I’ve recently been feeling like a cast member on Billions, the Showtime® series about a cut-throat hedge fund.
It’s not because I’m a wheeler dealer.
The hedge fund employs a full-time psychiatrist – a major role on the series – to counsel the stressed- out fund managers to get out of their own way and process their feelings. Obviously, the psychiatrist is expected to help the fund managers increase productivity and produce billions of dollars for the fund.
Just like those fictitious managers, I can sit myself down in the adjacent office of our in-house therapist and discuss my feelings. But that’s where the similarities end.
As many of you know, for many years, a licensed social worker has been an integral part of the Goidel Law Group team. In late 2021, Connie Wasserman, a licensed clinical social worker with more than a quarter-century of experience, joined our team and has been instrumental in assisting and advocating for our clients, their family members, and caregivers. Having her join our team was the realization of a professional dream. She is my proverbial, but caring, Lucy Van Pelt.
In honor of National Social Work Month, I want to commend and thank her, while highlighting the
importance of social work in an elder law practice.
Not a day goes by when we are not faced with difficult family dynamics and incredible physical, mental, or emotional health issues. Each client or family we counsel understandably expects us to possess the perfect solution to alleviate their stress, frustration, and burden. In crisis situations, perfect solutions rarely exist. However, we always strive to curate the optimal care plan and integrate it with the appropriate legal and financial options to fund necessary care. We spend hours listening to our clients’ issues and struggles, infusing our consultations with understanding and empathy. Our holistic approach -- which partners social work with legal planning -- is one of the main reasons why clients requiring care are referred to our practice.
But it honestly can feel daunting and exhausting. While I consider myself relatively tough, but equally compassionate, I didn’t recognize that taking on the issues of others may be taking a toll on my well- being. Prior to Connie’s arrival, nobody ever told me about the importance of processing my feelings. This was never taught in any law school class nor any continuing legal education course. Having had social work students as interns in the office for years, I understood the requirement that they engage in process recordings of their feelings. I also understood the need for social workers and other care providers to perform self-care. But really? Who has time for that?
My typical day consists of back-to-back meetings and phone calls with clients. There is little time to complete actual work, let alone room for processing. I’ve been repeatedly advised – and have learned -- that I need to make time. But that doesn’t mean I’m particularly compliant. As with many things in life, I’m working on it.
About two weeks ago I received a text from a close colleague advising that his young wife was being certified for home hospice after a long battle with cancer. I was just getting into my car to head to the office. During my twenty-minute commute, I could not stop feeling so awful and shedding a few tears thinking about his future loss. Upon entering the office, I plopped myself down in Connie’s office and told her about the situation. The tears continued. During the conversation, she helped me to process my feelings, reminding me about why the terrible news was causing such sadness. Without Connie’s presence, and her ability and willingness to listen and advise, I would have repressed my feelings to manage the tasks of the day.
Now, after Connie and I close a meeting fraught with strong emotions or difficult issues, we spend a few minutes processing our feelings. Yes, I know it sounds so touchy-feely.
I’m considering the purchase of a sofa for the office.