Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Recovery Defined?

This post is a part of the Recovery 101 blog series. The series will explore ideas, philosophies, language, tools and questions about mental health recovery. Submit any ideas for topics in the comments section of any tagged post.

Somebody recently send me this link to an LA Times article from last month about a new definition for recovery. While not introducing any new concepts, it is newly agreed upon by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. The definition is thus:

“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

I have to say I kind of like it. It’s open-ended as it doesn’t specify those who suffer from some particular ailment or circumstance, and it’s free of loaded language like “meaningful activity”. It refers to people, not clients/patients.

Here are some other definitions of recovery:

The ability to live well in the presence or absence of mental illness - or whatever the person chooses to term their experience (Mental Health Commission, NZ)

Recovery is the personal process that people with mental illness go through in gaining control, meaning and purpose in their lives... (CMHA Ontario)

The goal of recovery is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we are called to be (Pat Deegan)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First Contact

Meeting a new client for the first time can present many challenges.  Not least of these is figuring out WHO you are meeting.  I mean this literally - as I rarely see clients in the office, and won't go into their home until I know them a bit (and barring extenuating circumstances) I generally make these appointments in some kind of neutral, casual public place ie. coffee shop.  Such places generally have all kinds of people strolling in and out, so without any face recognition, it can be tricky to identify your client. 

I try to ask them for a bit of a physical description when we arrange the meeting.  I have learned that most people are not very good at giving this type of information.  Unless there is a really obvious feature like they use a wheelchair, or have 3-foot long dreads, most people describe themselves in pretty basic terms - I'm kinda short, I have dark hair...useful stuff.  I don't know if this is lack of self-awareness, or self-conciousness that prevents people from being more specific.

So I try to describe myself in order that they can find me.  I try to go with some specifics that won't easily confuse me with others - I have a nose ring, I carry a large purple bag, I wear a red scarf.  But many clients are nervous about a first meeting, and may not approach me.  To be sure some are the complete opposite, but I've had at least one woman sit in her car staring at me through the Tim Horton's window for almost half an hour before she could psych herself up to approach me (I'm really not that intimidating!). 

Then there's always the tried and true but slightly embarrasing method of "asking around"  - is your name Bob?  No?  Sorry to bother you.

I can't help but feel this gives people the impression that I'm there for some really lame mid-afternoon scuzzy-coffee shop blind date or something.

Some clients have cell phones and sometimes they even give me the number, so then I can try to call them.  Hopefully, their phone is turned on.  And hopefully it has minutes.  And hopefully they're not screening calls thus ignoring my "restricted number". 

Usually, we track each other down eventually.  Sometimes we don't.  When this happens it may mean days or weeks of trying to rebook and not miss each other again.  In my experience, when a client and I miss each other the first time, it's not been a good sign for things to come.  These have often turned out to be the clients who don't want to engage, or that I will end up chasing down just to get a few measly face-to-face contacts before they disappear completely. 

I have two new clients to meet this week.  Look for me, I'll be the anxious, jilted looking lady with purple bags under my eyes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th resolutions*

So I realize I'm a little late to the game, but I've decided it's time to make some resolutions for 2012.  Not for my personal life which is practically perfect in every way (or not, whatever) but for my professional life. 

It actually makes more sense to do this now that on January 1st. 

On January 1st I was in full-blown vacation mode.  Driving along country roads gazing at the snow dusted fields, fresh from enjoying a cozy night with some friends in an old farm house.  Pleased with myself for downing enough water and eating half a loaf of olive bread to soak up the booze so I didn't feel too hung over.  Spending the rest of the day snuggling on the couch....ahem, what was I talking about again?  Oh yeah, resolutions. 

So anyway, things were rosy at New Years giving me no impetus to change.  By now I've been back to work for a week, and admittedly it's made me a bit of a grumpy bear (that's what AM would call me in his most mock-caring voice).  This attitude sucks.  For me, and everyone around me.  I'm sure this doesn't exlude my clients.  I care about them, I really do, and I don't like to feel that this doesn't come through in my work.

So I'm working on resolving this (ha, see what I did there?) or perhaps to put it in some more social-worky terms I'm trying to develop some strengths-based goals for myself.    In some cases I'm just renewing old goals.  Here's what I've got so far:

1. Practice positive thinking, not just for clients but for myself
2. Better self-care: always
3. Learn to say NO to things that will only drag me down (I really suck at this currently)
4. Keep up the job search, the right one WILL come along
5. Find creative ways to get involved at this job that will promote a better experience
6. Be thankful for what I have - be happy

They're not exactly SMART goals yet (10 points if you know what that is) but like I said, I'm working on it.

So what about you, any professional or personal resolutions this year?  

*I know there is some kind of joke about bad luck in here, it's just not coming to me.  TGIF

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

From a client assessment by one of my co-workers:

Roger is responsible for paying his phone bill independently.  He does this through online baking.

*yes, small things like typos amuse me.*