Therapeutic photography exercises

Every one of us sometimes needs a reminder of the good things in our lives. There are often times where the positive things are masked by life’s challenges or we are distracted, focusing on what we want, losing sight of what we have.

I have used the following technique with clients if they have lost sight of their passion and interests. When they have lost sight of the positives.

The concept behind this technique is to search your surroundings and capture even the smallest positive things in your daily life, helping remind you of what you have.

Exercise one “Daily photographing”

1)   Start taking photos of the things that make you happy. Be deliberate with the exercise, you may find yourself taking photos of even the smallest things that seem insignificant but bring you some level of satisfaction. These photos will be unique to what you value.

2)   Make a collection of your photos that can be referred back to as a reminder.

3)   Share the photos with someone, be it your therapist, partner, friends etc. Sharing helps put a spotlight on the things we value.

Exercise two “Different perspectives”

1)   Find a space that inspires you.

2)   Take a picture of the landscape as a whole.

3)   Find something in the photo that catches your attention. Move toward that thing and take another photo from the closer angle.

4)   Repeat the process and take a third photo.

See the result. You have 3 or more pictures from different perspectives.

An example would be a photo of a park, then a photo of a tree that attracts your attention, then a photo of the leaves on the tree, then even another photo of a single leaf.

The idea behind this practice is to make us think. Sometimes our life in the big picture might seem complex. As we start to narrow our view, we see the small but meaningful things that can take some of our focus. It is a reminder to notice the little things in our lives that can bring us joy. It can also work in reverse, if we are stressing over something that is relatively small or meaningless, we can take a step back to see the bigger picture of our lives, focusing on the overall positivity.

Xx Jasmin

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Photo Lotta Liimatainen
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Choosing Your Partner

It is said that selecting your partner is one of the most important things you will do in your life. This is a topic that us humans can all share. Most of us are built to live a life surrounded by people, a partner or a family. Relationships start under all sorts of conditions and are unique in how they mature.

On this subject, I will focus on something that has been shown to have a significant influence on the formation of a romantic relationship and how compatible that relationship may be in the future. This something, is each individual’s personality traits.

Personality traits

The Five-factor model or the Big Five traits is considered the most mainstream and widely accepted model when it comes to framing personality. Our own personality traits and those of our partners play a significant role in how we interact, what we value, how we want to build our lives and where we may come into conflict. The big five are as follows:

  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to experience

These five factors can be expanded further to reveal more specific characteristics, but this big five breakdown, also referred to as the OCEAN model helps compress personality traits into widely used categories.

We understand that having big differences in one or several of these traits can cause conflict within a relationship, possibly preventing it from moving forward or leaving it broken. I will try and briefly summarise each of the five traits and give an example of where differences or similarities in each of the traits can add to a relationship or help to break it down over time.

Extraversion

Extraverts thrive in group situations and get their energy from interacting with others. Introverts tend to feel exhausted by large scale social interaction, drawing energy from time spent alone.

Example: If your partner leans to the extravert end of the extraversion scale and you to the introvert, this may cause conflict regarding the types and level of social interaction that you want to undertake as a couple.

Agreeableness

Agreeable individuals value getting along with other and try to avoid conflict. They often have a high level of empathy for others and often put others interests in front of their own. Disagreeable individuals tend to confront issues even if it may result in conflict, they show less empathy, are comfortable being more critical and are often more competitive.

Example: If individuals in a relationship are at different ends of the scale, the agreeable one in the relationship will find the disagreeable one harsh and unpleasant and the disagreeable person will find the agreeable person indecisive and a push over.

Conscientiousness

High conscientiousness includes high levels of thoughtfulness, control and a drive for organization and success. Low levels are presented by those that may appear easy going or carefree/careless.

Example: If one partner has high levels, is driven, organized and clean, they may be frustrated by a partner who appears to be careless, directionless and messy. On the other hand, the one with low levels may find the other stressed or controlling.

Neuroticism

High neuroticism is characterized by high levels of nervousness and sensitivity. It is shown in individuals that don’t deal well with stress and are more likely to feel anxious. Low levels are characterized by those that deal well with stress, are more emotionally stable and don’t worry as much.

Example: This can be a contributing factor in one partner developing feelings of jealousy in the relationship.

Openness to experience

High levels of openness can be characterized by those that may be perceived as unpredictable, willing to engage in risky behaviour, higher levels of inventiveness and curiosity and that are creative driven. On the other end of the spectrum are those that have a higher tendency for structure, consistency, they are pragmatic and often more conservative.

