As psychotherapists, how do we advocate for others? Hopefully, most of us support our clients with active listening, mental health education, and access to additional resources. When we are not working with, or for, our clients, how do we advocate for others? This is a question that I continually ask myself. How am I making a difference with the gifts that I have been given?
As a Therapist, I believe it is our life calling to continuously speak up and support others. What is something you love to do that can also benefits others? When I came into the profession I gravitated to programs that help at risk youth in the inner city of Chicago. As I continue to grow as a therapist I add new life experiences under my belt that support these communities.
When I first graduated with my Masters in Community Counseling I volunteered to be a Big Sister, in the Big Brother Big Sister program. As my family continued to grow I sought out opportunities working with at risk youth in the Woodlawn community where I taught anger coping groups. In that role, I was drawn to working with parents and educating them on school resources and enrichment programs for their children. I identified a need in the schools and worked diligently to bridge the communication gap between parents and teachers. I incorporated activities and initiatives to support deeper communication among the two parties and a larger sense of community. I no longer work in that community but my efforts have stretched to volunteering my time in my church community with at risk youth, as well as, co founding an African American youth group in my community. Now, as a mother of two African American boys, this work has become even closer to my heart.
While it is important to note that, as therapists, we should be actively changing lives of others, this work can only be authentic and therapeutic if we take care of ourselves. In giving to others, it is also important to give to ourselves. If we can’t make sure we are spiritually inline, we cannot provide care and support to others. I believe as therapists we know how important this is but we often forget or overlook the benefits. I know for myself, keeping a busy household, staying on top of my duties at work and at home, while creating a balance can be difficult. Sometimes my self care regime goes on the back burner, only to be realized after I feel like my brain is about to explode!
We all know how important supervision can be for novices and experts alike. But peer consultation groups are also a great way to exercise self care. Talking casually with other counselors about tough cases, counter transference, and the struggle to fight for a work life balance can help normalize these issues. As therapists, lets not forgot what made us gravitate to this profession. It is through connection with others that we thrive and learn more about ourselves personally and professionally.