I work closely with behavioral health, and addiction treatment. What I often hear from people upon admission to different facilities, is a long list of the foods they can’t, or won’t eat. The most important thing for me to remember in these situations is to not become frustrated, or judgmental with the clients when I’m well aware of the toxic substances they’ve been putting in their body; “Oh but you won’t eat ___,” is a statement that pops into my head sometimes. Often what I have to do is help these people get comfortable with talking to me about their food allergies, preferences and whether or not I can really deliver enough nutrients in a meal due to their restrictions.
It’s easy to get caught in the web of arguing about whether a restricted diet supplies enough nutrients and forget about what may be going on with them to cause them to self-restrict so severely. What I want to provide most at these times is a calm and knowledgeable persona to help them wade through the information they might have.
What comes out of these one-on-one conversations
is a person more willing to trust me, and loosens their personally imposed dietary restrictions. One of my favorite questions to ask is; “what happens when you eat ____?”, whenever I’m told about food allergies. What I’ve discovered about patiently waiting out my own impulses to be authoritative, is a person on the other side of the conversation who really wants to understand their diet and how food affects their health issues. I am often given the opportunity to share my knowledge without being pushy and really be of service to someone.
With education comes the attitude and idea that we know everything there is to know and our clients ought to listen to us. The quickest way to get someone to not listen to any suggestions I might have, is to act like I know everything and not listen to their concerns.
Working with clients in a behavioral health setting can be humbling if humility isn’t practiced. Acting like we have all the answers, is the surest way to remove yourself from a position of assistance. The best way I know to gain the trust and confidence of people in my facility is to be respectful of their needs and make gentle suggestions for change when necessary. And learning something new along the way is always an excellent bonus!
The world of behavioral health isn’t as scary or intimidating as a person might think if they haven’t been in it, and many of the people are a lot like me; with an attitude of "don’t tell me what to do." The act of humility allows for an honest and open dialogue; without the insistence that one of us in the authority, and the other better listen up. I am allowed in my line of work, to always be learning about others and myself. Helping someone get moving in the direction they want to go in, is a beautiful experience.
To work in this field takes a little finesse and a lot of heart. And I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world. I'm one of the lucky few who get to do what they love.
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