In this post I would like to talk about the professional and organizational culture of the place I intern at: Centre Popincourt, or Centre de Prevention du Suicide de Paris (CPS). Centre Popincourt is a public therapeutic center that has a team of professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, etc. It also provides weekly art and music workshops as part of the music therapy/art therapy program.
Regarding the culture of the center, everyone is very friendly in answering my questions and introducing me to different services, and the communication is always pretty forward and open. The structure is generally more informal, which can be seen in the flexibility of schedule, ways of information exchange, etc.
One of the activities that I participate regularly in is the staff meeting every Tuesday. The meeting turns out to be very much different compared to those in the United States! In US, I rarely had a weekly meeting that lasted more than an hour, and everything was discuss in a very efficient and practical fashion. But here, the meeting usually lasts at least two hours, with multiple businesses being discussed and details being shared. If there was a proposal being discussed, everyone would provide their opinions, critical arguments, etc. Sometimes when two people don’t agree with each other, or multiple people are engaging in a complicated conversation, you would hear people constantly talking over each other and even arguing with each other! This has been a completely new experience for me. In addition, I found that French people tend to bring up abstract aspects of issues more often; by saying this I mean that there are a lot of thinking being put into the concept or structure of something rather than actual practices. In daily life, they also include philosophy in their regular exchange of conversations so I guess that this culture is prevailing in all aspects of life!
Another surprising thing that I observed was the relationship with clients. Back in where I interned or volunteered in Pittsburgh, the relationship with clients remained always very professional/formal; whereas here at Centre Popincourt, the relationships had not reached the personal level but were more flexible. For example, when participating in the workshops, everyone know each other and will start conversations with each other all the time. This past Monday, we even organized a trip to the Bois de Vincennes (Forest of Vincennes) and everyone enjoyed a relaxing outing in the nature. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the clients about myself, and we discussed on cultural differences, language learning, etc. I am glad that I get the chance to know everyone and build a rapport with them 🙂
Everyday I am continuing to observe and learn and there are always new findings that surprise me or provide me with insight on more significant issues. I will share more on my professional experiences in the following weeks and I am sure that they will only get more interesting as time goes on!
P.S. Here is an awesome website of information on prevention of suicide if anyone is interested! -> infosuicide.org