?

During our intake with a new client one of the questions we ask is: "Who's supportive to you?" (in so many words to someone's mental health well being). Answers range from God to a friend or relative's name to 'no one'. A questions closely follows that asks for the new client's emergency contact. An uncomfortable question if a person had just answered 'no one.'

I'll be honest and say it's hard for me to imagine what it's like for a person to feel like she's alone to the point has no support from family or friends. I understand and have felt loneliness but it's extremely hard for me to fully appreciate the feelings of isolation that a number of my clients feel.

Some of my clients are loners and relish in that. Humans tend to be social but not all people are. On the other hand, I've met with clients who I see struggle with their interest in reaching out and befriending other people and the challenges they face in doing that. On another note, I've written before that for several of our clients Empoder is a community and that for them other clients and staff make up their network of support.

I understand better the difficulty in making new friendships post graduation from college. The pool of people your age that is easily found on campus no longer surrounds me. Friends move around, sometimes to other cities, and cool coworkers move. Friendships need a bit more effort to upkeep when people are spread out. It has been challenging.

For some reason the need people have for one another fascinates me (and this probably has to do with how I see myself relating to other people).

Friday, June 4, 2010

BBC Article: Creative Minds 'Mimic Schizophrenia'

Intriguing article exploring similarities between how creative and schizophrenic people think. 

It suggests a lack of filtering during thought process.  

Creative Minds 'Mimic Schizophrenia' (BBC News)

On a very different level, sometimes when I write I try to practice 'non filtering' so I can get everything out without feeling I'm censoring or limiting how I express myself. The freedom that comes with doing that is at times tough for me to achieve.