How to Ace your Social Work Fieldwork Placement

Undoubtedly, social work fieldwork placements are a key component in social work education. Acting as an essential link between studies and practice, field placements can greatly impact the future functioning of students, and hence why students do their utmost to achieve a successful placement.

But how you may ask?

Throughout both of my fieldwork placements, I gained a number of skills and tips which helped me to cope with the demands and stress fieldwork placements brought with them.

Time Management

In the beginning of my fieldwork placement, I struggled. I was still finishing my dissertation, had to keep up with 8 cases, as well as attend lectures once every fortnight. I had no other choice, but to challenge myself to plan before hand and manage my time better.

My advice to you is to write an exhaustive list of all the things you have to do. You can either do this every week or once a month whichever you deem the most helpful. Prioritize the list accordingly and plan how much time you will need to spend on each task. Avoid getting stuck on single activities, if you feel like you cannot concentrate on a specific task, be flexible, and move on to another task. Every time you finish something, tick it off your list – it is so satisfying!

Supervision

You have probably learnt the importance of supervision during your lectures. Now is the time to actually make use of it. Do not hesitate to ask for supervision if you feel more guidance and information is needed. Additionally, ensure the time allocated for supervision is not used solely for case management. Use some of this time to discuss how you are coping with the workload, the feelings clients are evoking within yourself, your fears and safety concerns if any. Do not be afraid to use supervision as an added support. Whatever is said during supervision is confidential (obviously, if no harm will be caused to self or to others), so use this opportunity to process and assess your placement because hearing others’ problems is surely emotionally draining.

Research

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of doing research throughout the course of your placement. Be informed and read about the client group you are serving. Understand and be aware of the services available to them and the skills you can use when working with them. Fieldwork placements are a great opportunity for you to widen your knowledge, so make sure that you do this to the best of your ability. Both editorial and academic journal articles can be a source of information for you. Read them while commuting, watch videos while eating or cooking – educate yourself as much as possible because as they say, “you cannot pour from an empty cup!”.

Ask Questions

Your practice educator is not expecting you to know it all on your last day of placement – let alone your first day! Social work is a learning process, and we can never reach a point where we can say we know everything. Human beings are different and dynamic. Hence, why asking questions will only help you understand your client group and what is being expected to enhance your practice. Do not hesitate to tell clients that you are not sure about an answer while assuring them you will research a solution. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification, if you did not understand something. Ask your practice educator about the agency’s policies, regulations, procedures or any reference materials you can access when needed. Do not pretend you know it all – because you do not, nobody does!

Respect your Practice Educators and Tutors

You may not always agree with your practice educators and tutors, but ultimately they are the ones who will be assessing your progress. Starting on a wrong foot is surely not ideal which can derail the placement before it begins. Try to stick with their guidelines and even though you may feel at times it’s wasting your time on unnecessarily. I highly suggest you take a step back before complaining. I am not saying you should be passive, however, avoid arguments about word limit of essays, working hours or workload. Keep in mind your practice educators and tutors know what they are doing, so if they request something try to find a diplomatic path forward.

Do More than it is Expected

Give your placement your very best, and at times this may entail doing work that is not compulsory. Attend any meetings, conferences or opportunities taking place within your organisational framework. Observe how graduate social workers interact with their clients, chair a meeting and extend your comfort zone. Volunteer to take phone calls or intakes, even if this may mean staying for an extra hour. It is amazing how much you can actually learn from this! In the beginning of my first placement, I was terrified to answer the phone because I was always scared that I will stutter, or say something wrong. However, after sitting in the office and answering the phone for 10 weeks, I have gained a lot of confidence while talking to others over the phone.

Self-Care

Ultimately, as social workers, we have to preserve ourselves because we have minimal tools to protect ourselves from burnout. So while I highly suggest you do all the above, you also need to have an ‘off’ button. Learn to assess and identify your limits in order to detach yourself from placement related work for a few hours a day especially before going to bed. Dedicate some time for yourself, read a fiction, watch a funny video, take bath or go for a walk – do something that makes you feel good. Stop yourself from going to bed thinking about the following day and the long to-do list that you have waiting for you. Avoid thinking about action plans and give your mind a well deserved break.

Although sometimes you may feel unstoppable and very motivated, especially in the beginning you must remain mindful of your body limits because otherwise, you will be risking being burnt-out before actually stepping into the profession.

What White Nationalist Christopher Cantwell Can Remind Us About Social Work Practice

Christopher Cantwell

Over the past 10 days, Christopher Cantwell’s face has become synonymous with the White nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Interviewed by Vice News reporter Ellen Reeves, Mr. Cantwell made clear his sociopolitical perspective as well as potential to engage in violence “if need be,” while showing off his numerous weapons.

