Working as a psychologist is a tough gig. One of my roles involves working with individuals who experience low prevalence but highly complex and severe mental health difficulties. I enjoy this work because of the complexity and the challenge and the knowledge that just being with these people on their journeys for an hour a week can make a difference.
Despite the rewards, this type of work can be overwhelming at times. With a case load of such complexity, therapeutic goals are continually moving goal posts; clients may cycle rapidly back and forth between recovery, relapse and crisis and, I have a front row seat to horrendous accounts of ‘humankind’s inhumanity to humankind.’ When I’m navigating it all on the job, I think nothing of it, it’s just part of what I do. Knowing that anyone I might work with is doing their best, has the ability to recover (whatever that might mean for the person in question) and that I am very privileged when someone has chosen to share such accounts with me allows me to keep doing this.
Sometimes though, after work, my experiences can lead to some soul searching. Am I doing enough? Why do people treat each other this way? Are there people in the world who have not been touched by such pain, sorrow and cruelty? When I catch myself pondering these things, I focus back on the small victories at work and in life. Because the small things are the big things. It could be that someone simply came to session, that I listened with curiosity not judgement or I cooked myself a nice meal today.
And so, for every person I work with, also create a kirigami flower. It’s my way of recognising the individuality of each person I work with as a therapist, offering a wish for growth (theirs, and mine as a therapist) and, serves as a reminder to myself that by truly showing up for someone for one hour a week, I contributed in some way, however tiny, to helping them blossom. I have made twenty since I started practicing as a psychologist and intend to continue this tradition until I retire.