This time last year I’d not long arrived in Kansas and it’s been a long time since my last blog, I just want you all to know that this blog site is far from finished as there are many more reflections, topics and visits I want to share with you all. Obviously I’m home now and have been on Australian soil for some time. The title of this blog which was already next in line for publication is also true and reflective of why it’s been so long between posts… transitions, change and loss, but more about that later on…
Visiting Mount Saint Vincent Home I spent time reflecting on the impact of change, loss and transition. On my first day with them, the Clinical Director Kirk Ward, advised me that they were facing all sorts of changes, transitions and loss. It was coming up to the end of the school year and children were graduating out of the school, out of the program or going off on summer break for the day treatment clients, there had been some staff turnover resulting in a lot of retraining of new staff and to top it off the County had started to refer a slightly different demographic of child.
As a result of all of this, staff and clients were struggling. Emotions were running higher, people more reactive and that week staff and I often reflected on the struggle they faced given old strategies were not working as successfully as they had been. When we are faced with challenges as such it’s not surprising that we think it’s time to try something new or change things up. We can find ourselves feeling stressed and anxious about the seemingly little impact we are making. We know from my prior blogs and the work of Dr Perry and Dr Siegel that the more stressed we become the more reactive we become. The more reactive we become the less we are able to really think creatively and reflectively about a situation. This is a universal human phenomenon, not only does it happen to our troubled and traumatised clients, but it happens for every one of us.
When we are stressed and reactive, the danger in changing it up or trying something new is further increasing the uncertainty, predictability and routine and in turn further exacerbating stress levels and reactivity of all involved. I’m not saying that we should always soldier on and hold firm to our way of operating, not in the least as it could very well be the way we are doing things is problematic or part of the issue. What I am saying though is that we need to take space, calm ourselves so to really be able to think more reflectively and creatively about what we are doing, and how we move forward in making a difference in the lives of others.
My time with Mount Saint Vincent home highlighted again the absolute importance of staff being emotionally regulated and emotionally safe within themselves. The ability to take time as a staffing group, reflect and seek supervision and manage ourselves is paramount in the treatment, care and healing of trauma. I was impressed with the clinical, residential and educational team at Mount Saint Vincent and their ability to support children and young people at times of emotional and behavioural escalation. Staff would come away from these situations and interactions concerned and worried for the wellbeing of the children, the success of their interventions, in turn requiring regulation and support from each other and their management. However when engaged and interacting with the young people in their program and the emotional and behavioural distress these kids demonstrated, the Mount Saint Vincent staff were focussed, centred, and on the whole all about co regulating these kids. I witnessed clever use of movement, music, and sensory input to keep young people regulated and/or regulate them.
The challenges facing Mount Saint Vincent during my visit could easily have derailed them, left them focussing on new and different strategies. I’m not saying as a program emotions weren’t running high and the staffing group were certainly concerned, but I watched them rally together and co regulate each other so as to not to let the transitions, chaos and loss their program was experiencing result in organisational reactivity, but instead continue in the provision of safe, predictable and thoughtful care to their clients.