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Working with mentally ill people in the community is a challenging task. However, professionals working with mentally ill have to impact them positively despite the challenges they experience. Moreover, mental health professionals are prevalent to burnout and impairment which can have a negative effect on their work. Such impairments have the capacity to undermine the efficacy of their therapeutic practice (Richards, Campenni & Muse-Burke, 2010). The professionals can as well be susceptible to depression, substance abuse, and vicarious trauma among other problems. This calls for the need to engage in self-awareness. For the mental health professionals to provide care of high quality to the mentally ill, they have to possess related skills necessary for therapeutic settings. Meeting the professional standards of self-efficacy and autonomy as stipulated by the American Nurses Association is essential. Although education instills related skills and knowledge, the professional can as well put personal determination to increase and improve various individual characteristics. One of such characteristics that a mental health professional can improve is the self-awareness. Due to the challenges experienced by mental health professionals when dealing with mentally ill individuals, it is important and beneficial to carry out self-awareness and reflection.
Importance and Benefits of Self Awareness
According to Richards, Campenni, and Muse-Burke (2010), self-awareness is "knowledge about oneself" (p. 250). There are other researchers who have defined self-awareness as having knowledge about the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors about oneself. As stated by Delius (2011), self-awareness is a therapeutic tool that helps one examine him or herself. In various professionals, self-awareness is essential and aids in the achievement of success.
The mental health professional has been found to be vulnerable to depression as they work with mentally ill patients. There is hence the need to find a suitable way to address the possible depression that can arise. One of the importance of self-awareness is that it increases the general wellness of mental health professionals. An increase in the general wellness further leads to the decline in the depression levels and anxiety. Self-awareness improves the satisfaction levels of and helps the body to cope up with the body functioning and possible stress. Improved knowledge about oneself, helps in improving trust for an individual instinct (Richards, Campenni & Muse-Burke, 2010). An individual comes to understand the inner being and this deepens the understanding of oneself. One learns how to alienate the raw emotions from the gut feelings and as such, the professional becomes more satisfied. A satisfied worker is more productive than a dissatisfied worker. Hence, through the self-awareness, the mental health professional becomes more productive and provides care of higher quality. In their study, Ahmed and Elmasri (2011) Found that self-efficacy is linked to higher performance among professionals.
When people are aware of their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, they are in a better position to maintain and form relationships that are healthy among the patients, and the health professionals. This is attributed to the ability of the self-awareness to enable an individual to discover the various paths that strengthen relationships and life (Ahmed & Elmasri, 2011). Hence, self-awareness leads to success in care provision, growth in professional life and improved quality of care to patients. Ahmed and Elmasri (2011) posit that self-awareness is a therapeutic tool that leads to the development of the patient's trust as well as promoting a sense of well-being. With improved well-being, mental health professionals become more effective in their professional and personal lives.
In addition, self-awareness is beneficial in establishing proper communication between the patient and the health worker. The promotion of god behaviors between mental health professionals and patients is an essential source of effective communication within the healthcare facility. Moreover, a proper and conducive environment is critical in maintaining an effective communication process. When self-awareness is not practiced, the relationship between the worker and the patient will be poor and this would consequently lead to poor communication. It is hence vital to establish a proper worker-patient relationship through self-awareness in order to create an effective communication process.
Self-awareness and Critical Self-reflection for Mental Health Professionals
A common strategy that mental health professionals use in their therapeutic practice is self-reflection. Personal reflection helps in unraveling the mistakes from past practice and develop better ways to address them and improve their work. Hence, reflecting is one of the most essential things that the professionals should include in their practice. Among nursing staff working in mental health facilities, self-reflection empowers them and acts as a source of learning, validation, energy, hope, and creativity (Gabrielson & Gustafsson, 2019).
In a similar way that self-awareness improves the relationship between professionals and the patents, so does a personal reflection. According to Burnard (2012), healthcare workers collaborate with the patients and share their experience hence enriching their relationship. The improvement of the patient-health worker relationship further enhances the communication process in terms of how they share information and engage with each other.
