Child and Youth
We pick up where we left off. Effective relationships are like that. There is a continuous flow to them which is interrupted, but not disturbed, by the absence of one of us. We go away. We come back. Things are different but still the same.
You’ve all seen this in your relationships with your close friends. Today you pick up on the interrupted conversation from yesterday, almost as if no time had passed. And if you have distant friends who you see only occasionally, you find yourself picking up with them without the awkwardness which one might expect to be there after a lapse of time; almost as if the weeks, the months, hadn’t intervened at all. You both walk into the room and settle back into your relationship without struggle or stress. Best friends are especially like that – oh, there is always ‘catching-up’ to do, but it is easy and flows in as simply a part of the conversation.
Mark Krueger has said that Child and Youth Care Workers do their counselling ‘on the go’. Fritz Redl called us ‘counsellors on the hoof’’. The way that therapeutic relationships can continue, interrupted but not disturbed, serves as a foundation for Relational Child and Youth Care practice.
I was talking with a group of Child and Youth Care Workers who had been asked to record their ‘counselling notes’, as a social worker or therapist might do – so that there would be a record should it be needed.
"Well, that’s going to be hard to do," one of them commented, "Because ‘counselling’ occurs over time and place in our work. We might begin a counselling ‘session’ in the morning as we are helping a young person settle in to the classroom. Pick it up when an incident arises later in the morning; follow-through with it at lunch break; come back to it during an afternoon intervention, and then continue as we walk back from school, and again a few times in the evening. Imagine that you are counselling a young person about ‘how to be in relationships’ or ‘how to manage his anger’: it happens all day long. You might have ten focused counselling moments in the same day, all connected, all part of the same conversation. How can you record notes from that?"
How indeed? But this is not about the recording, it is about doing.
Child and Youth Care practice involves the continuous use of daily life events for therapeutic purposes, and counselling in Child and Youth Care practice is integrated in to the flow of events. A little here, a little there; connected by the stream of the relationship between young person and worker. Counselling in Child and Youth Care occurs in little bits and pieces scattered throughout the day, or even the days, of our interactions with a young person or family. When your work involves the daily life events of the other, how can it be other than this?.
Our challenge is to maintain a relationship which can flow, interrupted but not disturbed, by the stream of time and events, allowing us, not to ‘pick up where we left off’ but to continue as a fluid stream from one moment to the next, whenever the ‘next’ might occur; in a moment, in an hour, in a day. To be in the moment as the moment occurs while still connecting the moment to the overall. Such is Child and Youth Care practice.