We primarily heat our 4 level Alberta Back Split with wood up to 5 cord. Those of you who heat with wood know there is not a better heat on the planet. You will also know it is a lot of dirty work. For us, the pay off is worth it in multiple ways. We are comforted by the heat, the magical sound, smells and dance of the fire. When a winter storm takes out the power, we have heat and a cooking implement. The exercise it provides and the time working together with my partner to achieve a goal is very satisfying.
I often hear individuals in leadership roles ask about teams (sports teams) employees may have been a part of. The purpose of the question, do individuals have an awareness of team dynamics? It is an important question but we need to realize that teams can be found in multiple contexts. Family, neighborhood, community and volunteering events all provide an opportunity to experience team dynamics, sharing of beliefs and values as well as working towards a goal.
Bringing in wood is a fond memory.
Every event in Guysborough, NS was a team event, survival and fun was the goal. No matter your age or ability you were given a job. My first experiences with wood heated homes were Grandmother and Grandfathers. Their heating and cooking source was a big steel wood stove, old school. Side bread baker, hooks on the back wall to dry or warm clothes, a stove door that was often open in the winter with kids warming their feet, a pot of tea bubbling, potatoes in some form or other, 1-2 black cast iron skillets and pots always at the ready, a box full of kindling and larger logs close at hand. Grandmother regularly added wood and was able to adjust the temperature of the stove to cook and heat the home.
My Grandparents raised 15 kids in a 3 plus landing bedroom home. I remember every room bursting with people, kids on laps, on the floor, on the steps, in and out the door. Grandfather had the matriarch seat in front of the cellar door, which also sat beside the stove. He could easily reach out and grab each child that walked by him and give them a bit of his attention.
To gather wood Grandfather would cross the river with the older boys, cut down trees, chop it, bring it back and the younger individuals would pile wood into the cellar through a side window with a wood slide. We often found fun in our tasks climbing in and out of the cellar via this slide ourselves. We planted, harvested and stored potatoes in the cellar as well. We brought hey in or learned how to keep oneself safe during the practice. Hunting, fishing, preparing meals and eating in a family that size everything was a team event.
Bringing in wood as a team also occurred in my neighborhood. Mr. Landry would gather community kids together every fall in Lower Sackville, NS and we would help him bring his firewood into the basement. We looked forward to the team event and treats.
Enrollment in organized sports activities was not an option for me as we went to Guysborough every weekend possible and spent our summers there. I participated in swimming, horseback riding, highland fling, drawing lessons and played with kids in the neighborhood when home.
Teams were a natural part of my day. Organized team sports were not.
What teams do you remember being a part of, that weren’t organized sports, and taught you the power of working together towards a common goal? How can you use these natural teams to educate your self and others, on team dynamics, and being effective in attaining a goal? There are so many teachable moments that happen naturally in our lives that we often take for granted. The next time a group gets together to achieve a goal observe what behaviors are effective and what behaviors challenge team dynamics. Can you identify your role in the team or the roles of others, are you comfortable alternating roles?
Expanding your self and other awareness can assist you to engage with enhanced effectiveness in whatever team context you participate in.
Remember to have fun no matter the goal, laugh, push yourself out of your comfort zone even if it means failing and respect, appreciate and acknowledge those who assist you reach your goal.
Social + Emotional Intelligence Profiling and Development as a Proactive Intervention to the “Costs” of Caring.
As a senior, Child and Youth Care Practitioner [CYC-P] who has had the privilege of instructing and supervising child and youth care students, I believe Social and Emotional Intelligence Profiling [S+EIP] and development, can act as a proactive intervention to the “costs” of caring. The Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence [IS+EI] has an evidence based S+EIP (Cronbach alpha 96) that assesses twenty-six characteristics, within four specific areas; self-awareness, awareness of other, management of self and management of other(s) (see appendix A).