Example: This may affect the choice of day to day activities with your partner, with either end of the spectrum likely to desire a different pace/outcome.

Obviously, the amount to which each of these plays a part will be different in every relationship. These are compressions of complex subjects and can be understood in much more detail. Knowing about this subject will help you become more self-aware and aware of your partners characteristics. It will help you make better judgement on the types of compromises worth making for your partner and times when to tread carefully or to push the boundaries. Having knowledge on the subject will help you identify red flags early on when getting to know someone or help you improve on current relationships. Building self-awareness and understanding what contributes to your value system will assist you in choosing the right partner.

Xx Jasmin

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Photos: David Popa

References:

-Jordan Peterson and his ideas: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jordan+peterson & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mjD3K96MVY&t=82s

-Alexandra Redcay  and her ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jodhovumkHQ

Tony Robbins and his ideas: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tony+robbins

Maintaining Healthy Romantic Relationships

In my work, I regularly deal with couples who are going through difficult periods in their relationships. Here are 3 common themes that I regularly discuss with couples that can both prevent conflict and help resolve it if it is already present.

Self-awareness and the awareness of your partners characteristics

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to monitor your own emotions in different situations. It involves having a clear perception of how you fit into your environment and an understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. In the context of a relationship, it is just as important that you are consciously aware of your partners characteristics. Having this awareness will help you keep things in perspective and help you both manage your levels of expectation in different situations.

Tip: Take a moment to note down a few things in a past or present relationship that you can improve on. Self-assessment is key to progression. Ask your partner to do the same and then speak about what you have both come up with.  

Speak your minds

Speak openly with your partner. It’s important that you give positive reinforcement when you are happy with your partner and make it clear to them when they have fallen short of your expectations. The better you get at having this mutual understanding of each other through discussion, the more harmonious and loving your relationship will be.

Tip: Clinical psychologist, professor and author Dr Jordan Peterson concludes that it is essential to commit at least 90 minutes per week to speaking with your partner about your life together. Speak about what you are happy about and where you can both improve. The idea of a date night each week sounds corny but is a good option for keeping a healthy dialogue open.

Control your emotions

Be kind and patient with each other. Our instincts often tell us to give into our emotions. It is easy to lose your patience in the moment. The more effective we become at mastering our own emotions in a relationship, the smoother and happier things become. When you desire more from your partner in a certain aspect of your lives, be open and direct with them, but also be patient. Learning new habits can take time. In return you will hopefully receive the same level of patience.

Tip: The next time you find yourself in a discussion with your partner that is becoming heated, stop yourself, be self-aware in that moment, think about your emotions and take a breath. We can show our love in these moments by finding our calmer selves.

For more information have a look at these websites (references):

–  Jordan Peterson and his ideas: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jordan+peterson

– Tony Robbins and his ideas: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tony+robbins

– Parisuhdekeskus Kataja: https://parisuhdekeskus.fi/

–  Väestöliiton tunnekeskeinen parisuhdekurssi: http://www.vaestoliitto.fi/parisuhde/nettikurssit/tunnekeskeinen-parisuhdekurssi/

– Mielenterveystalo Parisuhteen omahoito: https://www.mielenterveystalo.fi/aikuiset/itsehoito-ja-oppaat/itsehoito/parisuhteen_omahoito/Pages/default.aspx

Xx Jasmin

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Photos David Popa

What is Social Work?

In the following blog entry, I will be describing some key steps in becoming a social worker in Finland. I will be discussing some things to think about before, during and after studying social work at university. I will also give some insight into the path that I have taken to reach the point that I am currently at in my career.

Selecting my path

I first had the idea of becoming a social worker when I was 19 years old. I was on a gap year in Australia at the time. Prior to this, I did not have a specific idea of what I wanted to study. We have all had a time in our lives when we have had to make a big decision, but we cannot be sure of where this decision will take us. At that age, the selection of future study plans is one of those big decisions, and with so many options to choose from, it is often a difficult one.

Initially, when the idea of social work came to me, I had a school counselor in mind. A person who helps guide young people through their academic lives whilst facing an array of issues that may not directly relate to their schooling. I thought of being a person that young people would feel comfortable to talk to for assistance or guidance. I started researching the steps I would have to take to enter this sort of profession. I found that a number of universities in Finland offered a master´s degree program in social work which would open the door to a number of fields of social work. I have included a list of universities that offer a Master’s Degree of Social Work at the end of this blog along with the applicable website links.