Described by the New York Times as a “high-profile activist for the so-called alt-right,” Mr. Cantwell appears to be but one of a number people across the United States who hold racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, ableist, and ethnocentric views, if data from the Southern Poverty Law Center are correct.

At present, Mr. Cantwell appears to be facing at least four arrest warrants related to his participation in the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12, 2017.  On Sunday, Mr. Cantwell addressed his “Radical Agenda” blog followers, suggesting that soon he would likely be in jail, pending a trial.  As a criminal defendant, Mr. Cantwell has the distinct possibility of interacting with a legal social worker either as part of his defense team or as a jail inmate.

If convicted, Mr. Cantwell might come into contact with a prison-based social worker as well.  Given the potential for this scenario to become a reality, I thought it would be helpful to reflect on what Christopher Cantwell’s case has to remind us about approaching social work practice post-Charlottesville.  I think we need to reflect on three specific points.

In times of challenge, reaching out for guidance is a helpful action.  For example, social workers can seek the guidance of their Code of Ethics around respecting the dignity and worth of every person they work with.  There have been many times where I sought guidance while working as a legal social worker for the defense bar.  This mandate requires us to recognize our client’s right to their own perspective, and ‘practice wisdom’ tells us to ‘start where the client is’ as we pursue our practice goals and objectives.

While we know the above in theory, it can be hard to sit with a client we disagree with, perhaps viscerally, in these difficult post-Charlottesville times.  In this situation, making sure that we receive true clinical supervision (as opposed to just administrative supervision) is critical.  In an era where our clinical practice is often dominated by needing to achieve productivity targets, we can’t let clinical supervision slip.

We may wish to encourage our client to take a step back in order to view how others might see her/his actions or words if it fits with our intervention role and goal, but we may not be ready without working through such an approach with our clinical supervisor first!

In order to do the above, we must work towards the maintenance of ‘empathic neutrality.’ Qualitative Researcher Michael Quinn Patton framed empathic neutrality as a “stance that seeks vicarious understanding (i.e. empathy) without judgment”.  In order to foster rapport with our clients while keeping our personal biases in control, empathic neutrality is a vital skill.

Perhaps reflecting on the words of human rights activist Malcolm X will be of use to us in this effort:

“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”

As our profession stands up to address racial injustices derived from ongoing white supremacy, we need guideposts for our work. By drawing on these three tools, we can effectively do right by those clients of ours that may hold viewpoints very dissimilar to our own.

A Teacher’s Response to Charlottesville for Social Workers in Practice with People with Disabilities

Charlottesville Black Cop
Officer patrols in front of a recent KKK rally in Charlottesville, Va. – Jill Mumie

I am currently teaching a course on social work practice with people with disabilities.  The course uses an intersectional lens, acknowledging the fact that people have many intersecting social identities that can result in varying types of privilege and oppression.  As such, I had to provide some venue for my students to address the Charlottesville violence and hate speech.  The following is a discussion prompt I provided for them to respond to, and I thought other social work educators might be interested in seeing this so that they could use it and/or modify it for their own courses.  Feedback welcome!

Discussion prompt: As we are part of a course on social work practice with people with disabilities in the United States of America, I would be remiss not to address the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. As you have already likely gathered, there are important links between the White nationalist/Nazi actions in Virginia, and the work we do as social workers with people with disabilities – who often have intersecting marginalized social identities.

Many of the perspectives held by members of White nationalist/Nazi groups are clearly identifiable as racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and even Eugenic in nature.  Therefore, as social workers practicing under our particular Code of Ethics, we need to respond. If you need some quick resources to learn more about the dynamics that led to the Charlottesville rally and violence, you can check out the “Charlottesville Syllabus” at this link.

As disability-aware social workers training to view the world through an intersectional lens, we need to acknowledge and act on what has happened in Charlottesville. That means that we need to engage in discussions – often difficult in nature – with our families, our co-workers and with our clients. Let’s start with our work with clients.

One prominent disability civil rights activist, Rebecca Cokley, has noted that when terrorist incidents like this occur, people with disability count the minutes until ableist claims about the ‘crazy’ person who engaged in terrorist acts roll in. That may be an important place for you to start a conversation with a client with a disability in a week like this one. In this essay, Ms. Cokley points out another important link between disability and trauma.  She calls for the disability community (and disability service providers) to reach out to those whose disabilities came about as a result of trauma, such as the people who were injured and impaired by the car driven by the White nationalist/Nazi from Ohio. Her essay is short, easy to read and compelling and you can find it here.