Social + Emotional Intelligence
S+EI, “is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and to manage our relationships” (Belsten, 2016). Identifying strengths and challenges of a person, team or organization validly and reliably, creates an opportunity of empowerment. Strengths are characteristics supported by ones’ nature and nurture. Intelligence is a genetic trait that if reinforced will reach its full potential but there is a cap on this genetic attribute. Social and emotional intelligence can be developed to infinity and beyond there are no limits other than the ones we set for ourselves. Maslow new this thus the peak of our development stops when we reach self-actualization.
Imagine if Child and Youth Care [CYC] educational settings and other fields of caring adopted, S+EI Profiling, as a tool to identify where individuals/teams/classrooms stand on the noted twenty-six characteristics. Coaches, along with students, facilitators and supervisors would possess valid, reliable and relevant data, to foster discussion on the impact and importance of self in relation with other.
Three characteristics are assessed by the S+EIP in regards to self-awareness; emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and personal power. Self-awareness and self-management have competencies that determine how aware we are of self and how to manage ourselves. Self-awareness is the starting point for individual/team/classroom development.
Personal development and self-care is a, CYC-P professional competency and while engaging in personal and group intervention/development an experiential activity is learned, applied and modelled. Personal development strategies/awareness can later be applied in multiple contexts assisting individuals manage/utilize self in the management of other.
Track your Developmental Journey
There are twenty-six characteristics assessed with a S+EIP addressing them all during a student’s educational journey is not likely. Students can reassess their characteristics upon leaving their educational setting to see where they have improved and what they need to focus on moving forward in their career. This information can be provided to supervisors as part of the hiring package.
S+EI growth reduces turnover and enhances an organizations culture as individuals/teams; engage in self - discovery of values and beliefs, explore, clarify and align objectives, elicit solutions and strategies from within to solve problems and improve critical thinking competencies. During my time researching vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout I found answers and I want to empower others, utilizing, S+EIP and coaching, as a proactive intervention to the cost of caring.
In my own research participants stated having an individual outside of an organizations management team to talk to would be beneficial (Pickrem, 2015). A coach can provide the level of confidentiality required to fulfill this need, while supporting individual and team objectives improving organizational cultures.
As a certified, S+EI Profiler, coach and workshop facilitator I have an amazing new tool for my tool box which I have utilized in my own development. Personal and professional goals have been developed due to the feedback provided by the adult S+EI professional and personal profiles. We as a society appear to be doing more with less. Individual and team mindset and strategies, in some instances, are not in our or our children, youth and families’ best interests.
Support Mental Health well-being
My concern is that we become entrenched in routines, surviving rather than thriving, we need approaches that will assist us to stop, reflect and alter ineffective strategies. It is important to consciously stop breath and reflect on our behavior, feelings and impact we have on other(s) especially so as a CYC-P! I believe S+EIP and coaching will validly and reliably guide and support mental health wellness in students and practitioners as they grow within their practice.
How do we motivate those in the CYC field to embrace evidence based practices such as, S+EIP and coaching as a valid and reliable tool to assist proactive development decreasing cost of caring symptoms? I’m hoping awareness will assist in the implementation of this practice. Longitudinal research regarding the mental health outcomes of providing CYC students with S+EIP and coaching throughout their education, and first few years of practice, could also provide the evidence required to enforce such a practice and provide evidence based data to further our professional recognition.
Appendix A The twenty-six social and emotional intelligence characteristics assessed by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence.
Belsten, L. (2016). Social + Emotional Intelligence Toolkit, ISEI®, Denver, CO.
Pickrem, C. (2015). Residential child and youth care workers’ perspectives of job stress and knowledge of interventions. (thesis)
Dyslexia’s one of my challenges and I continue to overcome the roadblocks!
The Dyslexia Syndrome is often misunderstood as only a reading disorder but this is not the case as also consists of non-reading symptoms.