The aim of the personal reflection is to improve the practice as well as learn from the various experiences that one encounters in the workplace. Gabrielson and Gustafsson (2019) stated that when professionals engage in self-reflection, they use their past experiences to learn and develop better capabilities and willingness to engage in the reflection.
To achieve effective reflection, one must possess excellent analytical skills that aids in identifying the areas of weakness and areas that need improvement. In their study, Bennett-Levy and Thwaites (2007) stated that a reflective system is triggered by a problem that results in a certain action. For instance, if the therapeutic relationship is not effective, a mental health professional will engage in self-reflection to understand the problem and how well to address them, create and maintain an effective relationship. An effective self-reflection returns to a solution that facilitates ongoing therapist skill development.
Prior experience is critical in providing health care services to patients since it encompasses a broad learning perspective. In this regard, the practice of self-reflection helps in the improvement of practice. In addition, self-reflection improves the learning process. When the self-reflection process is focused on making the patient care better, it aids in the expansion and development of therapeutic knowledge and skills. As stated by Jayatilleke and Mackie (2012) self-reflection is essential in promoting optimal effectiveness and efficiency in the dynamic and hence evolving health care system. Since self-reflection captivate a culture of learning about oneself, it acts a reminder to the mental health professionals that learning is a continuous process to be carried out daily without an endpoint. Significantly, self-reflection is the precursor to self-awareness. A person who performs self-reflection gets to understand oneself and hence deepen the understanding of the inner self. Besides, the practice of self-awareness improves the knowledge of oneself. According to Jayatilleke and Mackie (2012) reflection enhances personal development by leading to self-awareness. In another study, Gabrielson and Gustafsson (2019) posited that reflective practices improve quality of care by promoting self-awareness.
Personal Values and Biases Influence on Helping Relationship
Values entail attitudes and beliefs that give an individual the direction to live everyday life. Since the values give an individual the direction, it is essential for a mental health professional to align them towards to goals of care. Besides, values can influence the work of a counselor and as such affect the value imposition. As stated by Corey, G., Corey, M. & Callanan (2007) personal values and beliefs can have serious effects on the clients or even contaminate the process of counseling. Conversely, the clients possess different worldview to those of the counselor. As a result, the counselor needs to identify personal values and beliefs that are likely to impede the delivery of counseling services to the clients. Moreover, the counselor needs to appreciate the values possessed by the client.
Various personal values come to my attention throughout my participation in the module. Some of the personal values include being honest and fair when dealing with clients. Being openly minded helps in speaking freely to the clients and establishing a positive consistence. However, open-mindedness comes along when the counselor is empathic and accepting to the clients. Have realized that I am open-minded which was informed by my being empathic, accepting and understanding to the clients. I realized that while positive values and beliefs are critical in helping relationships, negative values and beliefs can destroy that very relationship. For instance, I found that I easily get shocked and disgusted when the client says something that happened to them. However, I have come to realize that such behaviors make the client feel judged and unsupported and hence may destroy the helping relationship.
One of the biases that have noted in me is that I tend to force the clients into adopting my attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Irrespective of whether the values are consistent with those of the clients, I find myself imposing my values to them during therapeutic care. According to Corey, G., Corey, M., and Callanan (2007), the counselor's attempt to influence the client to adopt their values is known as value imposition. This type of bias influence the helping relationship negatively if the values do not agree but if the values agree with those of the client the influence is positive. The practice of value imposition is not recommended and counselors are cautioned against it by the ACA standard. The practice shows lack of respect for the diversity of clients and fails to appreciate that clients are from a different cultural and religious background which may not share common goals and as such affect the care delivery to the client.
A mental health professional who is non-bias and non-judgmental helps in establishing and building a strong and positive working relationship with the clients. When both the counselor and the client understand their personal values and beliefs, they aid in realizing that different people have different values and beliefs and this establishes positive and good helping relationship.
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