(1) Going it Alone
Considering the space between workshop participants in the auditorium, three to four seats apart, it seemed that hundreds attended alone, like me.
Another professor suggested an answer to What are the big questions that contemporary research professionals needs to answer? Dr. Richard Hart said we should investigate the efficacy of how well cognitive behavioral interventions work with various populations. The people we see in our practices are so diverse.
So true. But I would hypothesize, based upon (a) the National Institute of Mental Health's strong insistence that CBT has already been empirically validated; and (b) most trained clinicians are well-trained in it, if not in graduate school, then in continuing education; and (c) that we use it already without regard to race, color, nationality, etc., that all of these techniques work just fine (they do in my practice, which is diverse, and surely for my tribe), and if we try something and it doesn't work, we'll look into the war chest to try something else.
Meanwhile, it took me three tries to find someone who smiled when I raised my eyebrows as if to say, Anyone sitting here? Three's a charm.
(3) Kai Kight
This young man followed Dr. Wheeler's beginning. I sensed he was a musician when the notes wafted into the room, no violin in sight.
Young Kai, an innovative, original, yet classical artist walked gently into the room, his violin crooked under his neck, sawing away with the bow. He stopped right in front of my row to finish the piece but naturally, I couldn't get my phone out quickly enough to get a picture. But he punctuated his narrative with his music and many of us recorded him. Not sure it is kosher to post my video, so if it interests you, look for a YouTube video. I think there are recordings on his website. His CD's must be wonderful.
Kai reminded me of Giacometti bronze, something I'd see later in the sculpture gardens at the Smithsonian, studied many years ago in an art history class..
He performed his many notes and what he calls air violin, and spoke about his life, told us that about training in Beethoven and Mozart, the expectation, when you train as a classical musician, that you will execute each note to perfection.
He speaks in metaphors, and seemed to be saying that his emotion changed how he played, that he evolved into this extremely powerful, angry (that's what at least one of us detected) performer who did whatever the hell he wanted to do, when he took a bow into his hand.
Then, at a contest, he froze, could see nothing, hear nothing, couldn't play, certainly could't play what was expected. But what came out was pure, and real, and good, and from here a new talent and message evolved.
The lesson, according to Kai, is that There's beauty in beginnings, for he had to start over, become a new type of musician to fit into his new emotional world.
Therapists know the lesson well, that rationally, change, transformation, shouldn't be scary, it is what we want, as therapists, what we are reaching for. New beginnings, the start of transformations, can be beautiful indeed. And they feel good, as soon as we lose the fear.
And yes, his mom is fine. When we heard that, the applause, the foot stomping made another kind of music.
(5) Soledad O'brien and Uncovering
All mental health professionals, including clinical social workers, uncover stories, encourage personal narratives. That is half the incentive for joining the club. But we don't produce them, and we can't tell them over, not the way journalists do. No amount of release of information takes away that element of potential coercion. We can't encourage patients to let us tell their story. We can't evoke a Yes, you can tell my story. It is their story to tell, first of all. And for sure, most will say yes to please the therapist. That is the nature of therapeutic relationships. Gratitude- authority. Despite every attempt at egalitarianism.
So it is good that Ms. O'brien is doing the job.
Worth the price of my ticket to DC is her own story, alone. Soledad tells of being the child of a Black Cuban mom and a White Australian dad, and how her mother, launching her into 99.6666666% white populated schools, merely suggests that she and her siblings, blend in. How hard could that be?
Social workers trade in hope.Yes, we do. It is one of our defining attributes. There's something ridiculously positive about social workers.
We rented bikes the first day and cried at the memorials. Both our fathers served in the Pacific. It is by the grace of the Old Mighty that we are even here.
|The sheer emotion. . .|
|WWII, only one front|
|Viet Nam War Memorial, even more astounding|
|All the Rules Will Change-Robert Irwin|
So that's the kind of stuff you're treated to, if you pop for the conference fee and airfare to a place like Washington DC. Our nation's capital. The workshops will inspire, too, in different ways.
I saw Dr. Wheeler at the hotel that first night of the conference, complimented him on an entertaining, emotional first day. I also told him it was nice that he was footing the bill, since he was signing a credit card receipt. He laughed, but he got it, my reference to his remarks about being president of NASW, a job that can be hours of work on a given day or three for no pay.