As an individual with Dyslexia I have and continue to have unique challenges. I have overcome many obstacles and been able to attain goals that at one time I believed and was told I would never achieve. I share my stories to provide hope and motivate others to overcome the limitations/labels often set by society or ourselves
To give you an example of some of the challenge’s individuals experience who have been labeled with dyslexia I have chosen to focus on a few of my own symptoms;
Spelling – impaired memory for visual/phonetic spelling details and sequences as an example I regularly spell approach wrong.
Speech – poor word recall and pronouncing words improperly. There are days when word recall or pronouncing is an issue. I acknowledge that I am having a Dyslexic brain challenging day and practice compassion for self to overcome ego induced judgment.
Math – reversals or inability to grasp sequences - word problems are a nightmare and I still cannot perform my multiplications
Grammar – even when properly taught an understanding of complex grammar is delayed. God love my mother and all those who corrected my written word over the years.
Direction – difficulty with left and right, easily gets lost. I still have to pause and pretend to write to state confidentiality which is the left or right hand.
Psychosomatic – motion sickness, nausea, abdominal complaints. Motion sickness continues to be a real challenge for me. I have vomited even while I am driving. Road trips are not something I enjoy.
There are flexibility and degrees of challenge within every medical model label.
What applies to me may not apply to another individual defined by their Dyslexia Syndrome. Both of my siblings are also Dyslexic as are many of my Uncles and cousins. Our challenges are unique therefore interventions require out of the box approaches to spark interest and motivation. School and the learning process were not enjoyable but I have experienced fun learning opportunities.
Social and Emotional Intelligence© development opportunities are endless, can be quite fun and can be implemented at any stage in our lifespan
Overcoming challenges increase with early intervention, consistent effort/practice, support, advocacy, and self-motivation. Challenges require individuals (parents/teachers/coaches) to think outside of conventional models to meet the individual where they are at and utilize relationship to create physiological safety, learning cannot occur without psychological safety!
I had a discussion with a parent whose child was diagnosed with the Dyslexia Syndrome. I listened to their concerns then shared my own experiences and successes. They thanked me for sharing my own story as provided them with hope for their own child.
Everyone has their own combination of strengths and challenges learning to overcome the roadblocks these challenges create can empower, motivate, enhance resiliency and create feelings of self-efficacy. As you develop your awareness of self or other be compassionate with self and other and always be mindful of strengths and blessings.
Practicing compassion for self has allowed me to reflect on my fear of failure, learn from mistakes and minimize judgment allowing me to try new things and grow.
Everyone experiences unconscious bias!
Stereotypes are automatic, unintentional and engrained through familiar and social learning, these unconscious thoughts can influence your behavior negatively impacting your relationships.
Unconscious bias is discussed in business circles particularly around gender wage gaps, hiring, promotion decisions, a lack of diversity in management levels and lack of cultural and intellectual diversity within teams. If you are engaging with other unconscious bias is extremely important to identify in oneself. Engaging in self-awareness exercises, discussions and feedback can assist individuals to have a greater understanding of their perspectives on the world, as well as, why and how our unconscious bias influences behavior.
None of us are perfect!
I have been fortunate enough to engage in educational awareness and apply my knowledge in alternate contexts. I know I experience moments of unconscious bias. I am familiar with several biases that influence my thoughts and could impact my interaction with others. I am able to link my prejudices to cultural, social and familial influences or experiences. These perspectives or stereotypes are learned therefore can be altered.
Compassion for self.
I am also fortunate enough to practice compassion for self. I did not always possess an awareness of unconscious bias and its influence on my thinking and behavior. I have not always been respectful of others.
You have to be willing to lean into the discomfort or fear of discovering who you truly are. This can be difficult as you may not like what you discover.
Enhancing our awareness of others is also key in decreasing the power of our unconscious bias. Exposing ourselves to a variety of cultures whether that be through, travel, attending cultural events in your city, celebrating or joining friends from diverse cultures in their homes, volunteering with new Canadians and listening to their stories, are all strategies to bring an awareness to our unconscious biases.
Be cognizant of where messages regarding others are originating. We know that many historical books do not represent or tell all. Our parents and friends aren't likely experts either and have their own unconscious biases due to their social and cultural education .
