Monday, May 31, 2010

The Children's Hope Scale

University of Kansas News Release:

As a pioneer in the positive-psychology movement, which looks at human strengths instead of weaknesses, University of Kansas professor of clinical psychology, C.R. Snyder said, "I firmly believe that hope keeps us going as a species. It is the link between what we are and the civilized people we will become."

Snyder said he envisions a world where hope is readily nurtured and where people are more caring of one another. Typically, people with high hope are more caring of others, Snyder said.

"Critics have regarded hope as illusory," Snyder said. "Historically people have had some pretty negative views about hope." He paraphrased, for example, a Francis Bacon metaphor: "Hope makes a good breakfast but not much of a dinner."

Yet since 1994 when Snyder's first book, "The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There From Here," was published, he has found a steady appetite for his research. Author or editor of 21 books, Snyder has a total of six books focused on hope, several written with colleagues.

At KU, Snyder works with a team who explore hope and the methods of measuring and using hope in treatment.

"There is a science to hope -- it does have substance. It can be researched," Snyder said. "The key to good science is to define and then measure."

Snyder has done both.

He defines hope as "a way of thinking about goals such that we see ourselves as being able to find routes to our goals (called pathways thinking) and to motivate ourselves to use those routes (called agency thinking)."

Furthermore, he has developed scales to measure hope in adults and children.

Snyder recalled a high school student a few years ago who was searching for help in writing a commencement speech that would offer hope to a graduating class that had experienced several deaths among its classmates.

"I told him sometimes when we lose hope, we must wait for the good to come back," Snyder said.

"Sometimes the best thing to do after a tragedy is to experience 'the down' and to wait. There will be a valley, and eventually hope can come back.

"After people have experienced a tragedy, I advise that they don't try to push into hoping too fast. There is a reason for having bad feelings. If we experience those bad feelings for a time, we then will be able later to bounce back and to hope."

Research shows that people with health problems can find hope in their coping experiences, Snyder said. "They are able to find benefits, become stronger and respect their resilience."

Snyder also found that the grade point average of high-hope college students was almost one-half point higher than that of low-hope students.

How do you train kids to hope? First, teach them to set goals, Snyder said, and not too many, but more than one, because the hopeful are, like smart investors, diversified and flexible.

Goals can ignite willpower, Snyder said. After goals and willpower are established, parents need to coach "waypower": the ability to map various routes to goals, to subdivide the routes into small steps and to block distractions.

"Freshmen might focus on one overriding goal," said Diane S. McDermott, KU associate professor of psychology, who's partnered with Snyder in his research, "like making it through the first year, and then have subgoals like joining a sorority or making an A in a particular class."

Start the hope training early, the two say. After all, adolescence isn't a time of life that's conducive to setting long-term goals.

Interested in fostering hope in your child or student? Check out the Children's Hope Scale. This survey has six questions, answered by a child (age 8-19), to assess "children's dispositional hope." The measure is "based on the premise that children are goal directed and that their goal-related thoughts can be understood according to two components: agency and pathways" (Snyder et al., 1997, p. 400).

Agency is defined as the "ability to initiate and sustain action towards goals" and pathways is defined as the "capacity to find a means to carry out goals."

The instrument is available for free in English and other languages. It is estimated to take about 4 minutes for the child to complete. To download a copy: www.whytry.org/documents/hope_scale.doc

Reference for Hope Scale: Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, J., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., Highberger, L., Rubinstein, H., & Stahl, K. (1997). The development and validation of the children's hope scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 399-421.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Final Stretch in the End of the First Year

Immersed in the writing of two twenty-page papers, one a Community Intervention Proposal and presentation, the other a Policy Implementation Evaluation Proposal.

Then preparing for comprehensive exams - six timed essays written in eight hours over two days on epistemology, intervention research methods, policy formulation and evaluation.

It will get done. This is the part where I trick myself into believing it is so and act as if it is until it is. I will be done with all of this on June 17 (woohoo).

At brunch this morning with one of my cherished mentors, he said: Thinking about it is half the work.

Still thinking about what I want to become expert in and how that will guide my research internship decision and my dissertations' research question and my research agenda and my career...

What are you thinking about out there in Europe, the Mid-West (is it Kansas or Oklahoma?), up North, the Far East, Iceland or Greenland and Los Angeles? If you stop by, feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What a Difference Being a Professional Makes

Levine (1982) has suggested that it is self-conscious discipline that distinguishes the professional worker from the layperson.

