Why do we need to look after our wellbeing as practitioners? Well the main reason is we are the instrument through which we deliver our services, so it’s as important that we look after ourselves, as a violinist looks after their violin, because it’s the instrument through which the client receives the service, or the audience hears the orchestra.
So there are a number of elements to care of self as the practitioner, we need to attend to our own physical safety, if our attention is distracted by feeling unsafe and under threat we’re unlikely to be able to hear our clients clearly, we’re always distracted. We need to be monitoring our own psychological and physical health in order to ensure that we are in a place where we can provide an adequate service to our clients. We also need at times to have access to professional support and help in the same way as we were hoping to provide it to our clients, because life goes on, we will all encounter challenges in our own lives as of outside the immediate work with the client, and we need to be adequately supported.
And then the final element in this session is about getting the balance between work and life right, so that there is life outside of work, I’ve never been very good at this myself, but I recognise the value of having experiences outside the context of work and how they can refresh our engagement with work and give us new insight.
Q1: I have a long term health problem. What should I consider when deciding whether I am in good enough health to work with clients?
I can see that would be very challenging and I do think that many of us encounter this at some point in our careers. I think the first thing to do is really to be talking that through with a potential supervisor, to be really clear in your own mind about what kind of service you’re wanting to offer and what the implications as the health are, you health is for delivering that service and whether or not the service can be modified in ways that’ll still meet client’s needs, but which will lower the demands on you, so you that you could deliver a service.
We are very aware that sometimes we have to make reasonable adjustments for client’s needs, but equally we may need to make reasonable adjustments for our own needs in order to do the work. I think the key thing to do in these circumstances is to talk to trusted colleagues and the supervisor and to think through what the issues might be and what could be done for the client to have a good service.
Q2: I encourage my clients to look after themselves in ways that I struggle to do for myself – is this ethical?
I’m sure if we all are really honest with ourselves we would all recognise a bit of that in our practice. It’s a matter of degree, if we really are doing the opposite of what we’re trying to encourage our clients to do, so we’re encouraging them to control their alcohol intake but we have uncontrolled alcohol intake in our lives, then we’ve got to think about where is our integrity in the work and can we reposition how we present ourselves in a way which has more integrity with it and are more honest about the struggle that may be involved in achieving a desirable outcome.
So, it, if we are deceiving our clients I think that does undermine our work and certainly undermines our integrity and our ability to be ethical, but if we’re sharing with our clients there’s a degree of difficulty which may be involved in achieving a better way then I don’t think that’s unethical.