Afterwards – Taking Our Leave

Sometimes working independently can be hard. I’ve recently finished a few projects with a number of organisations, and whilst the Occupational Therapists, Dementia Support Workers, Community Psychiatric Nurses etc continue their work with the clients in different contexts, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to properly digest the experience of the project and lay it down, especially when there may have been difficult emotions or situations.Words for Free by Boa-sorte&Careca (shared under creative commons licence) I have found that reflecting on the project while it is going helps enormously, not just for notes to look back on week by week, but to read back at the end. This can be particularly helpful when preparing a report. Not every organisation will want a report but it can be a good way of getting down on paper what happened so the project exists within the organisational memory, even if individual workers move on. Sometimes it may be appropriate to write several reports with different slants. I might write one for myself which contains fairly personal stuff about how I felt about my development, where I struggled, what I want to improve on, what I was proud of; another report might be very short and suitable for the organisation’s newsletter; a third might be lengthier, more formal and useful as a shared document from which to learn and develop new projects. Leave-taking can be sad, especially where good relationships have been formed and a group feels comfortable. One participant said on leaving the project ‘I feel quite emotional. You’ve all been so kind and so accepting’. Where there have been difficult relationships or uneasy emotions this too can be hard – from my point of view as a practitioner I will always be asking myself ‘could I have done this better – what could I have done to help this person settle better’ – there is a sense at the end of a project of having missed a chance. Which is why putting it down on the page can help. In The Artists’ Way Julia Cameron suggests a technique called ‘morning pages‘. Stream of consciousness writing I find can help get at the nub of the issue, and be a powerful learning tool for next time.

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