Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Helping Professions' Impact on Caregivers

This blog is for anyone that works day in and day out as a caregiver in your personal or professional life. The topics of reflection may ring true to a wide range of care-givers. You might be the woman who takes care of her terminally ill mother-in-law, the social worker who investigates alleged abuse, the school guidance counselor who sees inner city youth dropping out of school to sell drugs.  You might be the teacher who spends money from your own pocket to buy school supplies for your classroom that the school can’t afford to buy, or maybe the residential treatment center youth workers who face the abusive behaviors brought about by trauma histories that make your stomach turn to hear.  It may speak to the adoptive mother, or foster mom who tirelessly stay with and love their children who have suffered greatly in their young lives.

 I personally am a caregiver to 5 teenaged girls on juvenile parole who live in the group home where I am a unit supervisor.  I also consider myself a caregiver to the ten + staff members that I supervise, who work day in and day out in emotionally draining situations as they sit with our girls in the pain that they experience as daily life.  Throughout this blog, I will refer to the professional caregiver as the “treater,” the “helper,” or the “caregiver.” The individuals being served will  mainly be referenced as “clients.”

No matter what population you serve, the fact of that matter is, is that as caregivers we are witness to suffering on a daily basis. Our jobs require us to sit with our clients in their pain, to elicit deep empathy so that we may understand and treat them better.  This cannot occur without an emotional and psychological impact on the helper.  The fact is, this work will change you. But what is also true is that this is normal, and you have the power to transform the pain, as well as the power to prevent it from consuming you.  If you commit to doing this, you can become one of the most empathic and effective caregivers in your field.

The only way to be a powerful treater is to be in balance, emotionally regulated, and present for your clients. We can do this in a number of ways, first by increasing your self awareness of how your work is affecting you, and then by actively working to take care of yourself.  If you don’t take care of you, it will be impossible to take great care of your clients.  This brings us to the title of this blog: Self Care for the Cargiver.  So please join me for reflections and discussion around this important topic.

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