Wednesday, 23 May 2007


Having closely viewed some thought-provoking posts by both Ms Melancholy and Stray, I got to thinking about my own experience as a Mental Health Worker in various roles and settings, stretching back almost a decade and a half. Its not beyond the realms of possibility that I may publish some posts in the near future about this. As yet, I'm not sure precisely what form this/these might take.

Whatever I might come up with, here's what I'm posting as a starting point: I don't want to do it anymore. The job, that is.

Working in this area can be very challenging and stressful - though not for the reasons people tend to think. I think I've grown and learned something from the most difficult and challenging situations and interactions with people. I'm sure I've discovered plenty about myself as well. Then there's the wealth of times when things go well, are positive, when people move forwards in all sorts of ways (or even just stop moving backwards quite so quickly). Its not the clients (or whatever term you wish to use) that are making me want to leave, far from it.

The structure of service provision - and, crucially, funding - has changed in recent years. It has led to the provision of an increasingly target-based, outcome-led service which to my mind treats people more as statistics than individuals. I've no problem with accountability and so forth, but I think the balance has tipped too far. What targets can you set for the days when taking the time to listen or just being there for someone may be what they need at that particular moment in time? No boxes get ticked for these moments, no clear progress can necessarily be measured: no markers for what can be a valuable experience upon which rapport (and other benefits) may be built. Until very recently however, these changes haven't had such an impact on my work, and again don't constitute the reason that I want to get out.

The amount of paperwork we now have to complete is astonishing. Everything has to be signed for and agreed, and the time taken to carry this out ("did you just breathe out then? You need to sign this box here...and here if you breathe in again") regularly gets in the way of the work that we're supposed to be doing. It also reflects on the changes mentioned above: it seems less important to be supporting individuals, than to be seen to be supporting individuals, and having their signature to prove it. Its a pain, and its tedious. Even so, its do-able - just . As above though, this on its own or in combination with any of my other moans, is not reason enough for my wishing to bid it all farewell.

The wages? Don't even go there.

I could go on, but it would be sidestepping. The thing is, there's just something besides all this which, if I ignore it, will be to my peril.

Its me. There's not enough of me in this job, not anymore. I'm not fulfilled, my heart is no longer in it. There are other things I need to do, and I need to find out how. I need to get back to being seriously creative. I need a real change. Apart from applying for other jobs, I'm puzzling at the moment as to precisely how to go about it. I'm not even asking for answers or suggestions from anyone who might read this: I'm just posting on where I'm at right now. Perhaps this will serve as my own marker from which I can start moving forwards (or even sideways). I hope so.


PurpleSparkleBright said...

Loving your blog. My experience in changing careers has been recent and refreshing. I'd say go for it. Meanwhile, if you have never threaded beads before, why not try it? Beads are pretty and they do not talk back. Arranging them soothes. A new career may pop into your head whilst doing so :)

Man.with.the.meter said...

I found the same thing in teaching when I was abroad.
In one school, to actually carry out the administration required took about 15/20% of the in class time. Crazy.
Heisenberg tells us that measuring actually has an effect on what you are measuring anyway.
Conversely, I had no problems with targets when I worked in Sales and Marketing - it's the name of the game there.
So, as usual, horses for courses.
It's just that, in teaching, or your own work, targets lead to frustration for the person who wants to 'work with people'.
It's not gonna change and, if your heart is not in it, it's time to get out.
The government is losing piles of able people in the quest to Americanise our public services.
You will just be another statistic to be measured.

trousers said...

Thanks purple, glad you've had a look at the blog - I don't have beads but I've got equivalents. Mainly walking, and thinking. Needs to translate though, into doing.

man.with etc - very true on many points. I'm interested in the point about Heisenberg as well for a whole number of reasons.

Man.with.the.meter said...

I know a lot about Heisenberg - but I am not certain about it.

To give more detail about measuring.
In the particular school I mentioned I had to give a mark for reading, writing, listening and comprehension for every single lesson - with up to 15 in the class.
So, you can see that you are fighting a losing battle in trying to keep up with it all, in that situation.

The fault originated in whatever management consultant had been able to sell them a 'package' which would solve all the statistical analysis problems that they perceived.
I had to laugh at it because, in an earlier career, I could easily have been the sales guy who had sold them just such a package.
Suffice to say I could see the evil hand of the sales guy in the stuff we were getting asked to do.
As is very common, the people who formulated that particular package obviously had no idea of what the work actually involved.

trousers said...

Yep, we had a package sold to us. There was no consultation. Much of it is irrelevant and intrusive and its all unwieldy. Most of our previous paperwork had done the job, but perhaps just needed some fine tuning to bring it up to the requirements of the funders.
Now, we're about to be audited based on our use of the new stuff. If the audit doesn't go well (and I'll be surprised if it does) then I won't have this job much longer anyway, by the looks of it.

We'll see.

zola a social thing said...

Not sure if this fits but fuck it I will post it anyway :-
A few years back I found myself at a European event where "experts" were getting paid for their freebe holiday of words and texts.
To cut a long story short I found myself "up against" a US therapist and on the damned stage for all to see. He introduced himself as a professional (my bullshit recorder began bleeping a warning). Then he yapped about "Clinical Marriage and Family Therapy".
When it came to introduce myself I began by saying that I failed to see why anybody wants a "Clinical Marriage" ......... the room went silent with glaring eyes.

I think I was at the wrong conference. no doubt pissed again.

Ms Melancholy said...

I think I get it trousers. We want to take as much of ourselves to work as we can. The more of ourselves we have to leave at home, generally the more unhappy we are. You have mentioned going walking in the Dales before? Let me know next time you are up here - I find walking is good for my soul too.

trousers said...

Zola, that's precisely the sort of thing I would have said - or been tempted to say - in that situation. Thankfully I've never had quite so many eyes glaring at me at such a moment..

Ms Melancholy, absolutely. I'm doing some thinking on that (how much you take with you) at the moment. As for the Dales - it's a deal!

Prada Pixie said...

I can identify with what your saying trousers, as a therapist and a manager. I know which job I enjoy most and think is more valuable.And it's not the manager! Trouble is it pays the bills, which could be seen as a cop out, but nontheless true. But what I would say in it's defence is that if we cannot prove through the endless paper work that we are effective then we will do ourselves out of jobs, as the institutions are wanting an ever cheaper service in their endless cost cutting, unless you can prove 'your worth it' sort of way.

trousers said...

Hi prada. I've been a manager too, in the same field - so I've had the experience of earning plenty. Well, enough to keep me going for a while anyway. It certainly does no harm to have more than one viewpoint: I think what you're saying is true enough, absolutely - but this has become much more of a "me" thing.

Its no longer about the money or all those other things, its more about the future direction I want to take in order to feel fulfilled, and this is no longer it.

So in that respect, although it would cause a hell of a lot of short term hassle, I don't personally feel that doing myself out of a job would be such a problem in the longer term.

Oh, and thanks for coming to visit - do stop by again :)