“You Don’t Understand…”

Whether we are willing to admit it or not, our clients are probably right.

The feeling of being misunderstood or that nobody understands (Note that these two are different!) is probably MUCH more common than we’d like to believe.

In a perfect world, we have the job we currently hold because we happen to be good listeners that truly understand.

Well, the world isn’t perfect.

In a perfect world, I would have caught it and steered us back on track immediately.

Didn’t I just tell you the world isn’t perfect?

Besides, we can’t control how they feel or perceive things.

Over the years, I have had “You Don’t Understand” dished out to me in a garden-variety of ways. They were not pretty most of the time (Thankfully, I’ve never been shoved against a wall for that reason…yet) but these moments of “outburst” could be “productive.” In a way, it was better than having someone nod incessantly while feeling more confused and alone than ever.

Perhaps I will never understand. Perhaps you don’t understand what you’re trying to understand either. Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether I “really” understand or not.

My goal is to show you that not everybody will freak out or run away when you try to express your frustration, disappointment, or hopelessness (Well, unless a chair is coming my way or you are aiming for the window…)

We can’t always afford months of silence before rebuilding what was lost. Long-term care settings and family relationships sometimes give us that psychosocial context to “try again.” In outpatient settings, the window of opportunity is much smaller.

I hope there’s still time for us.


About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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