- Mental Health
KNOW YOU ARE POWERFUL, PART THREE
This is Part Three of a four-part series addressing the phenomena of power, namely the power that is inside of us, but often dormant.
There is good information in these hubs for all of us, including parents, who serve people in our chosen occupation or vocation, but these hubs are particularly for you who choose to work with children and teens in residential treatment. You are a precious group of folks who deserve much support and huge salaries and you get neither! Obviously, you will get a little more out of this hub if you read Part One and Part Two first.
I know you often feel powerless in working with very challenging residents, and we want to look at that powerlessness because it doesn't match up with the fact that you are, in fact, very powerful. Yes, really! Very powerful.
So enjoy Part three of the series. Let yourself take in the information. It will make your job so much easier if you do.
KNOW YOU ARE POWERFUL, PART 3
We concluded Part Two encouraging you to hang up your drill instructor hat if you wear one. Even some parents, especially Dads, but even some Moms, are very proud of their drill instructor hats
Here's an excerpt from the conclusion of Part Two.
You know, the methodology of the drill instructor works well for remodeling a house. You gut the house, take it down to the bare bones, and then rebuild. But it doesn’t work with human beings to strip them down to zero because there is no way to rebuild them. If you question that, talk to folks who have experienced the drill instructor methodology. Notice how connected they are, how together they are, how at home with themselves they are, how at peace with the world they are, how they get along with people? The problem is they are not at home at all. They have never come back, they have never been the same again.
We now begin Part Three by revisiting the issue of respect and appreciation which we discussed briefly in Part One.
RESPECT AND APPRECIATION
We Are Obsessed
For whatever reason, we are often obsessed with getting the residents to both respect and appreciate us. Sometimes we say things like, “You gotta demand their respect....if you don’t, they’ll find your weakness and manipulate and take advantage of you....you can’t show any weakness at all....gotta be tough, tough love.”
On the one hand we make comments that imply we don’t care what the residents think about us or whether or not they appreciate what we do for them, but down deep, when they don’t respect and appreciate us, for example, when we give them a break, Oh, look out!
When We First Pop Out
So here’s the skinny on that. We all have deep emotional needs for both respect and appreciation. The kids have them too. These needs for respect and appreciation are there from the moment we pop out. When we are an infant, we NEED to be treated respectfully, preciously, and we NEED to get a sense that we are WANTED, WELCOMED, and APPRECIATED. Since it is not a perfect world, it is probable that many of us did not get a sufficient dose of respect and appreciation during those early stages. I say that because so many of us. who serve people as a a profession, are just outright obsessed with the respect and appreciation issue. When you stop and think about it, it is a no brainer. The last folks in the world you want to look to for respect and appreciation are folks who are wounded to the core. Think about it! It’s the lame and the blind leading the lame and the blind!
The irony here is what we can offer to the residents are high dosages of both respect and appreciation. That prescription becomes an important component of their healing, more important than all the points, allowance, levels, reinforcers, rewards, and privileges.
WE NEED TO MEET OUR NEEDS FOR RESPECT AND APPRECIATION IN OUR ADULT RELATIONSHIPS. We need to insure that our needs for respect and appreciation are filled to the brim from those relationships, so then we need absolutely NO respect or appreciation from the residents. And it makes sense that we want our peers and loved ones to respect and appreciate us. Of course we do. But it makes no sense that we would even consider demanding respect and appreciation from such a wounded population as the kids we serve. In fact, it borders on being a little nutty.
Here’s The Kicker
Not demanding, let alone not needing respect and appreciation from the kids we serve, creates a rather interesting vacuum, so to speak, in the staff-resident relationship, a kind of wonderment within the residents. It becomes a puzzle to them why we have stopped demanding their respect. They can’t figure it out. In fact, it becomes even more bothersome to them when they realize we don’t need anything from them at all, and at the same time, we are meeting their needs in ways they have never experienced before.
There Are No Level Programs In Relationships
Are you getting it all? See, right here is the biggest liability with behavior modification programs. In point and level programs, residents don’t have the opportunity to experience what they needed to experience during the first nine months of life, namely unconditional responsiveness to their emotional and physical needs. Without that experience, they will never learn to give that
unconditional responsiveness to their children. What they will experience is that life is one negotiation and manipulation after another. They will learn to buy, bargain, negotiate, and manipulate (in other words steal) to get their needs met. They will not learn what it means to be responsive to the other’s needs in a relationship.
The fact is there are no level programs out there in the real world of relationships. Can you hear it now? “Honey, I’m sorry, you screwed up yesterday, don’t you remember? You’re now on level two and no sex for you. That is a level three privilege!”
When our residents return home, there is no way for them to earn their way out of doing whatever crappy jobs are there to do. There is no trip to Disneyland or to the movies, and quite possibly no allowance. They go back into a family where demands will be made upon them to step up to the plate with little or no reward.
Whatever your treatment center has in the way of behavior modification programs has its place. I am not suggesting for a second that you do away with anything you already have set up. I just want you to see what a level program, a points system, or token economy can do for you and what it cannot do for you. Perhaps, more importantly, what these kinds of programs can do for the kids you serve and what these programs will never accomplish. The bottom line is this. Your behavioral program will never be as powerful as the relationships the staff create with the residents.
It's worth repeating. The bottom line in our treatment program is the relationship we choose to create with each of the children or teens we serve. Yes, the relationship we CHOOSE to create. The relationship is probably our most powerful tool.
