In our line of work, we sometimes reach a point where we must remind ourselves to “work smarter, not harder.” This point generally comes when we’ve been working with someone who’s exhausted all the usual routes to treatment, refused our best social work advice, and argues their way out of every healing situation we offered, denied our offers of “a better way of life” even though WE know they would be better off if they would JUST LISTEN TO US!!
Working with individuals who stubbornly hold on to their last vestiges of control can be maddening for a well-meaning worker. We ask ourselves, time and again, why? Why can’t this person just accept what I’m offering and finally “get better?” Sometimes, the person is holding on because of their addiction or because of their mental illness. Or maybe because they have lived a life where, in the past, too many well-meaning people have set them up and walked away leaving them hurt and confused. Whatever the reason, working with someone who throws roadblocks up for the worker can be the most frustrating part of the job. It can lead to multiple meetings, team messages, on-going email chains, stacks and stacks of case notes, cross-disciplinary meetings, and lots of headaches. Often, the behavior of these individuals and the seemingly constant obstacles they place in the way of their workers causes rash and abrupt action on the worker’s part. They are dealt with in a way that is sometimes reactionary – time spent on solutions is shortened and cases are closed.
It’s at these moments when we take a step back and remember that each person we work with lives their life, their recovery, as they choose. Acceptance and the decision to surrender one’s resistance can be the most difficult step to take and it’s our job, as the professionals, to always remember that what stands before us is a person. A life. Someone who has been through very personal and very real experiences that we may not ever fully understand. Because of this, it is not our role to map out the road to recovery. It’s our role to be a gentle guide. Someone who can take whichever path the person chooses, even the wrong one, and still be there to support them through those rough choices – without judgement, without stress, without harsh decisions or reactions. Work smarter, not harder – and work from a place of understanding, empathy, patience and love.