It does not matter which specialised or vocational field she has chosen to dedicate her life to, the moment she begins her training at grad school, theory and practical training are equally important. Without the theoretical knowledge, she is more or less useless out in the field. And without the necessary practical training, she may as well throw in the towel when placed at the coal face of her necessary field work, for example. I had a thought the other day that where social work is concerned, using my own experience of personal situations, good or bad, has always helped some of my patients before.
Because, no matter how well you have trained, how much work experience you’ve had and how much empathy you show towards those entrusted in your care, you can never really do enough. This sentiment is not a bad one to have. In fact, it helps. It makes you more determined to try harder the next time your patient arrives. Even at the best times, it seems so easy to console the traumatised, telling her that you understand and know what she is going through. Because, invariably, you don’t.
Unless, of course, you have endured similar circumstances in life. Take the horror of rape, for example. Counselling rape victims is always difficult. I may have endured inequalities before but I have never experienced something as difficult as this. Dealing with unemployment and poverty-related issues, on the other hand come as second nature to me but are no less difficult. While I have had my fair share of lean times, I have never had to experience the shockwaves of living on the streets. I have never had to walk through the front door and tell my children late at night that there simply is no food to eat.
All you can do under these hapless circumstances is to keep on trying. You draw on all your reserves as far as you can go. Personal circumstances don’t have to be related directly to me. There could have been an encounter with a family member or neighbour who had been through similar ordeals as the patient. And being the erudite social worker that I am, I call upon my memories and try to replay the past events as best as I can while offering encouragement, hope and advice to my patient.
And what I also do is this. I am already well aware of both my theoretical and practical training and use the interpersonal skills that I have acquired from these as best as I can. But, in this profession, you can never know and do enough. Also, society keeps on evolving, no matter how much we would wish to see things stay just as they were in the good old days. With these ongoing changes, life seems to have a nasty habit of becoming more difficult in more ways than one. I responded to this by continuing to evolve myself with participation in workshops.
I also spend more time poring over books from the library conducting my own research on related cases. I find that the internet’s information is far too vague and not much use, given the serious nature of most cases. Now that I think about it, and this has been suggested to me before by others who value my efforts, I would love to further my career by one day applying my mind to do a Masters Degree on a chosen case. Last week, I bumped into one girl who seems to be getting this area of her life right.
Granted, she is still busy with her post-grad, but, boy is this girl on a positive mission. At the moment, while still studying, she’s volunteering at a hostel servicing mostly middle to old-aged men who all fell on hard times. But when she’s done and dusted her degree cap off, she’s heading off to the police academy. Her ambition is to hit the dangerous streets and get kids off of them. She wants to prise them from the claws of gangs and put them back at home where they belong and into school.