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?

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