Thursday, February 5, 2009

self determination

I've noticed an interesting trend since I started working at the shelter.  I suppose in reality I understood the theory of this, but I never really understood just how true it can be until I started working.  

People need to make their own decisions.  

That sounds like such a simple thing, but it is HARD when you're watching people circling the drain, so to speak.  We can encourage, provide, talk etc... but when people are ready to change, they're going to do it.  

It's like this.  We have a detox program.  Many of our regular shelter clients have gone through it time and time again.  It's easy for them to get into, and because it's in the building it's not necessarily a step out of their comfort zone.  They come in, take a break from using, sleeping in a bed and eat real food for a while and then after their ten days are up it's back to the street and the substances.  This can be a good thing, and it's an important part of harm reduction, but it can be frustrating to watch.  

The thing is though, when the clients really want to change, when they want to stop, they do.  Without any detox at all!  Yesterday one of my clients was very excited to show me that he had tremors, this showed he was in withdrawl, and he did it all on his own.  

Another example is housing.  We try very hard to encourage people to find housing, we have a special staff person who'll help them find it, we have housing resources etc...  when people want a place, they find it.  If they don't, nothing we do will help.  I think people are generally a lot more resourceful then we want to give them credit for!  

So, the lesson to be learned?  Don't beat yourself up when people won't change the way we want them to.  If it's right for them, they'll get there. 


cb said...

That's one of the most important lessons to learn I think in the 'helping' professions and it took me a lot longer than you to learn it

Still Dreaming said...

I suppose the question then is "will I remember it".

Athan Schindler said...

So true! I struggle with this constantly. I'm sure you can relate. You just want THEM to want to be successful as much as YOU want them to be successful. The best we can hope for is to plant seeds and evoke change talk. Motivational Interviewing gives some great strategies in that area. It took me along time to realize that my clients' worlds didn't revolve around my schedule.

Still Dreaming said...

I should re-look at my MI stuff, i've been thinking about it since you said that.

Anatolia said...

I agree this is true and so hard to accept. When I first dealt with a situation of wanting a client to be at a place she wasn't ready to move to, a coworker shared the bus metaphor with me -- that as the social worker (or case manager) maybe you could get to the bus stop on time to get on the bus, but it doesn't matter that you get on it, it matters that the client gets there. And to remember there'll be another bus.

It's hard to do.