What do we say or do and why? This requires reflection and purpose. What are your assumptions and what is your goal?

Question (as a verb or a command)

"There is no single simplistic premise to uncover or expose. There are numerous unexamined rules, values, and premises originating from multiple sources that create and/or maintain an error of conceptualization."

"Without a struggle to break out of our usual modes of thinking and acting, it is quite difficult to understand how or why this might not be the problem to address."

"There is no way out of this bind until one alters or questions what appears to be the 'given.' Ignoring, failing to accept, or changing the assumption...might lead one to the solution..."

"One must instead ask what the rules, assumptions, or premises of the game are. Now seen from outside the system, the solution requires a change of the premises, rules, or assumptions governing the system as a whole."

(From Justice, values and social science: Unexamined premises, Seidman, 1986)

If caseloads or ratios increase, then do we continue to expect the same from ourselves? Do we continue to use the same models of service or work? If so, at what cost? How long before we accumulate debt that adds to our long-standing deficit?

How do we do more with less? Without a change in expectations or resources, where will this lead?

If change is constant and guaranteed, then do our thoughts, expectations, paradigms, actions, and resources respond accordingly? Do we respond with flexibility or rigidity? How does each feel?

As women entered the workforce in greater numbers, the workload at home remained constant. Women agreed to take on more wage-earning responsibility for the family without a resulting shift in household responsibilities and created the phenomenon of the Second Shift.

Was it created because women didn't question it? Sometimes women complied with implicit or explicit rules/expectations - You wanted to work outside the home, now you deal with doing both - like punishment. Gaining power comes with a price. Why would women believe this? Why would women agree to this? Why wouldn't women negotiate a better contract, if you will? An older married woman in one of my Women's Issues in Social Work course stated proudly that she was able to do both without any problem. I wondered, out loud, why would she would want to?

And where do men stand with all of this? They get a break in wage earning responsibilities, but does this feel like help or intrusion on their turf? If they "went along with it," do they feel more put out than grateful? In which case, do they feel that "agreeing to this" (passive activity and maybe easier) means that they do not feel compelled to take on more duties around the home (active and more work)? You can't make me do more just because you want to do more. Or, if you choose to take on more, then don't expect me to do the same. Does doing more around the house mean a loss of power for men? Does it mean a loss of power for women - their traditional domain? Have we even thought about it? Or do we just perpetuate behavior that we learned long ago? Is this behavior still relevant and beneficial? How do these conversations or non-conversations between partners go?

For students in my Women's Issues in Social Work courses over the years, it seemed that experiences from their families of origin shaped their behavior and expectations in this regard. This seemed to be the case for both men and women, regardless of racial and ethnic group or country of origin. That is, both males and females raised by single mothers got used to helping with household chores. In two-parent families, if children were all female or all male, then gender roles regarding chores were also egalitarian. It seemed that in two-parent families with mixed gender children, traditional roles, behaviors and expectations were most likely cultivated.

It really is okay to question and wonder. What develops may be a better paradigm, a better contract, a better fit between who we are and what we have in the here and now - as opposed to then and there. In between, there may be difficult conversations. Are we afraid of those conversations? If so, what has made us afraid? Are those risks still relevant? If they are, what is the worst thing that can happen? If the worst thing does happen, how will you deal with it? Are we more comfortable (regardless of the price) with what we know, then what we can't imagine? One thing that makes us, as human beings, different than animals, according to Harvard professor of psychology, Daniel Gilbert, is the capacity to imagine the future. Play with your imagination. What kind of juicy future can you envision - replete with vivid details? Can you begin to take the baby steps toward it? If not, what happens to your dreams deferred? Does the feeling you get when you picture your miraculous future inspire you to move? Are you afraid and motivated? That's how it starts. What's next?

Ask

Many novice teachers believe that if they ask for assistance, they will appear incompetent or poorly prepared (Tait, 2008). The same can be said for social workers at any stage, I think.

The irony.