Having an accurate depiction of a culture’s history is important as generational trauma has an impact on future generations biology and behaviors.
I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. I am making better choices because I know better and that is part of the journey. Lean into the discomfort of your unconscious bias, say hello and tell unconscious bias you are aware of its influence on thoughts therefore behaviours.
Situational awareness is a social and emotional intelligence skill that assists individuals assess social and political currents within various contexts and adjust their behavior accordingly to fit in. In doing so the individual may need to wear a mask as their genuine self/behavior may not be appropriate for the setting.
An individual with situational awareness is able to:
Wearing masks appears to be a social construct but why?
I am afraid to tell you who I am because you may not like who I am and who I am is all I have. John Powell SJ
Fear of judgment and rejection impacts our behaviors we want to be liked and accepted by others. Our desire to be liked by our peers is even more powerful during our pre and teen years. This desire can conflict with our beliefs, values and goals. Being able to identify individual needs and discover strategies to meet these needs, with a harm reduction mindset, is an empowering strategy to overcome challenges.
Unfortunately, I hear too often that emotions/feelings are good or bad. Emotions and feelings are your bodies way of communicating with you, it is essential to take the time to listen to your body, identify what it is your feeling and what has caused the emotion/feeling. All emotions/feelings have value none are bad despite the fact they may make us feel uncomfortable.
You may discover that you experience specific feelings when you are engaging in behaviors that go against your beliefs and values. Knowing you may experience emotions or feelings when not genuine to self may assist you to choose roles within your personal and professional life that are in alignment with your genuine self. These choices may allow you to retire a few masks and be your genuine self more often than not.
The Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence’s Profile® lists three competencies within the awareness of other-quadrant:
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Dale Carnegie
“The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.” Napolean Hill
These competencies determine how we handle relationships. If we are able to be aware of other people’s feelings, needs and concerns we can meet the person where they are at and choose strategies to engage effectively. Individuals who do not have well-established awareness of other often come across as indifferent or uncaring, find it difficult to get things done in social settings and often “pass the buck”.
There are various strategies or developmental tips to enhance your awareness of other to improve personal and professional relationships. You have to be willing to take the first step and reach out for support after that we will walk through the process together. Give me a call!
Emotional Self-Awareness is one of three competencies that define an individual's self-awareness and is important to our mental health well being.
Individuals who are able to notice and label their feelings/emotions due to gut-level instincts or reactions is but one part of being emotionally self-aware. Individuals must then be able to take that awareness and connect emotions/feelings to external or internal influences, and be able to identify the impact emotions have on their mind and body therefore performance.
When an individual is emotionally self-aware, they can tell – in the moment - when they are getting upset and articulate their feelings.
People Lacking this Competence
May receive messages from their bodies such as chronic headaches, lower back pain, neck or shoulder pain, heart racing, sweaty palms, anxiety attacks or other signals, but generally don‘t pay attention to these signals or connect them to their source, to what‘s causing these physical symptoms?
Due to being unable to gain insight and information from what their bodies might be trying to tell them they may get irritated, frustrated or angry easily, causing them to treat people in an abrasive way?
Individuals will often feel stressed and out of balance in terms of their life, health, work and family. This may be due to being unable to recognize individuals are asking them to behave in ways that do not match their values, beliefs or goals.
Here is a peek at an exercise that one could use to enhance their emotional self-awareness.
Stop thinking of your emotions as irrelevant or messy.
Our emotions are an essential source of valuable information they are not good or bad they just are. We are biologically wired to have emotional reactions knowing what it is your feeling and why is a great foundation to build self and managment strategies to attain success.
The Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence© has several different styles of assessments. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/social-emotional-intelligence-what-good-charlene
A youth assessment utilizes youth-friendly language and is for individuals who have a grade 7 reading ability although I can read questions to youth who have reading challenges. The links assessment is sent to individuals chosen e-mail account and takes 20 – 25 minutes to complete. Results are sent to me to review, I arrange for an individuals social + emotional intelligence© workbook to be printed and schedule a debriefing session to review results and discuss how to utilize the workbook to design developmental plans.
