I am in week 3 of a clinical internship that is taking place in the Senior Behavioral Health Unit of a hospital in the next town. It is unique opportunity which is proving to be as much a treasure as it is an initiation.
I now know in my true heart rather than just in my abstract mind that patients presenting with mental illness are truly dynamic beings who move in and out of different emotional, mental, and behavioral states and display many facets of themselves at many times.
People I have known, myself included, who have experienced both acute and chronic manifestations of anxiety, depression, and other mental illness conditions are too often classified by their symptoms and rarely seen as the beings of potential and diversity that they are. With people we know, we often become adjusted to working around these states of being rather than with them. With strangers, we may never get past our initial one-dimensional perceptions of their lives based on what we see in their behavior. In the client and practitioner relationship, we can explore these dynamics and facilitate the client's own discovery of context and solutions.
Working directly with this population makes it impossible to stay locked in the limited view of them I described above. When I learned the history of this discipline and its roots in mental health, I was excited and hoped to see it work with this population more directly in my career. To begin to do it so soon is a true privilege. In my brief time here so far I have seen people go, in days, from being bed-bound by despair to offering kindness to their peers. I've seen them go back into the world with new hope and new purpose. I've seen connections to family rebuilt and dormant talents remembered, even shared bravely. What I've learned is that all it takes to begin to help a client transform into a more functional mode of being is a small store of patience, a seed of hope, a small offering of time and effort, and the willingness to give true audience.
Miracles are possible in this setting, I can tell you that. Maybe they’re possible in every human life.