Let's examine incompetence. The definition from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary is:
1 : not legally qualified
2 : inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose
3 a : lacking the qualities needed for effective action b : unable to function properly

I prefer to summarize incompetence as I don't know or I don't have the skills, right now or for the time being. This doesn't mean never or forever, unless of course, I never ask and never practice, indefinitely. Maybe we secretly hope that someone else will ask. Let them take the hit. But what if no one does. Then what? Doomed to never know? Remain incompetent? Yikes, what a sad lot. In this scenario, not only do I work without adequate tools, I make my job harder than it already is and expend more energy with less than desired results. In this way, I miss out on rewards and satisfaction (all risks for burnout). Now my students get less than, when they really need the best available. I can see why we resist evaluation or accountability in this scenario. It's like the person who doesn't want to open up the credit card bills because they don't want to know what they really owe. What a tangled web we weave...

Not knowing is an inevitable but temporary condition. We all have the capacity to know. How long it takes is the particular.

The irony is that the person who asks is not the dumbest in the room, she or he is potentially the most courageous. It takes a lot to be vulnerable. The payoff is the knowledge gained.

What gets me is not the person that doesn't know and is willing to learn by asking for help. What gets to me is the person who is unskilled but acts like they know it all already - as a defense against the pain of not knowing - and refuses to learn. That is ignorance. It can be a little dangerous.

"Ignorance is the state in which one lacks knowledge, is unaware of something or chooses to subjectively ignore information. This should not be confused with being unintelligent, as one's level of intelligence and level of education or general awareness are not the same." (from wikipedia: ignorance)

So ask already - take one for the team and raise the consciousness in the room. Do it for Johnny. ;)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sources of Personal Efficacy

Bandura identified four sources of Personal Efficacy to clarify how it developed in the early years of teaching:

1. Repeated mastery experiences, such as planning and executing successful lessons.

2. Vicarious experience, such as watching a competent model succeed in a teaching situation.

3. Social persuasion, such as encouraging feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and pupils.

4. The emotional states one experiences while teaching, such as satisfaction with a job well done.

A teacher's beliefs about personal efficacy are formed in the early years of teaching and seem to be resistant to change once established. Teachers completing their first year of teaching who had a high sense of efficacy found greater satisfaction in teaching, had a more positive reaction to teaching, and experienced less stress. Novice teachers feel more confident and efficacious if they receive positive feedback, guidance, and encouragement from their students, other teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. With this kind of support, they are more likely to stay in the teaching profession.

(from Resilience as a Contributor to Novice Teacher Success, Commitment, and Retention by Melanie Tait, 2008)

Although written about teachers specifically, this seems to resonate for other professions like social work and mental health, in general. All relationships (personal and professional) and all systems (family and organizational) need a ratio of 3 positive experiences or interactions for every one negative (including constructive criticism) in order to thrive and stay together. Sometimes achieving the ratio is easy and sometimes it takes being intentional about it (for more about 3:1, read Gottman or Fredrickson). Let's go about thriving intentionally, shall we?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Resilient Teachers in Urban Schools Have in Common - and what they can teach us...

Patterson, Collins & Abbott (2004) wanted to know why teachers in urban schools, with all the inherent challenges, stick around and manage to cope so well?

So they interviewed 16 resilient teachers from 4 urban districts that reported student achievement equal to or higher than the state average on standardized tests.

This study defined resilience as "using energy productively to achieve school goals in the face of adverse conditions."

After analyzing the interviews, the researchers found that resilient teachers had the following strategies in common:

1. Resilient teachers have a set of personal values that guide their decision-making.

2. Resilient teachers place a high premium on professional development and find ways to get it.

3. Resilient teachers provide mentoring to others.

4. Resilient teachers are not victims - they take charge and solve problems.

5. Resilient teachers stay focused on the children and their learning.

6. Resilient teachers do whatever it takes to help children be successful.

7. Resilient teachers have friends and colleagues who support their work emotionally and intellectually.

8. Resilient teachers are not wedded to one best way of teaching and are interested in exploring new ideas.

9. Resilient teachers know when to get involved and when to let go.

God Bless these heroes for the work they choose to do. Anyone working with children can take note, I think there is a lesson in there for all of us.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Development of courage

"According to Jordan, resilience involves the development of courage, which she defines as the capacity to move into situations when we feel fear or hesitation. She is adamant that it is not an internal trait but rather that ‘‘it is created in connection; we are encouraged by others’’ (Jordan, 2006, p. 86). She notes that as human beings, we are constantly in interactions that are either encouraging or discouraging."

(from Building resilience in pre-service teachers, Rosie Le Cornu)

How have you been encouraged to do something that you felt was important or necessary? Who was it and what did they do?