University Entrance Exam

Obtaining the required mark for entry into a Finnish University is difficult but achievable with the right levels of discipline and ambition. You must be motivated to succeed when you start studying for the entrance exam as it is a long process and you are competing against a large pool of students. Here are 3 important steps to prepare for your university entrance exam:

1)    Make a study plan once you know the amount of material that must be studied for the exam and the time for which you have to prepare. The time for which you have to prepare for the exam depends on the course you intend to enter. This preparation time can range from 3 months to 1 year. For me, the preparation time for social work was around 6 months.

2)    Be specific with your study plans. How much, when and in what format you will study. Make a plan based on your prior experiences but also be open to the advice of others for guidance on possible studying techniques that you may not have previously considered.

3)    Focus on the goal and do what is required to succeed. It is not an easy path but if you are smart and disciplined in your preparations you have a much higher chance of success. My last blog on goal setting may be of assistance on this subject.

What is covered at University

After receiving acceptance to a university, the process starts. For the next several of years of your life, you will have the chance to concentrate on studying subjects that will hopefully interest you and help you launch the career you envisage.  Looking back on it now, these years go fast. Try to enjoy this time in your life where you will most likely have less responsibility, more freedom, and a range of options that will diminish as we grow older and life becomes more complex.

I would like to briefly explain what is generally covered in the university studies for social work. The structure of the studies has changed slightly since I did my bachelor’s and master´s degree at Helsinki University but essentially, the bachelor’s degree (180 credits) is more concentrated on the general studies of social science. Trying to keep it as broad as possible, we learnt for example about statics, specific areas of law such as public law, wide studies and theories of society, parts of social psychology, sociology, social work and its function in society, social development policy, communication, public health, practical and professional skills, academic writing, languages and the process of writing a research Bachelor´s Thesis. You are also able to select alternative minor studies. I did mine in social psychology and media studies.

For the master´s degree (120 credits), the studies were generally more focused on social work itself as a profession. We learn about social work and human rights, structural social work and assessment of operations, social and health services management, social work opportunities in life, international social work issues, migration, welfare states, social research, qualitative methodology of social research, reflective interviewing and development management, qualitative discourse and relational social psychology, discussion analysis and interaction infrastructures, content analysis and interaction study in practice. We also did a long internship and optional studies on our areas of interest. Last but not least, the program is completed with a master´s thesis.

After finishing my studies, I had an in-depth understanding of how social work fits into society and the benefits it provides as a profession. If you are interested to work with people to try and solve social and personal problems whilst creating social change, social work is possibly an option for you.

Post-Graduation & Work life

After graduating, the first step is to find work. It´s important to start getting active while you are still studying but post-graduation is the time when your pool of options becomes larger. The more open you are to different types of work opportunities, the more options you will have.

There are many potential career paths in social work. Social workers serve clients dealing with a range of challenges including physical and mental health issues, poverty, addiction, and family problems. They may provide clinical services, such as counseling or therapy, and connect people to resources in the community to help them overcome challenges. Here are some options where you can apply after graduating:

–  Different types of Hospitals and medical clinics (mental hospitals, city hospital etc.)

–  Community mental health agencies and substance misuse clinics

–  State and local governments including child welfare agencies and departments of health and human services

–  Schools and other youth-serving organizations

–  Private practices

–  Family clinics and other therapy departments

My journey becoming a social worker

I completed my bachelor´s and master´s degree at Helsinki University. I also studied one period as an international student at the University of Sydney. This period oversees was one of the most productive and eventful times of my life. I highly recommend doing an exchange period. It can expand your knowledge and widen the perspective of your studies. Wherever you go, there will always be differences, small or large, in the style and content of the studies compared to how things are in Finland.

At the beginning of my studies, I was a full-time student. I recommend concentrating full-time on your studies during your first years of university. Your chances of eventual graduation increase with the more time you commit to full-time studies, and of course, you can complete your studies faster.

I recommend trying to pick up some casual or part-time work in your industry as early as you can. I held my first paid summer traineeship in a hospital as a social worker after completing my first year of studies. I ended up holding the same position for the next two summers. Later, whilst writing my master’s thesis, I held a part-time position in the child protection department.

These early work experiences were eye-opening. I was exposed to many areas of the profession which helped my learning process and allowed my confidence to grow. Do not be afraid to apply for jobs in the early stages of your student career. Entering the workplace forces us to apply our knowledge and learn from experiences that can’t all be taught at university. Experimenting with different places will also help you see how wide the field of social work is.