Individual adult profiles are available in personal and professional and use language relevant to the individuals chosen focus. Participants are provided a link to complete the assessment which takes approximately 20 -25 minutes to complete. Results are sent to me to review, I arrange for an individuals social + emotional intelligence© workbook to be printed and schedule a debriefing session to review results and discuss how to utilize the workbook to design developmental plans.
Leadership Group, Team or Family
Leadership Group/Team/Family social and emotional intelligence results are compiled utilizing all profile results – including any 360 multi-rater profiles. This is a free assessment provided to groups of individuals working together to support each other reach objectives/goals.
A presentation of results and a group discussion is facilitated to assist the group agree on developmental objectives, that are achievable and in line with the values, beliefs and mission of the group. Strategies to assist members achieve their individual roles/objectives within the team are also discussed. Multiple workshop or retreat formats are available to assist groups enhance skills.
Goals and Strategies
Teams or families can design individual and group goals and strategies for the next quarter, year or season. If you are requiring individuals to challenge themselves and lean into the discomfort of change the groups culture must accept mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. Groups need to provide a culture of psychological safety to support individual and team growth to enhance success.
360 Inter-Rater Profile
A 360 inter-rater Social and Emotional Intelligence Profile© provides individuals, human resources and groups incredible data. With 360 profiles individuals complete an assessment of self but they also ask for feedback from others. What is amazing, a 360 profile has no limit on the number of inter-rater participants.
At times individuals are unable to identify how they are being perceived by others and it affects how they behave. If no-one is sharing with you how do you know to even consider changing the behavior. Most individuals struggle to provide effective feedback, here is a link to assist your awareness, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/good-and-bad-examples-of-feedback-2275923
I arrange for an individual’s social + emotional intelligence© workbook to be printed, these workbooks are large as outline all written feedback from your raters. A debriefing session is scheduled to review results and discuss how to utilize the workbook to design developmental plans.
I believe that feedback is a sign of caring!
We need to change the work cultures mindset regarding feedback. Imagine someone cares enough about you to take the time and energy to respectfully share their perspective.
One strategy to change the cultural mindset of feedback is change the ratio. What do I mean by that? Have a 3-1 rule, every corrective feedback conversation needs to be balanced by 3 praise and/or appreciation feedback moments. I know this takes time but this proactive strategy will save you time, energy and money down the road.
Care enough about the well-being of your team or family before you have to intervene due to a crisis!
As you can see there are a variety of assessments to fit your needs. Now that you possess greater self-awareness and potentially other awareness what are you going to do with it? I suggest a growth mindset approach, look into the benefits of coaching and how I can help you attain your goals!
In 2006 I wrote an article titled, “The Journey” for the “Relational Child and Youth Care Practice Journal.” I shared my lived experiences from the perspective of a Residential Child and Youth Care Worker/Practitioner [CYCW/CYC-P] with almost fifteen years of experience, a Correctional Worker diploma and Bachelor of Arts degree. No Child and Youth Care program existed at the Nova Scotia Community College when I entered the Correctional Workers program nor was I aware of group homes or the CYC field. When introduced to the CYC profession, during a practicum, the role provided me with the opportunity to help teens which is why I had entered the Correctional Workers Program. The team, home like atmosphere and power was welcoming. The supervisor at the time saw potential in me and I was hired as a casual.
I was not aware of the costs of caring associated with my career choice; vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout, as they had yet to be fully recognized or taught to social service employees.
Vicarious trauma effects the fundamental beliefs of a care provider. The individual's worldview/perspectives are altered due to the repeated exposer to traumatic stories, pain, fear, and the terror of trauma survivors in their care. Compassion fatigue, although similar, occurs when care providers do not implement strategies to refuel and reboot leaving them physically and emotionally depleted and burnout is a gradual loss of physical, emotional and psychological resources to deal with stress.