How have you encouraged someone to do the same?

When I met with Stuart Kirk last summer, Director of the Doctoral Program at the time, despite my utter panic and feeling flooded with fear, I told him that taking baby steps got me to his office. So he encouraged me to take the next baby step to apply and offered me support and assistance along the way. I have baby stepped it all the way to the end of the third quarter of the first year of the program - with lots of instrumental and moral support from Chris, Paolina, Lila, Nancy, Linda, Pia, Martha, Ailleth, Josh, Josefina, Jenna, Petra, Lorna, Marcela, Lorena, Maria, and all my family, friends and co-workers who show interest and support by asking how it's going at school.

When my daughter starts something new or challenging, she sometimes feels a lot of fear. I try to empathize and try hard not to dismiss her feelings while at the same time showing confidence that she can do it, have fun and learn. Despite the fear and hesitation, she has managed to take art classes, Spanish classes, attend summer camp, perform dance at various events, participate in classroom or school-wide presentations, make new friends and deal with friendship difficulty. It is in the working together that we get through it.

Sometimes the courage comes in having someone sit next to us or hold our hand, sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically speaking. Thanks for joining with me on this journey. I can feel the warmth of your hand on the work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Attachment Mediates Risk

As a clinician, I was taught that my goal was not to become the most important person in a child's life.

Instead, I look for the most important person in a child's life and try to promote the bond between them by facilitating their communication, attachment and attuned responses.

Working at a school, either the child, or I, is gone after 10 weeks, one semester or a year. Even if we had more time together, is the goal for the child to be in therapy for the rest of their life?

Resiliency research shows that family members are the number one resiliency factor for most kids. School staff are number two. Therapists didn't even make the short list.

If not all young people who are exposed to traumatic events develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, then what mediates this risk?

Research shows, over and over again, that attachment does. Put another way, what helps most children and adolescents to be resilient? It is social support.

But how do you access social support - how do you reach out for it or accept it when it is offered - if your core belief is that you are not worthy of being responded to and that your attempts to draw someone near for comfort and protection will go ignored based on disrupted or negative attachment interactions? How do you draw to you and take advantage of social support when you don't trust others?

In a classic study on resilience by Emmy Werner, she found that individual, familial and environmental resources buffer the negative effects of life stressors. In order to cope, attuned responses by an attachment figure or a secondary attachment figure mediate the development of traumatic stress symptoms.

So what happens? What gets in the way of the biological system that is meant to protect children from danger and help them cope?

When I first meet with parents, they describe their child in only the most negative of terms. I half expect to see the student walk in bearing horns. Instead, I sit across a mousy young girl.

When I meet with students, they report fear at the thought of having a conversation with their parents/guardians. Then I meet the parent/guardian and recognize an adult who has taken time off from work at their own risk, and I see them in all their imperfect humanness trying to show their love and concern.

Difficult conversations are to be avoided because they are painful to self and other. That is my impression of the underlying thoughts when I meet with parent and child.

I am open to difficult conversations. I have seen their power in videotapes of family therapy sessions by master therapists. I have lived them in real life with my own mother or daughter and managed to get to the other side. I have watched them transform my clients' relationships. The trick is getting to the other side - where all has been said, as best as you can, with love and honesty, and an intention to listen and be understood - where you reach a level of deeper understanding, love and connection.

Sometimes, these conversations need to be facilitated. Otherwise, parent and child walk around with walls between them - unnecessary and unhelpful - like characters in an O. Henry short story - dying to connect, to know and feel heard, to feel felt - in a dance of rejection instead of intimacy.

Teens say - "nothing," "go away," "I don't want to talk about it." Feeling rejected and unskilled, parents/guardians obey.

Children say - "She comes home tired from work, I don't want to give her more problems." Parents complain, "You talk to her, she won't tell me what's wrong."

Supporting each member of this important dyad to see and understand the other - that is the role I gladly take on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cool Titles

My advisor, Stuart Kirk, said that one journal editor told him she knows if an article will be good just by the title. Here are some good titles:

The Frontier of Evidence-Based Practice

Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development

The elimination of children's fears

The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation

Parents' unresolved traumatic experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status: Is frightened and/or frightening parental behavior the linking mechanism?Attachment in the preschool years: Theory, research, and intervention.

