I talked last post about areas I need to improve in. Two more areas I know I need to improve in are boundaries and composure. Boundaries are a tricky thing in a therapeutic setting and more so in a social care setting. In psychology there is a lot of emphasis put on the importance of maintaining very strict boundaries, such as physical contact, sharing of personal information, the nature of tim relationship (especially important in social care due to the need to avoid developing a therapy style relationship), and also in the power dynamic between yourself and the individual you are helping. Again this latter one is particularly important in a social care volunteering setting where it would be very easy to fall into a role of running around doing everything for everyone when really there are quite specific reasons why you are there. Sharing of personal information is a tricky one for me. In psychology in almost every approach it is a strict no-no to sharing any of your personal information with the service users (in psychodynamic therapy this is in order to keep the therapist a ‘blank slate’ onto which the patient can project anything their subconscious may bring up). There are a couple of approaches that challenge this, but they are rare. However in a social care setting I have found that sharing a little with the service user helps building the rapport and trust. It is going to be difficult for me to learn to control this since it has been a core part of my personality for so long!
Keeping calm is important in any mental health care role. It is also incredibly difficult. We all have a tendency to pick up emotions from others and reflect them back, a process known as transference. The best description I have heard of this is imagine standing near a radiator that is belting out heat. Just by standing close to the radiator you get hot, you absorb that heat into yourself. You become two hot things together. Whats more, if you were to walk into the other room where a friend is, they may well comment “wow, you must be boiling, I can feel the heat coming off you!”. The same thing can happen with emotions. We can become sad when we are with someone who is sad, excitable when with someone who is excitable, and angry when with someone who is angry. This becomes a real problem with anger, because the two people can spark off each other making the anger stronger and last longer. The solution to this is to contain the emotions, to not let yourself be affected or to conceal it, and to release those emotions safely in a different setting.
I still have a long way to go with this. Sometimes, but not always, I can maintain my composure. But often I will explode or collapse (emotionally) after the incident. Obviously this is not a particularly safe or controlled release. However I am not sure how to learn better composure. Maybe take a counselling course?