I think that care and compassion motivate most people to enter helping fields like audiology, speech-language pathology, and deaf education. We want to make a difference, and we are on a mission to save the world! But is that always a good thing?
Sometimes, we take our savior complex too far. You’ve probably thought, or heard your colleagues say, things like:
“I just wish I could take them all home with me.”
“If only he had a better mom.”
“They just keep making bad decisions for their child.”
“I’m trying to help them, but they just won’t accept it.”
“What do you do about a family who just doesn’t care?”
And without a doubt, we all have children and families on our caseloads who perplex us, who trouble us, who keep us up at night. Families from difficult environments, families who let precious time slip away while paralyzed by grief, children who seem unfairly trapped in circumstances that are not conducive to their speech, language, and listening development. But if we think it’s us, the professionals, who are going to “save” them, we’ve got it all wrong.
Developing families’ over-dependence the provider, makes therapy all about YOU. What YOU can give them. How much the family needs YOU. What YOU think is best. YOUR expertise, YOUR decisions, YOUR version of what is right. It’s tempting, and tremendously flattering, to feel that a family just couldn’t do it without YOU. But does it help them in the long run?
If instead I work with families from a serving mindset, rather than a saving mindset, my goal is to make myself obsolete. Serving families makes it all about THEM. THEIR culture, THEIR goals, THEIR needs. My job is to assist and facilitate. I don’t have a cape, I don’t have superpowers. Nothing I’m doing is inherently magical, and if I can’t explain what I know well enough so that any parent can understand it, then I must not know it very well myself. In the end, if I do my job, the families won’t need me, and that’s how it should be.
Saving people makes them passive victims, damsels in distress, just waiting for the hero to come along. Serving is a two-way relationship: you ask for what you need, and I’ll give it to you. Saving says, “I’m gonna change this kid’s life!” Serving says, “The parents will. How lucky am I that I get to stand back and watch?” Saving is about me. Serving is about us.
It’s time to hang up your cape. Stop “saving” families, and start serving them instead.