Until I attended a Provincial CYC Conference where Mike Holton presented a workshop addressing the impacts of caring I believed I was a failure and something was mentally wrong with me. I had already experienced the three costs of caring noted, had sought Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, due to depression and anxiety, and was rebuilding my confidence after joining a new team and program. The knowledge was empowering although implementing proactive strategies to prevent further physical, emotional and psychological impacts continued to be a challenge for me as the culture and profession of CYC progressed.
As the CYC field developed, relationship based approaches rather than behavior modification techniques became the focus. I resisted the changing culture of the field as I found comfort in the structure behavior modification approaches provided me. Perhaps I was having difficulty allowing myself to develop relationships with the youth because I could not balance the therapeutic connection. I struggled to find equilibrium between supporting others and looking after self. I decided to take my Masters in Child and Youth Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University.
My goal, to find out why I could not perform my duties as a CYCW/CYC-P without experiencing the negative consequences of costs of caring.
I completed my final thesis presentation January 2015, "Residential Child & Youth Care Workers' Perspectives of Job Stress and Knowledge of Interventions;" my secondary advisor asked me three times consecutively, “Why did you choose this topic?” I stuck to the claim “I wanted answers?” I later concluded that while I did want answers I was also seeking conclusions which would allow me the ability to externalize the problem, a bias I did not note or recognize in my thesis work.
What did I learn from the research examining the extensive effects of occupational burnout?
Personal, cultural and organizational variables have been found to influence the experiences of job stress, as well as, potential preventative and intervention approaches. It has been argued that holistic preventative approaches might assist early recognition and action as ones’ job, organization and personal characteristics impact how one experiences stress (Decker, Bailey, & Westergaard, 2002; Maslach, 1979). Prolonged exposure to stressful job environments erodes the psychological defenses that are used for coping and adapting (Raider, 1989). Individuals may begin to experience burnout consisting of: emotional exhaustion, a lack of satisfaction with work and/or cynical perspectives regarding clientele, if coping strategies are not implemented and practiced (Seti, 2007; Zellmer, 2008).
Organizations can assist individuals in avoiding burnout symptoms by providing employees with balanced workloads, feelings of control in decision making, appropriate reward for work, fairness among employee management relations, similar values and a sense of community. Reflecting on my current organizational structure the organization was providing prevention and management strategies to assist me in avoiding burnout due to job stress. Unfortunately, as I stated before I had already experienced vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout I needed to recognize and accept the impact of the lingering effects. What did this mean?
The knowledge I attained in my studies indicated that my own psychological defenses, although faulty, were no longer effective in assisting me cope and adapt with the stress I was experiencing. Job stress leading to burnout has been proven to affect the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of human service employees, organizations’ economic status, and those in care. Physical illness and mental health issues can be costs to individuals who provide care to others, with resulting increases to organizational overhead, and reductions of best-practices.
I had my first panic attack hours after a team meeting. A fellow team member shared information on a few of our former residents. The atmosphere had been relaxed no major issues needed to be addressed and I did not have my emotional shield up. The youth were involved in an underage sex trade ring, a trigger for me. I made it through the meeting and home. I was trying to ignore acknowledging the feelings this information was having on me. I cleaned the house until my partner arrived home. I briefly shared the story my rhythm of speech indicating I was struggling I did not find the release I needed. I suggested I call a friend and fellow CYCW and I was encouraged to do so. When I called, and requested support, the response was immediate we agreed to meet each other.
As I began to walk I was acutely aware of my internal organs were shaking, by the time we met my teeth were chattering, despite my attempts to clench my jaw and maintain control. As we hugged I started to cry I was unable to avoid the emotions surfacing, intense guilt, failure, lack of control, and a lack of purpose. I could not fathom, why we do what we do? I was unable to stop shaking, crying or talking as we walked the neighborhood streets. My friend kept pace, reminding me to breathe, listened, provided safety, understanding and positive words. I felt defeated and lost and later acutely aware my emotional intelligence needed further development. I once again entered therapy to discuss years of repressed emotion. I often wondered, had I received CYC education or entered a professional culture that supported coping strategies and/or interventions, would I have avoided the consequences of the cost of caring?
