Thursday, April 01, 2010


Today is my anniversary—fifteen years to the day since my first day of work at the Hope Foundation of Alberta. I thought it would be a good idea to write on this blog about what I have learned during those fifteen years. If you’ve noticed that I haven’t written on the blog for quite a while now, that’s why. I was trying to write what I’ve learned in fifteen years. The more I wrote, the less ready I was to put it out there. Writing is like that sometimes.
I have learned to be very grateful for research. I started work at the Hope Foundation with a good foundation of experience and training in counselling and a belief in the idea of hope. I couldn’t have said it then, but Dr. Denise Larsen’s interpersonal process research in hope and counselling has given me the language to explain that the work that came naturally to me when I started this job was implicitly hopeful. The counselling practice that Dr. Ronna Jevne was hoping we could develop would be explicitly related to hope.
I couldn’t have said it simply in 1995, but Brunincks and Mal’s research on common understandings of the distinction between hope and other positive affective states has given me the language teaching tools to show other professionals some useful tricks for thinking about the differences between wishes, hopes and goals. I figure that one piece of research has probably saved me hundreds of hours of struggling to defend the use of explicit hope language.
I couldn’t have said it in 1995, couldn’t have explained it really clearly even last year, but Sharon Schultz’s observation in the research evaluation of our group work with parents who have FASD has put into words a phenomenon I noticed in the first couple of weeks of being here. People are so much bigger than their problems. When you do an investigation of their lives using the tools that make hope explicit and strengths apparent, those people become three-dimensional. You start to think that you have hope for this person. You start to think that a person with so much strength really will be all right, even with this big problem. Once you start to believe that, there’s a better chance that they start to believe it too.
I have learned to be grateful for experience. Experience has taught me that some people find hope very threatening, and that this resistance is easier to work with if you think of them as frightened rather than thinking of them as inflexible, particularly if those people are professionals—say, medical doctors or psychologists. Experience has taught me to have confidence in the value of hope and positive psychology, even when people have cancer or multiple sclerosis or ALS or Alzheimer disease or kidney failure or liver dysfunction or chronic pain or depression or unbelievably heavy care-giving responsibilities, or poverty, or limited cognitive functioning. Experience has taught me that if there is a magic one-size- fits-all cure for stress and unhappiness, it hasn’t been discovered yet. Experience has taught me that I’m not likely going to get rich doing the work I seem to have been born to do. But then, experience has also taught me that impossible things do happen, and my predictions about probability and possibility are not as accurate as my reasoning would lead me to expect. Experience has taught me to celebrate, celebrate often, celebrate little things, every success in counselling, every new piece of enlightening research, every time something turns out better than I expected. .
Today is my anniversary. I hadn’t really planned to celebrate, given that I had a full day’s work doing counselling and mentoring students, followed by an evening of choir practice. But Denise thought we ought to celebrate in the available time after work, and I really had to wonder why I, THE HOPE LADY, hadn’t thought of it myself. But then, experience has taught me never to assume that a possible course of action has been considered, even when it appears to be incredibly and undeniably obvious that this would be the thing to do.

1 comment:

Janet Mills said...

Wendy, I just found out about your website! You do have a gift, and thank you for sharing this wonderful gift of hope with me. Wishing you a belated "Happy Anniversary".

Janet Mills