After graduating with a master’s degree in social work, I obtained my first full-time job in a family therapy department. I have always been interested in the counseling and therapy side of social work. I continue to find myself satisfied, passionate and motivated in my role within the department. I am currently working as a family social worker and family mediator. My plan is to continue my studies with the goal of becoming a psychotherapist. I find satisfaction in personal development and I look forward to the next stage of my studies. As with all industries and occupations, there is always something new to learn in order to advance our careers and improve performance.

If you have any further questions regarding the studies of social work, please send me a private message. I am happy to help and share more about my journey.

Xx Jasmin

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Finnish universities that offer “Master´s Degree of Social Work”:

– Social Work, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Science: https://www.helsinki.fi/fi/valtiotieteellinen-tiedekunta/tutkimus/tieteenalat/sosiaalityo

-Social Work, Svenska social- och kommunalhögskolan vid Helsingfors universitet (Soc&kom): https://www.helsinki.fi/fi/svenska-social-och-kommunalhogskolan/1.2.246.562.10.73307006806

–  Social Work, University of Tampere, Faculty of Social Science: https://programmes.uta.fi/sosiaalityon-tutkinto-ohjelma/

– Social Work, University of Turku, Faculty of Social Science: http://www.utu.fi/fi/yksikot/soc/yksikot/sostyo/Sivut/home.aspx

– Social Work, University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science: https://www.jyu.fi/hytk/fi/laitokset/yfi/oppiaineet/sosiaalityo

– Social Work, University of Lapland, Faculty of Social Science: https://www.ulapland.fi/FI/Yksikot/Yhteiskuntatieteiden-tiedekunta/Opinnot/Sosiaalityo

– Social Work, University of Eastern Finland, Faculty of Social Science: https://www.uef.fi/web/yhteiskuntatieteet/sosiaalityo

 

 

 

The 3 Key Aspects of Setting and Achieving Goals

The concept of goal setting is often misrepresented. The main misrepresentation being that when talking about setting and achieving goals, there isn’t enough emphasis on the amount of thinking and energy that goes into the process. It is a complex idea that challenges us but is often trivialized into simply writing a goal down and hoping the rest will just figure itself out.

Like most of us, ever since I was young, in many areas of my life I have been told to set goals. What was never really explained though was the complex thinking behind goal setting, the reasoning behind the concept and how we can more effectively achieve those goals. I feel there is also a stigma around goal setting that exists for many of us. It exists because we can all point to numerous occasions in our lives where we have set a goal for ourselves and either failed to achieve the goal, or we haven’t even given that goal a second thought. What I will try to do below is highlight some of the more prevalent features of setting and achieving goals. I’m hoping this will kickstart some new habits in our lives and help remove some of the stigma around the concept. I will also point out how setting and achieving goals makes up such a big part of social work.

Why we set goals

Before we dive into the key aspects of setting and achieving goals, I thought it is worth discussing the reasons why we as humans find ourselves grappling with the idea in the first place.

It sounds simple, we set a goal because we want to achieve that goal. But what is it inside of us as humans that pushes us to want to achieve goals. One source of explanation is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs written by Andrew Maslow in his 1943 paper, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’.  The basic concept behind the theory is that within all humans there is a set of common needs. The common theme I see behind Maslow’s theory and how it relates to goal setting is the innate human need to make progress and grow. 

The 3 steps to setting and achieving goals

From what I have read and understood, I have tried to break the subject down as I see it into 3 parts. Many of these ideas will sound simple but they are all worth noting.

  1. Setting the Goal
  • See a situation as it is, see it as you want it to be and set your goals accordingly. Be honest with yourself and your life situation. See where progress needs to be made or new avenues that need exploring. Set your goals accordingly.
  • Have a larger (long term) goal in mind, breaking it down into incremental (short term) goals. For example, having the larger goal of getting into the best physical shape of your life. You can then break it down into the smaller goal of working out 4 days a week. This can then be broken down again into what you do in each workout. This break down can continue as long as you need it to.
  • Be specific in the goals you set. We cannot hit a goal if we don’t know exactly what it is. The more specific we are in the goals we set, the more likely we are to achieve them.
  • Make the goal achievable. Often, we set ourselves unachievable goals or fail to break our goals down into incremental steps, so we become intimidated or disheartened by even the idea of the journey. Go easy on yourself, start with small steps.
  • Write your goals down if you need to. Keep a list. Everyone is different when it comes to remembering to do something but writing goals down, big or small, will always help to some degree.
  • Make your goals interesting and relevant to you. The reasons to set a goal must be compelling enough to keep you motivated. Reasons can be positive or negative. ‘I will lose this if I don’t achieve this goal’ or ‘I will gain this if I do achieve this goal’.
  1. Visualise

Visualise your goal, how it will feel to achieve it, what it looks like, what it feels like. The emotions and feelings that come to the surface during this process can build belief, helping propel us towards the goal at hand and maintaining focus.

