Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Enough: A Clinician's Perspective

Welcome to part two of our Good Enough Blog Series. Leading up to the world premiere of Good Enough on May 14, we are offering a weekly glimpse into the creative process behind crafting and staging a show that chronicles the true stories of five women living with depression or bipolar disorder. This week, we hear a clinician's perspective: that of licensed clinical social worker Lisa Sniderman. Lisa is a regular contributor to our blog, as well as one of our storytellers and a past member of our Mental Health Advisory Board. She presented a thorough and fascinating training workshop for the cast and crew of Good Enough, and we asked her to share her tremendous knowledge with our blog community.

On March 6, I presented the first training I've ever done for non-social-workers. My audience this time was 12 ETD-ers, most of whom are actors in Good Enough, an upcoming show about five women living with mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder). The experience held many lessons for me, as well. I had aimed to create a comprehensive primer on mood disorders, including ways to talk effectively with people in crisis. Honestly, I sweated a few bullets for the first hour or so of the training. I'd front-loaded it with densely packed information on medical diagnosis and treatment, and I was wishing I had led with something more scintillating and interactive.

Luckily, everyone hung with me, and several folks told me later that I'd given them some good information to soak up and digest. As I got to the part of the training about cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the importance of replacing negative self-talk with realistic self-talk, I was in my own mind going, "You're doing a fine job, Lisa. This training will be a learning experience." I was talking myself through talking about talking oneself through things! How's that for practicing what you preach?

Seriously, I've struggled with social phobia over the years, and it used to be impossible for me to get up in front of people. Or even talk in class. At my previous job, despite all the trainings and presentations I did routinely, the first half hour or so always brought on overactive bladder, desert mouth, and intestinal heebie-jeebies. So I took it in stride when I opened my mouth to begin the ETD training and found I had to forcibly unstick my tongue from my upper palate. In fact, I thought, "Actors probably understand this more than social workers!"

In the end, this training was a wonderful experience. It was fascinating to make note of which information was most (and least) helpful to the actors. Sometimes, those of us in "the field" get caught in a world that has little to do with what's going on outside our particular four walls (in my case, the emergency room of a large hospital). It can be easy to overemphasize someone's diagnosis, when that's not even an exact science. It can be even easier to rely on particular methods or "tricks" for interviewing people in crisis, rather than connecting via one's own human vulnerability. Throughout the training, I found that the energy in the room was coaxing me away from psychobabble and toward descriptions of the lived experience of recovery from mood disorders. That's definitely where my emphasis will be next time. That's where ETD places its emphasis, which is why I've been so drawn to ETD since its inception. Even though I have a mood disorder, I need reminders to respect other people's unique stories just as I respect my own.

To view the complete training presentation on mood disorders, click here.
 Good Enough is sponsored by Rebecca's Dream and runs May 14, 15, 21 & 22 at 7:30pm at Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theatre. We hope you will join us! For more information, click here.

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