Saturday, January 30, 2010

Social Work and Meaning

One of the key struggles I have around Social Work is that I often seem out of step with the majority of Social Workers. Perhaps I need to put that in some sort of context. When I graduated I was determined to work in the role of counsellor. My final placement was working as a counsellor in an NGO who ran a gambling counselling program. I loved the work even though the pay was poor. Welcome to NGO's. Another issue for another time.

I have had some time working as a volunteer counsellor for many years and trained volunteer counsellors for that organisation. My experience of counselling may not have been from the same orientation as social work but I certainly had to skill set to know what I was doing. This coupled with my Social Work training meant that I thought I was a reasonably competent counsellor. As it turned out I must have been because I wasn't supervised for my manager for six years. I was told that I wasn't liked and that there were issues with my practice but never told who disliked me or what the practice issues. Needless to say I left after a lengthy and protracted workplace bullying dispute.

While all of this was going on I was working with groups for other organisations. The NGO didn't like that. I had a private practice happening at the same time but only very small and certainly not financially viable to set up my full time practice. I am not going to bore you now with the history because that will be told in another format. That damn book I have been writing for five years and averaging about one page per year. How sad is that?

When I reflect back on the fifteen years I have been practicing as a Social Worker I now realise that the more I attempt to give Social Work meaning I am faced with more and more conflict. As the posts progress I will talk more about the conflicts and how they have impacted me and shaped the way I think and practice Social Work. If you are a Professional Social Worker or Social Work student I hope you will benefit from some of these conflicts and more importantly I hope that what I say will confront you and challenge your beliefs about who you are and why you practice Social Work.

We need to accept that Social Work is a value laden profession. Without understanding the values and principles which govern Social Work as well as understanding your own values and principles you will never understand Social Work. If you fail to contemplate and to operationalise the values which underpin the profession how can you possibly practice Social Work? I don't want this to seem simplistic and a quick way of identifying poor practicing Social Workers. What this represents is an idea which can be explored. At the moment I am having the best time exploring this all by my self. That is the way my practice is most of the time.

What we will be looking at in future posts is what does Social Work look like what we explore its values and principles and what are we practicing if we don't understand the principles of the profession we profess to be a part off?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First Up

I am a Social Worker in Private Practice. Prior to Private Practice I worked with an NGO which, even though I left under severe stress the experience provided me with much valuable knowledge and understandings. Even though I wouldn't suggest this experience to anyone. Thoughts of suicide, and severe depression were not good outcomes from my first experience working as a social worker. However I was able to salvage a little of my self and find ways to move beyond the bullying and head in a completely different direction.

Here I am seven years later still maintaining a private practice and being able to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

I have decided to open this blog because I realised that I have so much that I need to say and even if there isn't anyone reading this, I still can use it as a means of expressing myself and venting my frustrations. With a little bit of luck perhaps someone will read it and gain something from what I say. Its a little refreshing to know that I can go Blah and that I don't have to be extremely political correct and I can say what I want to say without naming people. That it is okay to spout of at the mouth and know that it doesn't really matter. I don't intend to hurt others through what I write but I certainly may hurt some peoples feelings as I rant about the social work profession and the encounters I have with other professionals who are working from a completely different framework than mine.

There are times I feel very alone working in the areas that I work. I am able to organise some form of supervision with colleagues that I know but often it is a lonely place listening to peoples stories and giving all the time but not necessarily receiving anything from anyone else. Always being available but rarely having people available to you to talk to about all manner of disasters which may be happening in my life. I am indeed grateful for the staff who work in the same office suite that I do because they are fantastic to talk to but they are very busy as well.

Confidentiality is a problem so it will be difficult talking about clients and related issues. I will have to be mindful that anyone can access this blog and may make connections between what I am saying and themselves. If I just remain focussed on myself then I suppose I will be relatively safe. How egocentric is that? Feel okay with that though. Focusing on self, oh, what a good idea.

This is an intro in a sense and will follow with some more challenging ideas and concepts that hopefully will amaze myself.