Saturday, June 30, 2007

Better Than Nothin'

by Tory Butterworth

When I first started in community mental health as an outpatient therapist, one of my clients had waited three months for his first session. This is part of what motivated me to take up the challenge of co-facilitating Newcomers' Group, where new patients got to be seen by someone (admittedly in a group) within a week of their initial assessment. To say it was a hard sell was an understatement, but we persisted, and the concept continued even after I'd left.

One of the things that kept my co-leader and I going on those difficult days when patients, staff, and mental health regulations seemed to conspire against us, was our motto. "After all, it's better than nothing," I'd repeat to myself or my co-leader. And despite its lacks, Newcomers Group gave help quickly to people who desperately needed it, and allowed us to keep an eye on the patients at greatest risk. It was better than waiting six to eight weeks to see someone individually.

After leaving that therapist job, I let go of our motto, hoping I would never need it again. When you're doing training, you have time to prepare in advance, right?

So much for wishful thinking.

Just as I was leaving work Monday, my boss approached me, looked me in the eye, and told me, "I need help." New boss, new job, not the sort of request you want to turn down. This week our organization is hosting the "Crisis Intervention Team" training for police officers, and someone from a collaborating agency dropped the ball and left us a presenter short. I was given a powerpoint on assessing suicide attempts and asked to present it the next day at 8 a.m.

As I was busy assessing whether I could politely refuse, our Newcomers' group motto came to mind. The trainees had already left for the day, so it was too late to ask them to come back at 9 a.m. rather than 8. My presentation, as inadequate as it was, was still better than nothing. I agreed and managed to make it through the presentation the next day more or less unscathed.

Based on audience reaction, if I had to do it again I would have organized the presentation differently. But, even if I had time to prepare, would I have figured that out before the event? I guess I'll never know.

I tell my perfectionist clients, "Some things need to be done right, others just need to be done." All I can say is, it was done.

Any mottos that get you through the day?


Annette said...

My motto has become "one day at a time." Sometimes it's "one minute at a time." After an abundance of family crises over the last few years with nary a break in between PLUS trying to get a novel written, life can get a little overwhelming. Too overwhelming to look at the whole picture. So I get done today what needs done today and put the rest off until tomorrow. Sounds a little like procrastination and maybe it is. I prefer to think of it as duty triage.

Martha Reed said...

Lately, with the new roof going on and the decisions for the new kitchen being considered, my daily mantra is "get 'er done". Long term I like: "Never Say Never" and "Adapt or Perish". And stepping up the plate, with little or no warning, takes bravery! But it sounds like you did just fine, and turned it into a learning experience. Bravo.

Tory said...

Annette: yes, I've found "one day at a time" is just too long. What about, "One moment at a time?"

Martha: I like the "adapt or perish." It keeps you flexible!

Cathy said...

I'm sure you did a great job with your presentation, Tory. I've always said that my daughter Emily can get mountains moved while I just think about it. My job is more perfect, maybe, but she gets it all done, and fast. I need to use her approach more often.