Comorbidity of anxiety and depressive disorders: A helplessness-hopelessness perspective

The metatheory of resilience and resiliency

Children at risk: Fostering resilience and hope

Resilience in adolescents: Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression

Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events?

Protective factors, resiliency, and healthy youth development

Resilience in the face of potential trauma

Resilience among abused and neglected children grown up

Social and ecological resilience: are they related?

Moving research on resilience into the 21st century: Theoretical and methodological considerations in examining the biological contributors to resilience

A family resilience framework: Innovative practice applications

Resilience in children exposed to domestic violence

Building resiliency in students

If you type "Resiliency" into Google scholar, you get about 328,000 results (mostly books and journal articles). If you google "attachment" then you get 1.5 million results (again books and journal articles). Good times reading.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Epistemology Review

Next month we have comprehensive exams. We will be asked to write essays over the course of two days - four hours each day - on epistemology, research methods, policy formulation and policy evaluation. This is a review of the breadth of epistemological approaches we will need to be prepared to apply.

By 2050, the minority population will be the majority in the US. We need leaders and researchers that can influence public policy that will be responsive to the new America. Seriously, we need more people of color in higher education.

Epistemology - How do we distinguish knowledge from belief or prejudice? What criteria do we use? How do we know what we know?

Ontology - What is the nature of things? How do we categorize things?

Moral assumptions - The minute we want to have an impact on society we are making moral assumptions.

Postivism:
This approach believes that science is a reliable and the most valuable source of knowledge. Knowledge is based on experiences or observations. There is a symmetry of explanation and prediction. That is, if you have explained a phenomenon, you can predict future occurances.
If something exists, then it can be measured. Reality is objective and independent of our perceptions.
Verifiability theory of meaning posits that we start with a theoretical statement that can be observed and is logical in structure, which we can then go out and test whether it is correct.

Post-Positivism:
This approach recognizes that doing science is a social process. Research and knowledge are contextual. Theoretical constructs can guide you and lead you to ask a set of questions you might not have otherwise. Although there are mental processes at work, we don't need to explore or explain intentionality. Knowledge is conjectural - always up for reconsideration and based on the best evidence at the time. Can't ever get at the "truth," only what is "warranted" - that is, knowledge that is accepted by the strongest available evidence at the time. It may change as new information arises. Knowledge is obtained through disproving theories.

Interpretivism:
Over time we develop a consensus about what things are (intersubjectivity). There are subjective entities, such as mental states, that have a causal function on behavior. Language constructs phenomena and conveys reality. Social reality is created, but once it is created it becomes objectified and has real consequences. Many social facts are real only because they are believed to be real. In many cases, social science phenomena don't exist unless people believe they do. Social facts are different than natural facts because they include intentionality, therefore any social explanation must include the intentionality of the social actors and understanding of their language. The focus of this approach is on understanding.

Hermeneutics:
The science of interpretation of texts and understanding. You can't separate objective and subjective - both are important. Acknowledge that the same text can be viewed differently across time. There is an awareness of own prejudice and how it affects interpretation of the text. "Fusion of horizons" through dialogue with the text. Hermeneutics treats social science differently than natural science and values context with a willingness to test assumptions through dialogue. Does not provide explanations of phenomena.

Social Constructivism:
This approach sees things in a state of flux and very contextualized. Knowledge is socially constructed - it is something people do together. It reflects the interests of some groups more than others. Ideas about knowledge are created through interactions. These interactions are not constant from one social setting to anothe r. This approach does not deny physical aspects to many phenomena, but are interested in what those physical acts come to mean. Self is evolving and you are an active agent in its development.

Pragmatism:
This approach is not really interested in causal relationships. Knowledge is a process, cannot be isolated from its context and used to solve problems. Research strategies used include mixed methods - whatever works.

Critical Realism:
If something is illogical (i.e. leads to social outcomes that are agreed to be negative by general consensus), you "ought" to work to alleviate them. The social reality of doing science is transitive, but that doesn't change what is there. People are agents with influence to shape social realities. Knowledge is obtained by studying underlying mechanisms that cause tendencies. Research methods include trying to discover false beliefs, moral obligation to expose false beliefs. Acknowledges subjects may be wrong and not able to see outside of false consciousness.

