Deborah Homburg, CEO of Buoyancy Foundation, explains what ‘self care’ might look like in relation to drug and alcohol use – of others or own. 9.44 mins. Also – read article below by Deborah Homburg on the Buoyancy Conversations approach, for the ‘Selling Sickness’ Confernce in Amsterdam, October 2010.Download (243)
Buoyancyconversations.com approach by Deborah Homburg, Buoyancy Foundation CEO
The Buoyancy Foundation is a drug and alcohol agency located in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, whose main activity is to offer counselling to people affected by substance use.
We are concerned to make a contribution to our clients, but as anyone with experience in human services knows, this is not as straightforward as it might seem. At least there are a number of things we do not want to do, among them being to make our clients dependent on us, or to use the client in some way for our own advantage, or to collaborate with the client in assisting them to avoid the consequences of their life choices, all of which we may do if not alert. Another pitfall would be to decide what life choices would be better for the client and attempt to convince him or her to choose them: For example, if a client appears to be trashing their life via drug use, it is natural to want to convince them to stop taking drugs.
Every drug and alcohol worker has been confronted with the desire to do one or other of these things, and being human, many of us have succumbed. And if these strategies worked, in interests of the client we should adopt them, but the fact is they do not work.
One impact of these strategies is to shield the client from the consequences of their life choices and thus the possibility of being responsible. We say that unless the person sees that they were the source of their life so far, they are cheated of the opportunity to design their future. It’s not that clients, by and large, are blind to the consequences of their drug use. Often, they hope that they can continue to engage with drugs, whilst avoiding the consequences. If the consequences are in fact inevitable, we would not be empowering clients if we colluded with them in this aim.
At Buoyancy we stand in the following three principles: ‘nothing wrong’, ‘people are able’ and ‘self care’.
‘Nothing wrong’ aims to take morality out of the mix, and instead to focus on the consequences of actions.
‘People are able’ stands for the possibility of people being capable of choosing actions and discerning consequences.
‘Self care’ resonates with the theme of this Conference. We are interested in empowering people to deal with life, not making them dependent on our expert diagnoses and prescriptions, whether pharmacological or not. Ultimately, the kind of care that makes a difference will ultimately be seen to be self care, that is, confronting the facts of one’s life situation, discovering what actions are available and via experiment, discovering what works to deal with one’s issues. In our experience, what gets uncovered is generally a surprise to the clinician, and not what we would have assumed.
In practice this often means periods of time listening to clients, with the aim of discerning what kind of future they want for themselves and working in partnership with them on steps towards that future. Clients have remarked that staff at Buoyancy do not seem to want anything from them or want anything for them, except what they themselves want. One client remarked that he spent 18 months waiting to be told what to do with his life, until it dawned on him that he wasn’t going to be told. At that point he realized that he would have to sort that out for himself.
Another practical way of assisting self care is to facilitate access to information and materials that clients can use independent of us. We make available a wide range of resources that enable people to experiment, to start seeing things differently and to engage powerfully with their lives. Our website, www.buoyancyconversations.com, is one way we are making resources for self-care available worldwide via the Internet.