The Worry Bug Project for Christchurch Children:
The child at the Centre of Recovery.
We were focusing in on the idea of bringing our personal worlds into professional practice. As a psychologist, this has been a challenge over the years - how do I separate these two worlds, and should they even be separated? Many psychologists have been taught to clearly separate these two worlds, but my time living and working in Thames, Coromandel, put an end to that possibility. In such a small community turning down a family as a client because I might know them through my child or because they run the only bookshop, means that family might not be able to access specific services. I became used to interacting with client families whilst picking up my child from school, buying groceries or when going to the library. That meant that clients also saw my personal life happening round me - from me being frustrated with my children, to what I chose to read or have for dinner.
When Sarina and I began the Worry bug Project, we intentionally merged these two worlds. The personal experience that Sarina had had with being in the centre of the big quakes, and my experience of coming to a broken city with an intent to help professionally, we thought might work quite well together. Also, we were at the mercy of having many children to manage whilst we worked, and not much childcare. That meant that we often took our children to meetings, with funders, with PR people, with distributors, book designers and accountants. Often we got our boobs out at these meetings, to breastfeed irritable babies who would rather have been at home. Breastfeeding in front of people does tend to remove barriers to building relationships (though sometimes it has the opposite affect!) and we have made many friends over the course of the project because of this. We often reflect on the many people that we have worked with and how almost every single one of them has recounted a story to us of a child or friend or family member who is troubled with anxiety issues. Many of them have discounted their bills for this connection, and we are grateful for that.
The other issue we were discussing at conference is that of collaboration between disciplines. So often collaborations between teachers and psychologists are fraught with problems because we are wed to our own knowledges. Sarina and I thought a lot about what had helped us to work together as professionals from different disciplines and we think it comes down to two things - being authentic in our relationship with each other (bringing in the personal), and being able to listen past what we individually think about something. Just as when my children try to tell me about something they have just learned; if I say something like “yes, yes, I know all about that, no, you’ve got that wrong, it’s like this” then I shut down the possibility of learning something for myself about their perspective (as well as irritating them immensely). So, when I work with another discipline I have to put aside my own knowledge and try to hear their knowledge, and then we have to merge it somehow for the benefit of the child. By looking at the child’s needs, instead of our own knowledge or ego, I think that we can be clearly focused on what they need, rather than what we need in terms of recognition as a professional, or a parent. Hence, our title - the child at the centre of recovery.
Anyway, we were a bit nervous presenting - I was aiming at a Ted-style presentation, and trying to incorporate some humour, but our efforts at perfection were threatened by exactly the things we were talking about - the personal impacting on the professional. The week we left for conference Sarina had a tummy bug, and I had a small child with threatening pneumonia. Both of us thought the other wouldn’t make it and were preparing for presenting alone. As it turned out, we did make it, even if Sarina got locked in the toilet and I got a hair in my muffin! The day was topped off by Jetstar delaying our flights so we could explore wellington airport a bit more, and a bit more.
Overall we were pleased to have been included in the presentation line up for the conference and would love to repeat it next year especially as it will happen in our stamping ground of Christchurch.
Written by Julie Burgess-Manning. Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org