Recently I was asked to write some quick reflections about hope and recovery for a German publication. I was asked: "In some cases, it is not easy for professionals to believe in hope, because it takes too long and is too hard. From your perspective: What can help them to find hope again and the strength to give hope to a person where the situations seem to be hopeless?" I wrote:
Professionals who have lost hope for recovery are in crisis. Hopeless professionals say things like, "This patient is a hopeless case". But actually, it is the professional who is in crisis and needs help. The professional is in a crisis of hope. People who supervise such professionals must take the focus off the client, and put the focus on the staff person. This type of hopelessness can be contagious and the focus may need to be applied to the whole professional team.
Professionals who are hopeless about the people they work with need to be exposed to stories of hope and recovery. They need to be educated about long- term recovery studies. They need to understand that they only work with people for a short span of time and that recovery occurs over the lifespan. They need to understand the clinicians illusion, and that many folks who do recover, leave the system and are never seen again in services.
Staff who are experiencing a crisis of hope need to dig down within themselves and explore their own resilience. Perhaps they are experiencing compassion fatigue. A good antidote is developing a professional team culture where it is okay to ask colleagues for support and where "negative feelings" and feelings of compassion fatigue can be safely expressed. It's hard to remain human hearted and work in human services. It's easy to project the professional's feelings of hopelessness onto clients and, in turn, to declare that the client is hopeless. It is the supervisor's job to help renew the hopeless professional's resilience, or to invite them to move into a different line of work.