February Jam: Compassion, Empathy, & Boundaries

We just wrapped up February’s Jam Session, a one hour online conversation about having compassion and empathy while still having boundaries. Although it can be a little difficult to sum it up (and I do my best to sum it up in a blog after each Jam), it’s worth trying!

Tonight’s Jam Session was personal, and thought-provoking, involved laughter and contemplation, and led to some shifts in what I know, how I think, and how this all fits into my aims as a caring, empathetic professional.

In short, we talked about boundaries in practical terms as well as personal terms.

In practical ways, boundaries are about protecting our time, our work, and our balance. With social media expectations set so high, it can feel difficult to determine where these boundaries could be, especially early in our practice, and also early in a particular contact with a client. The challenges with these practical boundaries is knowing where to place them to have self-respect and respect for our own families, while not losing a client who has high expectations.

This can be made so challenging by the pressure to be available, and the perception that immediate responses are the expectation. In contrast, however, we realized tonight that as empathetic and caring clinicians who work to suspend judgement and welcome clients where they are at, we have the assumption that all of those in the health field adhere to such standards of care. That is, until we remind ourselves of the numerous stories from clients and others about poor treatment from professionals, harsh statements from care providers, and judgmental comments from those who are supposedly there to help. We asked ourselves tonight “why is the bar set so low?” and is it actually extraordinary to be reflective and non-judgmental? Shouldn’t everyone be practicing this way?

In personal terms, these boundaries are about placing reasonable limits on just how much we give to someone we are supporting. We can give endlessly of our energy, and still not necessarily be serving our clients well. However, we can also give clients and patients tools –the right questions at the right time, a way to approach problems, or a new perspective– that empowers them while not leading us to “own” the challenge. By giving the right things, we strengthen our clients while maintaining our boundaries.

As so often is the case, tonight’s Jam Session took side trails, one of which was about how women approach their own self care and health –what a low priority it can often be. To use the analogy again, why is the bar set so low?

We also talked about saying goodbye –how do clinician-patient relationships end? Are they difficult or easy? Are they planned, or unexpected? Is it definite, or does it ebb and flow depending on a client’s needs?

Yet again another evening well spent –and considering the demands on my time these days, that says a lot!

I invite you to join us at our next on-line Jam Session.

Jam Session: Dividing Time, Wed. March 20, 2019, 9:00-10:00pm

Description: How do you balance your time between devoted professional work time and being present for your stay at home kiddos? Whether you homeschool, or whether your kiddos are pre-school and full-schooled, the demands (and the stakes) are high when trying to meet expectations (our own, our kids’, and our clients’) from home.

Expect to share the challenges, master mind some solutions, and come away with a renewed sense that although there is no “pinnacle of perfection” when it comes to dividing our time, there may be steps to move towards “this feels better”.

How to sign up: register here to receive emails with links to upcoming Jam Sessions, interviews, and workshops.

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