Importance of “Connection to Self” in Clinical Settings

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Many experts in psychology and social work firmly believe that connection to self is the most important concept for therapists, counselors, social workers and other front line workers to grasp and master. In order to connect to clients and bring positive change as a result, one must first feel connected to themselves. The difficulty lies in instilling this ability in clinical workers and those in training. Understanding the concept and actually being connected are two very difficult tasks, especially in the society that exists today. Today’s world is constantly full of distraction and this has become the norm.

Imagine a 26 year old woman who recently finished her Masters in Social Work and is beginning a new clinical career. She’s anxious to excel in her new role, just broke up with her partner of 6 years, is having family problems and is looking for a place to live. How do we teach her to connect to herself when she is in a state of feeling overwhelmed with anxiety?

A colleague and dear friend of mine and I were discussing this and we recognized 3 things that seem to enhance one’s ability to be connected to themself:

  1. Live longer
  2. Do more shit
  3. Pay attention and reflect

Unfortunately these cannot be taught in an educational setting, with the exception of #3. Though we can modify training to include more aspects of self-reflection, rather than just clinical theory. Maybe cirricula should include more journaling, meditation, yoga and activities of this sort. Understanding abnormal psychology, interviewing techniques, cognition, etc. is extremely important, but many believe that connection to self is as important, if not moreso. As someone who has been through university and college in related fields, I definitely think there is more training required to foster this connection.

Connecting to oneself is especially difficult due to the abundance of distraction surrounding us all the time. Time not working is generally spent on cell phones, watching a new TV series or movie, reading, playing video games, or doing any other activity that takes you into a world other than your own. It seems that fewer and fewer people come home after work/school and discuss their day, eat dinner together, or reflect at all. This is a significant problem for clinical workers and clients alike.

My friend/colleague used to hold support groups for addicts in church basements and he provided some crucial insight into the concept of connection. Many of the addicts he worked with stated that leaving them alone with their ‘shit’ was literally the equivalent of leaving them alone in hell. When front line workers are learning to connect to themselves, it is also imperative that they learn how to safely establish this connection with their clients. If we push clients too hard in this area and don’t provide enough support and assistance, it will traumatize them and could do more harm than good. Understanding one’s past plays a major part in healing and recovery, but is one of the most difficult  and anxiety-provoking tasks to accomplish.

In a distracted world, it is more important now than ever that front line workers are taught the skills to become more connected to themselves. Therefore, cirricula and practical training for these careers need to reflect this. It is the only way to create effective helpers. How can someone connect with a client and teach self connection when they are not connected to themselves? Because self connection is of utmost importance, learning the concept, partaking in activities to foster connection, and generating ways to reduce distraction are logical first steps in training to become a clinical worker. The education system needs to establish safe and helpful ways to teach people self connection and improve treatment for clients in need.

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