I do not want to in any way indicate burnout is caused by individual characteristics. I believe the experience of burnout needs to be examined holistically. In my academic studies, I had looked at the organizational structures that may have impacted my experiences with the costs of caring, but I also needed to look within myself.
Personality characteristics do play a role in how one copes with stress and as I reflected, it was evident I had exhibited neuroticism characterized by depression, anxiety or hypochondria, as well as, low self-esteem. These individual variables are linked to all three burnout dimensions (Barford & Whelton, 2010). I lacked the ability to express, identify, understand and adapt to the feelings I was experiencing indicating low levels of emotional intelligence. I placed unique pressures on myself and others due to a naïve view of job expectations and client outcomes. These perspectives impacted my self-efficacy as the course of actions required to attain a given goal were often unrealistic and a result therefore unmet. Finally, I did not seek the support I needed not only did I view this as a sign of weakness I was unaware of the risks caring for others can present until the damage was done.
My journey also revealed individual strengths; my desire to invest and be genuine in my professional and personal well-being, my willingness to learn and adapt, my passion to role model and share knowledge with others, an ability to be compassionate with self and to learn from my mistakes. I have a support system in place and I ask for help when I need it.
I no longer wish to blame but rather am committed to educate and support others. Moreover, I have learned that human service workers appear to experience burnout differently than other service sector employees. The empathetic approach needed for relational practice requires is exceedingly demanding psychologically and emotionally (Barford and Whelton, 2010). I am unaware of just how many youth I have had a relationship with during my career but suspect close to two hundred most of which I never have had contact with once they left care. Unfortunately, it seems as practitioners we only hear about the youth who remain in the system – and this ‘contact’ is typically expressed negatively.
Our Shit Pile
I found new meaning to my lived experience, academic studies and personal reflective practice at a CYC conference with Thom Garfat and Andy Leggit. During the conference, a point was made that our culture /society’s greatest addiction is talking about our problems. As a CYC I see this in the interaction between youth as they share the badges of honor that define dominance, often in the bad choices department. These labels or disparaging stories make up what I refer to as one’s ‘shit pile.’
Connecting this observation with my own experience, choices and academic study then, leads me to ask: “Where is the positive psychology movement in our daily lives? And how might the positive strength lens impact burn out? During our work, meetings, conference work ... what do we talk about? Do we engage in gossip? How do we define ourselves to others? Are we alert to opportunities to share our joy, hope and positive encouragement?
Understanding theory in context, as a CYC instructor, provided me the opportunity to expand my awareness and therefore my growth. Inserting self and practice into the academic examination of burn out has enabled me to position myself actively as an agent rather than a victim. In previous articles, I noted that attitude “is a choice and no one can change it for you, but one’s environment can foster that change.” My practice goal therefore is choose to be a positive force in all areas of life - for myself and for all those who I have the privilege of being in relationship(s) with. As care providers, we need to look after self to effectively look after others; if we espouse the concept of self-worth in practice, then clearly it is not selfish to value our own selves – to do so it is necessary to be well in our own daily lives.
With this article, my goal is to help CYC practitioners to not only acknowledge the need of self-care and self-awareness but also to engage and empower practitioners – encouraging us as active agents able to identify when and to what degree we may need assistance. We all have a ‘shit pile,’ what are you doing with yours? Has it become unmanageable and out of control or are you like a gardener – utilizing shit to sow seeds of growth with awareness and positivity.
We need to deal with our own shit piles and nurture our own goals of well being to aid children, youth, families and communities in establishing their gardens.
“Imperfect Perspectives" will consist of written and video format. The writing and videos will be imperfect as I am the composer and director and I am perfectly imperfect! Be genuine, have the hard conversations and be compassionate to self and other. Be empowered!