From the Field: Parallel Process
By Chrisitine Linn, Director of Youth Development, Youth Services
What is the vision of the work we do? As youth workers and administrators, if we ask each other that question we might come up with some of these answers:
- Young people have their basic needs met; they are cared for and care for each other and their communities.
- Young people have support and resources to actualize their full potential; they feel empowered to make choices about their lives.
- Youth can enter conflict and resolve it safely; they know what ‘crisis brain’ feels like and have the tools and supports to operate from a different place.
- Young people feel heard and seen and can ask for what they want and advocate for their needs.
Now try something: take whatever vision you hold for your work and the youth you serve and replace ‘clients’ or ‘youth’ with ‘I’ or ‘my teammate’ or ‘my supervisee’—does the vision become true? Can you say “I feel cared for” or “my supervisee feels empowered to make choices about their life [or work]” or “my teammate is not in crisis mode or know when they are?" If not, then it’s likely that the vision you’re holding for the work we do—for our clients—is farther out of reach than you thought.
That framework is called parallel process. My former supervisor introduced me to the idea and it’s become central to our framework at Youth Services. We talk a lot about parallel process at Youth Services—in team meetings, in direct supervision, with community stakeholders, with clients. How do we create community, connection, resilience, competency, support, and care for each other in order to be able to help others actualize those same essential attributes of wellbeing?
As I’ve transitioned into the role of director of youth development over these past few months, I’ve been noticing the larger ripples of that parallel process. Am I modeling the vision I hold for the youth development team at Youth Services? Are the program directors at Youth Services leaning on each other, getting support and building momentum across programs? Are we creating sustainable systems of care for our teams… and thus for our clients?
I was thinking about this on my drive home from the VCHRYP Best Practices Committee meeting earlier this month. And feeling thankful that as I’ve made this transition from a direct service provider, I’ve felt the support and care of the leadership teams at VCHRYP and YDP who are constantly showing their support, understanding and guidance and of our sister coalition agencies who are continually sharing their innovative programs and excitedly asking for advice and feedback. I’ve felt empowered to speak up and have a voice in what’s happening within program initiatives and projects that impact my community and the state; I’ve felt comforted when I’ve been overwhelmingly stressed and encouraged to take a leap when I’m not sure about the risk. As I drove down the two-thirds of our state I was thinking about all of the good work we’re doing in so many towns and how this parallel process of care and empowerment that I felt at this once-a-month, four-hour meeting trickles down.
Instituting frameworks that supports the wellbeing, empowerment, community, resilience and care into organizational structures and practices of already maxed-out youth-care agencies feels like an impossible task at times (we’re not a people known for impeccable self-care, after all) and we can only do it with the support and care of each other—the community of youth workers and administrators who are working so tirelessly to achieve the common vision for the youth that we serve.