For so long, the field of social work focused on a person-centered approach to service delivery, and asked us as professionals to keep ourselves and our humanity out of the room. This discounted the focus on attunement or trauma-informed practices. We focused on being “person-centered” but also not working harder than the client.
In 2023, I had the faith to fail and did the things that felt natural and normal for me, my practice, and my clients. I addressed the shame elephant in the room of not being able to say idk and still be professional. I smiled big and bright when ‘ lil feet ‘ busted into my home office with curiosity, screaming, “Mommy, are you in a meeting?” and proceeded to climb into my lap! I stopped apologizing for living and having a life outside of work.
I shared candidly and openly with other new moms that it was not only them who were “gentle parenting”, that my toddler too was “wild-childing.” We joked and attributed our child’s lack of insight to their omission of TikTok and IG. But we normalized the loss of self and identity outside of motherhood. I spoke with other entrepreneurs who hated who they became in order to become successful. I also chose to hold space for those who scaled, stabilized, and sacrificed their way into being unrecognizable to themselves. I cried for the first time in session once in 2023 when my Haitian Female client shared that not only is she a WHOLE Dr, but matched to her top school. I cried for the second time in a session, just January 8, 2024, when another black female client dropped pics of her completing her TEDTalk to me via texts and unctioned me to look at the message.
Told several people I can’t or I won’t.
I realized that being a person-centered clinician who abandoned myself was foolish and that I could be professional and personable. I finally came to terms with the fact that I will NEVER conquer my RBF or lack of affect regulation, and those who get it are my people, and those who do not, I can NOT serve well, and that too is ok.
I realized that people were far more understanding than I imagined them to be, and started eating in sessions versus starving all day long. If I have to potty mid-session with my weak postpartum bladder, I GO!
We have said for years explicitly that we meet our people and are human first, and this last year, without fear I did just that. Every hair was not in place every session; sometimes, I missed the mark and learned to say, “I don’t think that landed how I intended!” I responded with compassion and curiosity when clients gave feedback surrounding their therapeutic experience. I referred out OFTEN!
Most importantly to me, in the 200+ sessions I personally held last year, despite my own health and personal challenges- I showed up! I said, “I don’t know!” I got comfortable with the idea that both my clients and I are “learning, unlearning, & relearning things,” and often together. I embraced the fact that the journey I take with each and every client is sacred, and it’s a blessing to use all of my gifts and humanity to walk with them. And that is what being person-centered is, indeed!
I am so glad that our practice was sustained through 2023 and am glad for what the Lord will do in 2024 concerning us and those we serve wholeheartedly and in our full humanity through CONNECTion, ComPASSION, & CommUNITY!
I plan to say and share more on our blog this year, not sure when or how often- but be on the look out for more from Jess’ Desk.
Yours in sincere service,