Self-Awareness Reflective

Garfat (1998), describes being self-aware as a constant process, requiring that CYC's are open to checking in, paying attention to what's happening within, and what this might means. Garfat and Charles (2007), explain how it wasn't long ago "self" was used in a more superficial way, and more emphasis is now placed on "self" being an essential element. They say "who am I?" is paramount in CYC's reflecting on how they're perceived, and what they might want to learn about themselves.

It took challenging situations to arise with clients to see where there was room for growth in my self-awareness so I could be truly present and engaged.

Shaw (2019), discusses behviour and needs, and unlearning that needs to happen to understand behaviors serves a purpose, to meet a need. This is part of the essence of what we do, especially in treatment. We need to continue to check in with ourselves so we're not getting in our own way when supporting.

When we become self-aware we're less likely to become defensive when given feedback around how we're perceived.

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Garfat and Charles (2007), say knowing our blind spots are an important part of self-awareness used by effective CYC's. A better understanding of who we are and what impacts us increases the likelihood we can handle our blind spots in the moment. My team struggles at times to recognize how their use of "self" plays a huge part in the outcome of interventions we use.

I often reflect on how to improve my approach, and seek out feedback; considering what works/doesn't work, and understanding one approach doesn't work for all.

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In the past I would say I was sensitive in accepting feedback; improved understanding of who I am and what my intentions are allowed me to filter what I could improve upon. A challenge has been managing my physiological response when faced with aggression. Historically the flight/fight/freeze happened, making it challenging to attend to clients in the moment. Having completed counseling around this, I've realized permitting this arousal to happen, and not attempting to fight it has taken the pressure off, and allowed it pass more quickly and easily, allowing me to be effective in my role.

My employer offers opportunities to support this journey: training around how to work with clients with many different mental health challenges; we're utilizing a book called "Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents". One of the building blocks in the attachment section discusses "Caregiver Affect Management". I have found many useful tools, such as "taking a break from conflict", which I find can also easily translate when supporting caregivers with their own affect.

Garfat (1998), says CYC's bring "self" wherever they go, meaning they relate meaningful characteristics of themselves, which are useful in their work with youth. When we're able to access our own feelings from our past experiences we're better able to express genuine empathy with our youth. Kruger (1991), considers discovering, using and observing the "self" in the moment, meaning when we're interacting with others on an emotional level, we're actually experiencing ourselves.

I have found staff who make the most meaningful connections with clients are willing to be with them in the best and worst of times, without attempting to relate in a way that becomes all about them, without judgment, and maintaining an inherent positive regard, regardless of what's shared.

Some staff say they don't get personal with clients. Although I agree boundaries are necessary in establishing healthy, working relationships with clients, it's sometimes essential to reflect on my own personal experiences to be able to relate to them. I do think it's important to keep in mind we sometimes walk a fine line between identifying and over identifying. For instance, I wouldn't become more emotional than my clients when they're upset about something.

When I'm trying to manage many responsibilities, it can be more challenging to bring my "self" in every moment. I work with an effective team; we support each other, knowing we all have good days and days when we're not as "on", and it's not always possible to "leave it at the door". When I'm "on" I'm able to easily empathize with my clients. I've improved in assessing when my clients are seeking collaboration to find solutions, and when they just need to be heard. A challenge for me is to try not to align myself more with my clients than their primary caregivers, regardless of their resistance in the treatment process.

Dimotof (2000), describes resistance as being a natural response when change happens, and that it's important for CYC's to become more creative in working with it instead if against it. I can appreciate this lens, and I plan to take this into my current work with a resistant family. I think the essence of this section in the article is about not giving when it becomes challenging.

Change occurs for a reason, and effective CYC's have an ability to see how and why this happens; possibly due to, rewards and punishments, external incentive, or maybe because the youth has "bottomed out." We should consider why we think change occurs and what our idea of change is (Garfat, 1998).

We're constantly reflecting upon this at work. For example, a client who was self-harming suddenly stopped. We could assume the reason is positive, however, we're aware C.A.S. visited her family regarding an allegation she made against her parents. Is she afraid of being removed from home and doesn't want to do anything that will bring negative attention her way? Are the harm reduction strategies working? She struggles with expressing this with us. Phlean (2001), discusses his interactions with Benny's father reading. If he hadn't approached his father he might've assumed why Benny wasn't reading at his age. Sensitively challenging his father's viewpoint made all the difference. He didn't tell his father what to think, which might not have been sustainable.

Garfat (2007), discusses how we view the role of the family, and how it's changed immensely throughout the last few decades. He talks about primary caregivers being seen as impacted by the larger system and as individuals who have needs within the family unit. I think my workplace has a ways to go in terms of how we work with families. I realize we're still used to viewing the youth as the client, and see the primary caregivers as often being the direct cause for their children's "issues".

Residential is where the "honeymoon" ends and real work begins. Clients eventually show us who they really are; a gift we're given to learn about and support them. Seeing "the big picture", I recognize challenges are part of the process, and use strengths, where possible, to help them overcome them. A challenge is to assess when change should occur; just because it might seem maladaptive, it's still important to assess whether or not it should be changed since it's meeting a need. Maybe all that needs to change is the concerning behaviour, while keeping at the forefront the true need to be met.

I'll advocate that residential staff be part of sessions with the families and social workers so we can establish and maintain a better understanding of family roles.


  • Dimotof, L (2000). Values and attitudes in family work.
  • Garfat, T. (1998). The Effective Child and Youth Care Intervention. Published by the Journal of
  • Child and Youth Care, as Vol. 12 (1 & 2), 1 - 122.
  • Garfat, T. (2007). A short history of CYC Involvement with Families.
  • Garfat, T., & Charles, G. (2007). Self in Child and Youth Care Practice.
  • Krueger, M. (1991). Central themes in Child and Youth Care. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 5(1), 77-88.
  • Phelan, J. (2001). My introduction to family systems theory.
  • Shaw, K. (2019). Lesson 3. Behaviour and Needs. Retrieved from Lesson Notes.
Updated: May 19, 2021
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Self-Awareness Reflective. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved from

Self-Awareness Reflective essay
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