One of the things I’ve loved (much more than I expected to) about this go-round with academia is the quality of assignments. I came into the MSW program expecting to read great articles and receive great lectures, which I have, but time and again the writing assignments have allowed for incredibly rich experiences. The interview I conducted today was one of those times. Sure–I’ll use the transcript to critique my therapeutic skills– but that intimidating prospect is buffered by the thrilling, inspiring, heartwarming, and all around energizing story that I just heard about the power of peer support and collaboration.
Training for any helping profession has its heavy points because we are charged with taking the time to understand inequity and suffering in both individuals and communities. This can become overwhelming for me. I believe that groups experience long-lasting psychic effects of admitting that portions of our population face profound suffering which could be avoided with meaningful action by the larger group. These effects can be intense and build empathy, but become most useful when tempered with celebration and praise of those collections of people that come together intentionally to support and revel in each other’s talents.
Without giving too much away, someone told me their story of involvement in a peer support organization and it expanded my understanding of peer support so much more quickly than any article or professional talk could have. Watching this person tell the story also taught me more about them than if I had simply asked for this person to describe themself. I think some of the self-care that social workers talk about so often can be pursued as part of our practice. We can take the time to just sit and enjoy the stories we hear. Then we can be bold and admit that in addition to social justice, we are also involved in social work because watching people help other people feel joy is just fun.