The words “chronic mental illness” can conjure up many thoughts and feelings in a person, some of which may be negative. For the past 13 years, I have worked with clients who have dealt with …
Confessions of a Social Worker | Christine
. . .little did I know that it was I who would receive so much from them.
I remember the first day I started providing therapy services to clients, naively thinking that my journey into the field would primarily consist of me helping people. While I always hope that the clients I work with feel that they are getting what they need from me, little did I know that it was I who would receive so much from them. The clients I have worked with over the years have taught me so much about resiliency, courage, perseverance, and love.
What kinds of things have I learned?
I’ve learned that someone with schizophrenia can successfully hold down a job, marry, and have children. From one specific client I worked with, I learned that music was an awesome coping skill for her. She explained to me once that although she often felt in control of the voices she hears, she sometimes felt overwhelmed. During those times, she would put on that old song by MC Hammer—“You Can’t Touch This”. I always thought that was the neatest thing—chasing away voices with music!
I’ve learned that family members love unconditionally, even when their loved ones cause them a lot of heartache. People who suffer from bipolar disorder often go through intense highs and lows in mood, making their actions sometimes unpredictable and frustrating to those around them. I’ve worked with family members who never give up on those loved ones, always welcoming them back into their arms with compassion and love.
. . .everyone has strengths—sometimes they are just buried so deep that the person no longer recognizes them.
I’ve learned that severe depression, after suffering from it for years, can really take a toll on a human being. It can be lonely and debilitating. But everyone has strengths—sometimes they are just buried so deep that the person no longer recognizes them. I’ve learned that finding those strengths and capitalizing on them can be exactly what a person needs to help cope with the depression.
From one specific client I worked with, I learned how perseverance helped him deal with his chronic depression. He remained faithful in attending therapy sessions every week. Even though his progress was slow, he never gave up! I eventually learned that he used to paint oil canvases. We worked, step by step, on him revisiting that creativity. After months, he finally starting painting again and his self-confidence returned along with unleashing his inner strength. At our last session, he presented me with a canvas painting of a beautiful sunrise. To me, it represented all he had worked so hard to overcome.
When I am done with my work day, no matter how overwhelming or chaotic it may be, I walk away feeling so blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from my clients. As long as I live, I will never underestimate the power of people and the strengths that lie within each of us.
Christine Watson received her Master’s in Social Work in 2001 and has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for several years. Her first job in the field was providing outpatient therapy services at a community mental health center. Currently, Christine is the Director of Therapeutic Services at Harsha Behavioral Center in Terre Haute, IN working primarily with the adult and elderly population.