Critical Theory:
Knowledge is gained by revealing false consciousness caused by oppressive circumstances, presenting evidence of false consciousness and then having the oppressed verify that the researchers are correct. Begins with Post-positivist/empiricist methods to prove oppressive circumstances. Then use hermeneutic process, if the oppressed do not agree, to attempt to show that they would agree in an ideal speech situation (a rational, democratic society where everybody has equal access to democratic debate, relevant information and everybody is heard). The assumption is that there are underlying patterns of oppression and that those patterns are rationalized through ideologies that then become internalized. The aim is emancipation of subjects from oppressive false consciousness - and enlightenment from self-imposed coercion.

Feminist Standpoint:
Starts with assumption that part of situated knowledge is that it is a function of oppression/oppressed condition. Women, minorities or other oppressed groups have distinct ways of knowing and experiencing the world, which gives them epistemic privilege. Oppression has resulted in only certain knowledge being validated (the one created by white males and tested on white males). Traditional research has embodied biases. By introducing female bias, perhaps some balance will result. Purpose is not just elimination of biases but liberation. The goal is liberation of oppressed populations and self-reflection is part of the process. Brings in perspectives that an engendered society tends to be blind to and transcends the political nature of research. Exposes sexism, racism and bias.

Postmodernism
This approach argues that the idea that we have progressed runs counter to the circumstances under which people live day to day. It emphasizes difference, fragmentation, change, the irrational. The reality of events exists only within the meanings assigned by those perceiving the events. All knowledge claims are only debatable within their own context, paradigm or community. Everything is interactive, so there is no way to determine the time sequence needed for causality. There is nothing inherently truthful about "knowledge." Adoption of any narrative is an act of power and precludes looking at other narratives. Things are not "true" or "untrue" - they just represent the attributor's own values and experience. There are no adequate means for representing external reality. Reject traditional methods of evaluating knowledge - does not put much stock in "reason." Interpretation is introspective and anti-objectivist. Rather than working to distinguish which patterns are more correct or more common, this perspective encourages the acceptance of various conceptions of a phenomenon. Rather than dismissing the outliers, studies the exception. Celebrates creativity, imagination, introspection, breaking conventions. Postmodernism is mainly a critique and doesn't create new knowledge. It focuses on deconstructing existing knowledge. Challenges conventional measurement tools because reliance on a single measure that oversimplifies, reduces or reifies construction of phenomenon (for example, domestic violence) can interfere with our full understanding of these issues.

Evidence-Based Practice:
This is not an epistemology, it is a practice paradigm intended to close the gap between research and practice to maximize opportunities to help clients and avoid harm. It arose as an alternative to authority-based decision making based on consensus, tradition and anecdotal evidence. It employs methods like meta-analysis which looks at the cumulative body of knowledge on a subject, all the studies, then ranks them by rigor of methodologies used (with Randomized Control Trials or RCTs at the top), whether it is translatable into practice, then engages in a decision-making process. It was originally intended to reduce lag in adoption of new innovations in the field.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Self-Care is good for Self and Others

Abstract from Compassion fatigue: Psychotherapists' chronic lack of self care by Charles R. Figley:

Psychotherapists who work with chronic illness tend to disregard their own self-care needs when focusing on the needs of clients. The article discusses the concept of compassion fatigue, a form of caregiver burnout among psychotherapists and contrasts it with simple burnout and countertransference. It includes a multi-factor model of compassion fatigue that emphasizes the costs of caring, empathy, and emotional investment in helping the suffering. The model suggests to psychotherapists that limiting compassion stress, dealing with traumatic memories, and more effectively managing case loads are effective ways of avoiding compassion fatigue. The model also suggests that, to limit compassion stress, psychotherapists with chronic illness need to develop methods for both enhancing satisfaction and learning to separate from the work emotionally and physically in order to feel renewed. A case study illustrates how to help someone with compassion fatigue.

Why Self-Care?

The rate of depression is about 15% in the general population.

Among Social Workers, it is about 30% - double the rate of the average person.

What are our ideas about the 30% among us - stigma or acceptance?

And why is the rate of depression so much higher among trained professionals who probably know more about the symptoms, treatment and resources available for depression than the general population?
Is it harder to recognize when it happens to us?
Is it hard to acknowledge in ourselves when we compare our general good fortune to the often difficult circumstances of our clients?

