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What I've learned by working overseas

Posted Jun 16 2009 12:00am
Recently a psychologist from the Czech Republic completed a month-long training program at The Center for Family Development. I’ve been reflecting on how training professionals from other countries here at the Center, and my travels training others overseas has affected my work I’ve trained professionals from any countries: Canada, Singapore, Australia, Bermuda, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Those of you who teach may have an experience similar to mine; that teaching keeps my thinking fresh, current, and in an ongoing process of development. Having to explain and demonstrate treatment principles causes me to think about my work and the work of others in a fresh and deep way. It also prods me to read and research. Training professionals from other nations who have a different culture, history, and language has enriched my work in a number of ways. It causes me to think about the differences inChild Welfare policies
Child Welfare practices
Effects of different experiences on child development
Universals
The meaning of symptoms
The meaning of words

Some examples of the differences I’ve noticed in child welfare policy and practice include the following. In the US many domestically adopted children receive a subsidy from the state. This is to encourage families to adopt since adoption is preferable to “permanent” foster care. Many other nations do not provide adoption subsidies and we find that their placement rates are much lower than in the US and the length of time children spend in care is much longer. The Czech Republic uses primarily institutional care for children and not foster care. In some countries the government places children only within their community (ethnic and religious).

My travels and training at the Center have led me to think much more precisely about language. For example, some concepts and words in our language are very difficult to translate into the other language, For example, the concept “Dyadic” in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy cannot be translated into Finnish. I think much more precisely about language in my practice and I listen carefully to words and the many meanings of similar words. Words define and give meaning to experiences and define one’s reality. Different words lead to different meanings and different realities, even though the objective experiences may be the same in treatment now I focus a lot on the words families and children us and how that affects relationships for good and bad. For example, how often have you heard a child say, “I was bad,” instead of “I did something bad/wrong.” What a difference that represents. Or, “When I think about John and my kids,” versus “When I think about John and my other sons.” My work overseas as made me more open to ambiguity in language and to then explore that ambiguity (“What do you mean by xxxx,” or “Does that mean xxxx?”). I find that clarifying those ambiguities is helpful for development and healing. Discussing the meaning of events, experiences, and words with families and helping them discuss that among themselves seems to help increase their reflective function, empathy, and insightfulness.
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