Unpacking Pain, Protests, and Providing Service

What’s A Therapist To Do When The World Is Amuck and YOU Still Need To Provide A Service?

Years ago, I had an experience when my bad day turned into a bad week.  I was in such a state of emotional pain and angst.  I could not see anything beyond my well warranted emotions.  While trying to be strong in a phone conversation, my father said “Come Home and Take Care of Yourself” .  I initially thought “No”  as I had planned a jam packed weekend full of work.   But he insisted and said “Save Yourself”.

And I did. 

I was reminded of this when I watched the movie Harriet.  She escaped.  She was bold.  She knew the power of partnerships.  She saved herself and, though painful, let go of those that did not want to be saved.  And she had home. There are so many historical accounts past and current of people who have worked within their pain and moved a system all the while providing service.

During this time, it is important for organizations to ask “What will we ask of our staff” during this heightened emotional time.  Will we ignore the pain of the public portrayed on the news and rally our staff to focus on clinical work only?  

In thinking about how burnout happens…its root cause is when people ignore their own pain AND the systems around them ignore it (pain) as well.   Are we asking people to unpack their pain at work?  Whether we like it or not, people will bring their wholeselves (the self they portray, the phone articulate always ready executive, and the self they hide) to their clinical sessions…they may move slower or be in overdrive, they may feel like all eyes are on them…

No one is okay and most people are uncomfortable to bring it up within our organizations. 

There is a cry sometimes that your soul needs.  And this is a complex when you are of service.  You feel missioned and commissioned to provide this service to others.  In our pouring to families through our treatment planning, researching solutions, showing up during quarantine…you-we are in overdrive.  And then the world decided to have a Tipping Point…and overdrive has turned to complete exhaustion.

It’s okay that we unwrap and declutter our emotional spaces right now.  There is plenty of work to do.

The work, though, begins with you as the cup.  Doing what works for you to fill up your emotional space with re-energized purpose and vision. 

It is impossible to have 2020 vision without decluttering.  And we do our best work with heightened levels of clarity of who we are.  We carry out our mission better when we have loosened the chains of pretending, proving, and ignoring our own needs.  Saving yourself is key in this work of clinical leadership.

Leading at all levels, whether a technician-therapist assistant- coach- educator-behavior analyst-speech pathologist, from this day forward will need you to have your full selves present and available.

  • Saving Yourself is not selfish.  It is necessary.
  • Saving YOU demonstrates freedom attainable.
  • Saving YOU makes you light for the journey and removes burnout from your vocabulary as a clinician.
  • Saving YOU allows you deeper knowledge that joy and pain can reside together.
  • Saving YOU gives you wind to pick up others.
  • Saving YOU helps you understand where your energy should be.
  • Saving YOU brings you to realization that the work is too much for a party of one, partnerships are critical.
  • Saving YOU gives clarity about who your people are.

This clinical work that we do with our clients is necessary for us as we continue this path of serving others. 

What’s a therapist to do when the world is amuck and you still need to provide a service?

  1. Figure out what your ‘home’ is during the day
  2. Grab a therapist …EAP…Betterhelp. Talk to someone who does this for a living.
  3. Stay off of FB with all the feelings…grab a journal and write it all down
  4. Laugh…grab a comedy
  5. Be YOU.  Talk about it.  Say this sucks but I am working through it and I am here
  6. Grab some boundaries…with work (are you working all day)…with social media (are you watching all the videos)
  7. Save yourself.  Don’t take everything on…don’t eat the whole cake (social agenda).  Grab a slice according to the size that fits your life and if you don’t want cake (social agenda) right now that’s okay.  There are plenty of us out there who are doing the work , we will save a space for you when you are ready.
  8. Realize movement and progress takes time.  The change we all want will not happen at 100% tomorrow.
  9. Come to terms with first level individual responsibility of burnout.  Saving yourself means ‘mental health days’ and being gentle with you.
  10. Don’t hide you anymore.  Humans are complex and so are you.  Being professional does not mean you wear a mask…take it off (its too heavy).

My grandmother has seen this before.  She is 90 plus.  

That’s proof that we get through this moment in history.

The goal is to get through it better with change that we all can use and need. 

The ABA Task Force for Social Justice will hold its first meeting

Join us and register here. 

Let’s Focus. Be Well. Strategize. and Thrive.

~Landria Seals Green,MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

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