Category Archives: adolescence

Process Recorded Episode IV: A New Hope

A little while ago in a city sort of far away.…

It is a period of transition. Process Recorded, though a little frazzled, has arrived in her new city, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Pursued by concerns of what was left behind, Process Recorded races to gather information and prepare for meeting new clients, hoping to restore passion where soul-sucking aspects of her previous organization had caused it to fade…. Continue reading

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Not Another Transition/Termination Post

When you’re in transition, it seems like that’s all there is to talk about. Or maybe that’s just how it works for me. But I do think that people often define themselves by the big transitions and changes in their lives, whether only at the time or for a lifetime afterwards.

Most of my clients experience common childhood transitions as they move from elementary school to middle school to high school. But for a lot of them these milestones serve mainly as markers for greater sources of change. And although they can’t always remember what happened last summer, they remember the grade they were in when their parent left home and didn’t come back. And what school they went to when they first experienced the staying power of abuse, racism, or other injustice. They can pinpoint what they were doing when they found out a family member died. Or went to jail. And so on.

Sometimes transition is the baseline for the youth I meet. Foster care, immigration, or just frequent moves between states, countries or family members’ homes have contributed to constant change in the scenery around them. For some of these clients, routine feels more disruptive and unusual than the upheaval they anticipate daily. Temporary is understandable. Permanent is strange and unknown. Continue reading

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“But Miss! that’s just how we joke around!”

Recently a very normal thing happened. A teen in one of my groups made a “joke” at the expense of two other group members. The “joke” came during a team-building game that this particular group begs to play every time we meet. The next week, I went to the student’s school to talk more since this was not the first time we had disagreed about the line between a joke and an insult.

After pleasantries…
Me: Do you know why I wanted to come talk to you?
16 y/o: (shrugs) I dunno?
Me: Do you remember what happened last time the group met?
16 y/o: Oh that? Yeah… but Miss, you just took what I said too seriously…

If I had a dollar for every time a teenager told me I was taking them too seriously, being too sensitive, or didn’t understand because I felt the need to address negative comments they had made about others… Well, I could probably work for free. But I love the conversation that follows, so bring it on teens! Tell me I’m wrong!

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Oh, you work with teenagers?

I love working with teenagers.

I make this or similar statements often when describing what I do. The responses I receive generally fall in to two categories, with very few landng somewhere in the middle. The first type of response occurs when I am talking to the minority of people who also work with teenagers and love what they do (pairing emphasized due to the unfortunately large and infamous group of people who have decided to work with teenagers despite believing they are demon spawn). This response often comes in the form of a smile and nod, sometimes accompanied by an anecdote that exemplifies why the adolescent age group is enjoyable to work with.

The second and more common response customarily includes a look that to me suggests I have just grown a second head or confessed to eating babies. The look is usually followed by a shocked statement about how impressed or surprised they are that I can do/enjoy/survive such a job. The accompanying tone of voice indicates that I might as well make a living carrying shards of glass from place to place between my toes. Even more fascinating to me is that this type of response often comes directly from my adolescent clients, who ask me if I’m crazy and insist: “Miss, I would never want to work with teenagers.”

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Countertransference the Friendly Ghost

Emotions happen. And at times, they can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage. When emotions about personal matters surface while we are wearing our so-called professional social work hats, we must decide if and when this “countertransference” can be used to help support our clients.

By becoming a direct practice social worker, I made a choice to frequently discuss difficult and/or distressing experiences with clients. Privately, I can cry or become otherwise overwhelmed by emotion when I witness or hear about something particularly sad or terrible. Containing my reaction in public (except in movies where I am that girl) is usually only a challenge when something poignantly reminds me of difficult experiences of my own. In my personal life I know that I can simply choose to leave or “step outside” when necessary, but in the room with a client, their needs come first.

I remember two generalizations my grad school professors frequently made about social work students:
1. We all spend more time caring for our friends/family than ourselves (more on that another day).
2. There was a major event, an experience, or a something in our lives that we identify as directly linked to and possibly as the impetus for our choice to enter this field.
Whether or not either of these things are true for all social workers, I have found that many at least identify with the second. Myself included.

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