What do we mean when we talk relationship in the context of staff-resident relationships? We are definitely not talking friendship. We are not talking about being easy or soft. It is definitely not a give and take relationship, but perhaps a give and receive relationship. It is not a bargaining, not a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
We are talking about a relationship that resembles somewhat the relationship between a parent and child, perhaps grandparent grandchild if we are on the older side, perhaps big brother, big sister, a little mentor thrown in or coach. The relationship definitely has elements of the relationship described in the poem Footprints. The relationship is a free relationship. There is no cost to the resident to have a relationship with us. Yes, free. That is foreign to many of you, and if there is no place in your life where you experience a free relationship, then this is going to be very very difficult for you to grasp and to offer to residents.
Yes, here is the big big big snag. If I am inexperienced in healthy relationships in my adult life, then it is going to be next to impossible to form relationships with this group of wounded kids and teens. Wounded people are nasty, difficult, very unloving, demanding, needy, high maintenance, and whatever all else you want to say about them. So when I decide to create a relationship with one of these wounded folks, I better have all of my relationship ducks in a row! So again, I need nothing from the resident in the relationship.
Now the irony is that when I can create a free relationship with the resident, it provides a kind of climate within which the resident can grow, and sometimes grow quite rapidly, and before long, the resident learns to reciprocate in all of his or her relationships. It is a very rewarding moment when you are on the receiving end of such an interaction. It’s like watching a baby take its first steps.
This is another one of those topics that we could spend an entire training on. Suffice for today, we identify that there is such a thing as the emotional climate.
A prerequisite to meeting the needs of children and teens in residential treatment is the creation of a certain kind of emotional climate. What do we mean when we talk about the emotional climate? It is difficult to define, but always obvious. It is in the air, so to speak. You can’t quite touch it, but you can smell it, feel it, and hear it. You can definitely see it in body language particularly in the body language of those who run the show, whether it is the kids who are running the show or the staff.
Professionally, we refer to the emotional climate as the milieu. Colloquially, we talk about “vibes.” We are always tuned into the vibes. What are the vibes we pick up when we come on duty? What are the vibes that other people pick up after we come on duty? What vibes does a new resident feel when he comes to the program? What vibes does a resident pick up when they wake up in the morning, when they go to sleep at night, when they walk into the kitchen, the eating areas, the living room or recreation area? What vibes does a resident pick up when he or she walks into the bathroom? What vibes does a disinterested stranger feel who walks into the facility, for example, a repairman? What vibes does licensing pick up when they walk into the facility for an onsite inspection? What vibes do staff give off when they are confronted by angry residents? What vibes do staff give off when there is disagreement or dissension amongst themselves? What vibes does the organization gives off when their “tried and true” program stops working, when it is obvious there are needs amongst staff and residents that are not being met?
It is easy to blame residents for the state of the emotional climate. But just as in a family, it is never the children, so in residential treatment, it is never the residents who are responsible for creating the emotional climate. That responsibility lies with parents, adults, the treatment staff, the organization, the “big people.” The bottom line is the emotional climate created by the big people will literally dictate the kind and quality of movement within the population of those being served. The emotional climate becomes the major source of motivation (movement) and the catalyst for change. The creation of an emotional climate that is flexible enough to absorb the anger and rage, powerful enough to hold people accountable and responsible, warm enough to give everyone a sense of welcome, magical and hypnotic enough to persuade everyone into believing they are working together as a single team, and structured enough to give everyone a sense of safety is perhaps the most powerful tool the organization and staff can design and create.
As staff, we can learn all kinds of techniques in working with kids. The kids can learn all kind of techniques like anger management or they can attend drug counseling, therapy, family therapy, behavioral intervention, but without a rich and juicy emotional climate, it’s like trying to bake a cake without an oven.
In baseball, a hitter does not strive for perfection. In fact, a good hitter bats somewhere around three hundred, which is only an approximation of batting a thousand, which would be perfection. The batting average of three hundred, which we kindly and generously describe as an approximation, actually represents seventy percent failure. Wow! But 300 is an enviable batting average.
And to achieve this enviable batting average, the batter has to be willing to step up to the plate one hundred percent of the time, knowing full well, he will be successful only thirty percent. And interestingly enough, when a hitter achieves a batting average of 300, there is an illusion that he gets a hit every time even though the reality is far from that. Wow!
So, when we go about creating this emotional climate, this prized and valuable milieu, we do it in baseball terms. Yes, with all the mix of people and emotions, it is going to be impossible to create and maintain such a safe emotional climate one hundred percent of the time. But if, as staff, we are willing to step up to the plate one hundred percent of the time and at least work at creating that climate, at least approximate it, we will be successful at least thirty percent of the time, and we will creates the “illusion” that the climate is safe all the time. Interesting how that works.
So we have covered important ground in this discussion of Power. Read it, reread it. Record it into some kind of recording device, and then listen to it over and over again until it really SINKS IN and you get it, that you are very very powerful.
Again, here is one of those topics for another training. When we bring our inner power to the team, we can be powerful together. There are no longer good staff bad staff. When you are in the midst of a confrontation with a resident, you can hand the conflict over to another staff person and freely walk away. There is no competition, no winning and losing, just good teamwork.
So concludes Part Three. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Part Four is more like a poster. The subtitle of Part Four is You Know You're Powerful When.....
So check it out. I hope this information will support you, whether you are a staff member in a residential treatment setting, a parent, a teacher, a police officer, a correctional officer, a doctor, a minister, a drill instructor, or anyone who serves people as their chosen occupation or vocation. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF AND BE POWERFUL!
This easy, fun to read book will invite you to grow like you have never grown before in ALL of your relationships, whether at the work setting or with your sweetie pie.