Friday, July 20, 2007

Hi, I'm a social work student = Please tell me all your problems

I went to a training session for people who work with domestic violence offenders. Very diverse crowd, folks with all kinds of degrees and experience, working at all kinds of agencies: faith-based, city-funded, secular not-for-profit, etc. We went around the room talking about who were were and where we were affiliated. I told everyone I have a master's in psychology and am now earning my MSW.

For some reason, I spent the entire lunch break counseling other attendees. A nice guy and devoted father whose 14-year-old daughter can only rebel against his overly strict boundaries by eating, and now weighs 280 pounds. A divorced minister working with abusive parents whose own sons aren't always the best fathers.

Always giving them the caveat that I don't know their kids and I haven't seen the family interacting, I was able to give them a different perspective on the dynamics involved. I knew what questions to ask, and how to reframe what they saw as the truth. And I had some people and places they could contact for help.

It wasn't an out-of-body experience, but at one point I felt like I was listening to myself deliver the right insights in response to their questions and information. I was impressed with myself, and also a little scared. What gives me the right to position myself as an expert? As soon as I do that, I've painted myself into a corner!

But I don't think I did any harm, and like I said, I really felt like I was saying the right things and asking the right questions. More importantly, I was able to refer them to agencies and people who can really help them.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. I think counsellors are human too ;), and the best must be the ones who use their own experiences also to understand and help others. Don't they say you must walk in someones shoes before saying I can understand what you are going through?

  2. I was happy to have the experience. Although now I look back at what they said and I have a much better idea of what I *should* have said ;) It was just funny -- I didn't offer to help, but we just started talking over lunch, and they came out with all these problems and then looked at me like I had the answers. I didn't, I don't think, but I hope it helped that I listened.