There is more research about secondary traumatic stress (STS) now. What individual and organizational changes can we put into place to prevent and treat the impact of STS - for everyone's sake?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Human and Coming Clean

(my husband said this post sounds a bit harsh, so please read with intended tongue-in-cheek tone)

Perfectionism is a motherf**ck**.

It can really hold us back from...
...trying new things,
...taking advantage of opportunities,
...loving and forgiving ourselves and others (or at least being compassionate),
...speaking our mind (from inchoate thoughts to sophisticated and informed questions) and
...learning.

F*** that sh** (that is, missing out on the good stuff).

"There I go being human again. "

"I get to be imperfect, dammit."

Would those thoughts help as mantras to drown out perfectionistic thoughts as they arise?

I am not always skillful in expressing my thoughts or feelings. I never regret what I say, just how I say it. I am learning (dammit).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Listening to What Teens Have to Say

A study called, "Teen Voice 2009" explores three interlocking concepts:

1. “Sparks” are individual talents, passions or gifts teens say give them energy and motivation to do well in life;

2. the Teen Voice Index (TVI) measures how much teens think their voices are heard on key issues that matter to them; and

3. the Relationship and Opportunities Index (ROI) tracks the access teens say they have to high-quality resources and relationships that help them nurture their strengths.

Teens that score high on all three of these concepts are more likely to have a sense of purpose and hope for their individual futures, than those who don’t.

Based on these three concepts, the Teen Voice 2009 survey found that:

• Although 66 percent of teens are able to identify at least one spark, less than half get support for their sparks beyond their families;

• Only 18 percent of teens are actively engaged in social issues, indicating significant opportunities to help young people find their voice and contribute to their communities; and

• Teens with high ROI scores (only 12 percent of those surveyed) are three times as likely as those with low scores to have a sense of hopeful purpose, express caring values, be actively engaged in school and take on leadership roles.

How would the students at our high schools respond? What would they say about their sparks, voice and relationship & opportunities?

What school-wide interventions would boost their capacity to recognize their "sparks," and promote their feeling supported for their sparks at school?

What would happen if thousands of students walked around our campus knowing what they were good at - their passions, talents and gifts?

What kind of contagion effect would that create? What kind of new social norms would that foster?

How would our school community be different as a result?

What would have to change for this to happen?

Wouldn't you love to experiment with this and find out?

Alan Rubin Visits UCLA to Talk about Evidence-Based Practice

Alan Rubin (of Rubin & Babbie's Research Methods for Social Work) visited UCLA last week. I had to miss his presentation, but my classmate, Nancy, took these notes...


1) Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is a Process while Empirically Supported Treatments (EST) are just possible sources of treatment guides.


2) If an EST is selected based upon the best evidence "for a particular population" and the practitioner finds that it is not working, the practitioner is responsible for trying another strategy.


3) As a result, practitioners should be given more of a menu of possible interventions rather than just being forced to utilize one particular EST.


4) He thought what Bruce Chorpita was doing with evidence-based core skills was an excellent approach and much in the spirit of EBP.


5) I also asked about the disconnect between the critical thinking skills required for the EBP process and the reality that some practitioners do not have the skills or desire to review academic literature. He stated that this is a concern that is not easily resolved. He stated that ideally people should review the literature themselves, which hopefully will change as social work education makes cultural shifts; however, there are two possible solutions for right now:


a) Make it an MSW internship project for them to review and summarize relevant ESTs for one target population that an agency serves.


b) He has been writing "guides to EBP" for particular populations that summarize the interventions without giving research details. He provides the research evidence in the appendix for those who are interested.


It is our responsibility to figure out how to disseminate the information in a practical way for easy consumption.

social workers as street-level bureaucrats

"The street-level bureaucrat is in a position to interpret policy for the client, since the client may be unaware of the rules and parameters of any particular policy.

Street-level bureaucrats operate with extensive discretion and may interpret policy favorably or unfavorably for a particular client given a variety of factors including his or her own views of the policy, the explicit or implicit rewards existing in the workplace (e.g., pressure to close cases, focus on reducing risk to the agency), and personal biases, among other factors."

(From Training as a factor in policy implementation: Lessons from a National Evaluation of Child Welfare Training by Mary Elizabeth Collinsa, Maryann Amodeob, and Cassandra Clay)

Do clients know their rights to consent, confidentiality and treatment?

How well do we understand, interpret and inform clients about these rights?

If most of our clients are poor or minorities, is this a civil rights issue?