Hello and welcome to Fireside Chats with extraordinary people doing amazing things with Intentional Creativity!
Among those extraordinary people is child welfare social worker, Kim Ragen, a Program Manager in Emergency Response in Orange County, California. She has done this work for 21 years because she wanted to make a difference in the world. An inspiring human being, she overcame her initial nervousness to paint in her ongoing search to find ways to help social workers she works with find tools for rejuvenation and self-care from the difficult work they do.
Tell us, why did you take this workshop?
I originally took the Healing the Healer workshop because Rachel made me. Just kidding! We worked together when she was an attorney in Orange County. She told me about her new work with Intentional Creativity and I was intrigued by it. I was very curious about the impact the workshop would have on the social workers I work with who are often in stressful and emotionally charged situations.
So have you ever painted before?
No and I hesitated at first, thinking I couldn’t do it. But once we got started and I began to get immersed in the process, my hesitation disappeared. When I stood in front of the blank canvas, I realized I could paint anything I wanted and that was very freeing. The fun, structured environment that Rachel created also allowed me to relax into it and become more connected to the painting and to myself. I felt very peaceful and engaged. At the end of the day, it was actually hard for me to put down my paintbrush! I have the painting—my “muse”—in my office now. She is a good reminder to me of the importance of balance…and to take deep breaths throughout the day to stay grounded.
Why did you enter the social work profession?
I wanted to make a difference in the world and am fascinated and inspired by people, even though it can be incredibly difficult work. However, I also recently realized that in the 21 years I’ve been in this profession, I never really took time to acknowledge the critical need for work/life balance. Healing the Healer helped me to get in touch with that need and to think of it in a tangible—rather than just conceptual—way.
How did the workshop impact you in your daily life?
It impacted me on both the personal and professional levels. At work, I manage a group of people who investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect; often at a moment’s notice, they have to determine if a child needs to be removed from his or her home to ensure their safety. It’s basically a 24/7 kind of job. It’s stressful work and I want the people I work with and care about to develop professionally and be healthy. I want them to go into the community and serve people in a connected and engaged way, making decisions in the client’s best interests, but without compromising themselves. However, that can’t happen as effectively if they are run down and overwhelmed. Healing the Healer really helped me to realize how critical it is to make self-care a top priority, not just an afterthought if we happen to have energy at the end of the day. Self-care really has to be a priority so we can do our best work for the community we serve.
Did you have a realization about your own self-care?
I realized that if I wanted to support my staff to take care of themselves, I needed to do a better job with myself. My mind opened as a result of the workshop and I started to think about things I could do that gave me energy and made me happy – things I had not done for a long time, but loved. For example, I signed up for a weekly ceramics class, which I had not done since high school. The class forces me to leave work behind at a reasonable hour and do something creative that I enjoy. I started to play pickle ball [a real thing! Involving a paddle, wiffle balls, exercise & people!]. I play with friends, meet new people and we laugh and have a great time!
Owlie doesn’t play pickle ball, but is super curious about it!
I also do simple things to relax and de-stress, like taking a bath, gardening, going to the beach, or hiking. I used to do some of these things before, but, after Healing the Healer, I started to be more conscious about it. Before I knew I enjoyed gardening, but after the workshop, I started to realize that it helps me to relax and I benefit from it. It gives me an opportunity to process the week, rejuvenate and it’s an important part of taking care of myself.
Do you believe there has been a system-wide acknowledgement of the need for self-care?
I think we’re just starting to realize the importance of self-care as a county child welfare agency and throughout the state. People who are in jobs that are emotionally taxing–like social workers, nurses, therapists, teachers, etc.—we have to take care of ourselves and it can’t just be an afterthought. It has to be a priority. Surprisingly, this wasn’t something that was talked about when I was getting my Master’s degree or during the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) licensing process. It’s crucial to talk about, because this work is too difficult and too important not to make it a priority.
Reflecting back over the past year, do you have any last thoughts or pearls of wisdom to share?
I feel like Rachel’s workshop is one very effective way to start the conversation about taking care of ourselves. Maybe Healing the Healer won’t be life altering for everyone. Maybe for some it will be a half or one-day experience to relax and feel peaceful just for that day. Others may choose an entirely different activity. But for me it’s like planting a seed. You plant the seed in the soil and over time, the flower starts to grow, open, and bloom. That’s how I feel about the effect of Healing the Healer…I have a new open-mindedness that keeps shifting and expanding as I look for ways to take care of myself. Also… those “to dos” are now at the top of my list, rather than the bottom. I’m so glad I faced my initial hesitancy, took the workshop and ultimately changed the way I approach my work and my day-to-day approach to life.
My gratitude and thanks to Kim for taking time in her busy schedule for her interview!
I hope you are inspired to take a peek into the world of Intentional Creativity and find what strikes your fancy to support you to do your magical work in the world.