  1. Taking the necessary action required to achieve the goal
  • Break the goal down into achievable incremental steps. Be realistic with the expectations of yourself especially in the initial stages.
  • Find ways to remind yourself of what you can do today, making lists, setting alarms etc. Refer to your lists as much as needed.
  • Stick to a routine. We all have off moments, but the aim should be to stick to it daily.
  • Constantly remind yourself through visualisation of the feelings that will result from achieving that goal. This will help maintain our belief.
  • Re-visit your goals regularly. Make adjustments and additions as you go.
  • Be resilient.

How Goal Setting relates to Social Work

Every day in our offices we meet clients who are facing difficult situations. We sit with them, we try and analyse the situation honestly then we try and discuss a path forward. It is often hard for our clients to see a bright future or even a better day when their daily lives are surrounded by problems. They might have their own individual goals, but they often do not have the energy to do anything about it. It is possible that some clients do not even want to think about their goals out of lost hope or a fear of failure. They can be very deep in dark thoughts. Every day we must work to be sensitive to the needs of our clients as much as possible, while at the same time, trying to help them realise what their own goals are, and how they can approach them. If you are in this kind of situation, you are not alone. Sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and motivate you to keep going. This someone can be a family member or friend or even a professional like myself. The work that we do in the family therapy offices is essential in helping families and individuals in need of assistance.

I Challenge You

I urge you to commit 5 minutes of your time to think about goal setting. Think about things that you desire or thing’s that you have been meaning to take care of, but haven’t got around to it. I am hoping 5 minutes will be long enough to spark something bigger within you. I will be doing the same.

Xx Jasmin

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Sources

Credit to the following individuals. Many of the above concepts have come from a combination of researching the works of:

-Clinical Psychologist, Professor Jordan Peterson of Canada.

-Author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and life coach Tony Robbins.

The Beginning Of Something New

Welcome to the journey of love, well-being, relationships and social work. I am going to write and discuss things which inspire and touch me as an individual and professional. I am going to publish a text every week or so which will cover different themes. In these texts, you can hear my voice as a woman, wife, social worker, and someone that is curious to learn more about her field of studies. Thoughts are my own and do not represent my workplace or government.

I decided to write the blog in English because I wanted to challenge myself and go outside of my comfort zone. I also feel that I am stepping away from my comfort zone when I decided to start this blog. I want to share my thoughts, but I am also curious as to where it leads. In my opinion, the voice of social workers in the public is relatively hidden. For this reason, I want to try and make a little change on my own.

First, I would like to tell a little bit about myself. Who I am and what I am thinking. I am a 26-year- old master in social sciences. I did my major in social work. My minors were social psychology and media studies. Now I am a full-time social worker and a mediator in the family therapy department. I am working with parents, kids or with whole families. I have worked also in child protection services. I was also accepted into art therapy studies at the start of this year.

The past couple of years have been significant for me. I was living and studying in Australia, I met my husband, we got engaged and married, we moved back to Finland, I graduated, we got our first dog and we bought our first home. Even though I have done a lot in a short time, I still have a strong passion to keep going and continue to grow.

In this blog, I want to put together photos and thoughtful texts. I am going to tell more about myself through these photos. I want to show what working with people means to me and the kinds of ideas I have when I meet different kinds of people every day. But remember, the ideas that am I sharing are only my thoughts, they are not to be taken as gospel. I am a young woman who wants to be a better professional, and a therapist one day. Join me in the learning process and adventure of social work, relationship and family, love, and inspiration.

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I have realized through working that I am only one person who is trying to help and guide people. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

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I love my dog Mila. She is a little therapist in our family.

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I love living in Finland as a Finn. Although I think my Australian husband sometimes appreciates the Finnish way of life more than I do. He sees things differently and in a fresh way. I have so much to learn when it comes to his attitude.

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I love traveling. It is a passion of mine. My husband and I travel when we can. I dream to one day do volunteering work in a developing country.

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I hope to become a skillful family and couple therapist, a better wife, a better friend and hopefully a mum one day. I have had a very balanced and beautiful childhood and I have been taught strong values by my parents. I am thankful for them. I want to help people who may not have had the best childhood or have had problems later in life. We all have problems, and no one is perfect, from time to time we all need a person who listens and cares about us.

 

Xx Jasmin