Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bidden or Unbidden

I am a clinical supervisor for (usually) young social work interns who are just entering the field. They are so earnest, it is heartbreaking but hopeful. They come armed with the latest theories, an insistence that we all look at issues of class, race, and other "isms", and generally force me to articulate why I practice the way I practice. Although all those things are time consuming, my students keep me from becoming ossified and in the end, I am usually grateful. I try to teach them a couple of things, as well.

Halloween is a great example. Over the years, I have incorporated this holiday into my clinical groups. Groups are an interesting entity and one that I feel every intern should start trying to master. It ain't easy. This is the age, in both schools and clinical practice, where everything needs to be "solution-based" and every minute should be used in teaching the students strategies for managing affect or increasing their ability to handle stress. I don't disagree with that mandate but how we get there......that is the art of teaching and the art of therapy. One of the questions that I ask all my group members is this: What do you believe in that is bigger than you? My clients are hungry for a spiritual component to their lives...not religious but spiritual. Carl Jung is my guy for this part of the work. He talked about our "shadow selves", the pieces of our personalities that we discard early on and tap down into our unconscious. Part of our clinical work is to integrate our shadow parts with our dominant selves. Halloween is a Shadow holiday....who and why do we dress up the way we do? For my clients, it is also intimately connected with the devil and it brings up meaningful conversation about the spirit world...and how that world intersects with the world of the living. So, as I am explaining all of this to my interns, I note the puzzled look on their faces. Haven't we gone off track from our set curriculum? Yes, we have....and in doing so we are meeting the clients where they are and we are allowing them, in an age of mandates and cognitive behavioral strategies to look at something deeper and older. Give yourself permission to go off track and embrace art, play, and even dance a little with the collective unconscious....it makes for a group that is real.

My favorite quote is from Jung: Bidden or Unbidden, God is present. I would add (with the utmost of hubris and humility) that I think our Gods are all walking hand in hand. We are all of one piece. I hope we figure that part out soon. That is really what I am trying to teach my interns:)

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