It is also important to remember, however, that our work is not just direct care work. Remember, the NASW Code of Ethics states that we must fight for social justice, as it is a core value in our profession. We need to do more than discuss these difficult topics amongst ourselves, we also need to take a stand on them. I am fond of the idea that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

It is important to move beyond ideas of ourselves as “good” people and work towards actively addressing the webs of oppression that exist in our world, little bit by little bit. Here is an example about how ADAPT, the national disability civil rights organization, has taken a stance on the events in Charlottesville. Where might you be able to stake your claim to your own stance?  Check out these ideas for 10 ways to fight hate from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Finally, I want to leave you with a challenging set of questions. Although there are many facets to the NASW Code of Ethics, let us remember that the mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values, including the idea that there is dignity and worth in every person.  How would you respond to a client with a disability who actively identified as a White nationalist/Nazi if you were to be assigned such a client today? What if she didn’t want to work with you because you were a woman of color?  What if she had been arrested for street fighting during the “Unite the Right” rally and was open about her wish to “hurt Leftists?”  Based on your training thus far in this social work program, how would you approach your work with this client?

How would you respond to a client with a disability who actively identified as a White nationalist/Nazi if you were to be assigned such a client today? What if she didn’t want to work with you because you were a woman of color? What if she had been arrested for street fighting during the “Unite the Right” rally and was open about her wish to “hurt Leftists?”  Based on your training thus far in this social work program, how would you approach your work with this client?

Please leave your comments about this discussion prompt and how it might be improved or expanded upon.  All feedback is welcome.

Your Service Signature: Creating Your Personal Style

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What makes you stand out in the crowd? Is it about learning a new approach? Brushing up on best practices? Achieving another credential?

In the helping professions, we share similarities in our formal training with some variation, of course. We learn about relevant theories, best practices in our particular field, various techniques and strategies.

When we work for particular organizations and systems, we are governed by a mandate and a set of guiding values.

Specific programs and services within these organizations normally have a central purpose for a particular group of people who access them.

There are policies, procedures, and protocols all in place to make our job easier and to give a sense of continuity and uniformity.

Why Your Service Signature is Important

Let’s not forget about your unique way of making your contribution; your personal approach.

Learning about the foundational theoretical underpinnings and specific methods involved in any helping profession is an obviously crucial element of your future success.

Some of it is really concrete. I think of nurses who are trained in various health procedures that have specific steps and in many situations, a scientific process. There is a right way and a wrong way to draw blood. And yet, at the same time, there are other softer skills that go along with that type of interaction which can provide an opportunity to show your service signature.

There is an opportunity for engagement and presence that might help the person on the other end of the needle feel more comfortable. And at the same time, it might offer a sense of lightness for the nurse in that moment of connection. It is in these moments that we get glimpses of joy and fulfillment.

Navigating The Grey Area

In addition to these more “technical” skills, the helping professions are mired in a great deal of abstract concepts that require some time for digestion and integration on the part of the learner.

When we talk about things like “self-determination” and “empowerment,” we are delving into a more gray area in that there are countless ways in which these ideas can be understood and even more ways in which they might be expressed in service to others.

Donald Schon referred to these as “soft skills.” Soft maybe; not less important or valuable. And not always easy to fully integrate into practice.

At the end of the day, there is a process involved in taking theoretical approaches and best practices from our heads to our hearts to eventually demonstrate it through our actions. These approaches and practices inform our personal service signature. They are a part of it, yet ultimately, it is you as the person who expresses it in your own unique way with the people you serve.

And it is the embodiment of that in your work that will create the space for connection with others.

It’s About How You Do What You Do

Focus on how you do what you do. What frame of reference do you come from in your work? What matters the most to you when you interact with someone? How do you wish to feel as you begin your day, go through it, and end it?

Your personal service signature will develop and evolve over the course of your career so check in with yourself for upgrades. And don’t be surprised if you completely change your mind about certain things along the way!

Your service signature is most legible and accessible to others when it is most natural to you. And this takes time and energy. It takes conscious awareness. You will know you have reached clarity when you can say it, feel it, and be it. So pay attention to that. It can be a really wonderful moment!

Let’s get started! I would love to hear about your process!

Start with identifying the foundational elements that inform your service signature including theories, practices, approaches, beliefs, and philosophies.

How do you describe your Service Signature?

Twenty-Two Apps for the 21st Century Therapist

Mobile applications have a lot to offer therapists.  Whether you are looking for games to play with patients, productivity or billing tools, or something to help you research, there’s an app for that.  Many supervisees, students and consultees have asked me lately what apps I recommend, so I thought it was about time I gave you a list sampling those I find most helpful and fun.  Many are cheap or free, and available for the iPad, iPhone and Android:

1. GoToMeeting

Planning on doing online therapy?  Gotomeeting has desktop and app versions of videoconferencing software, which is HIPAA-compliant.  The app version allows you to attend meetings, but the meeting needs to be initiated from the desktop version.  I use this program for the majority of my online sessions with patients and supervisees.

2. IbisMail

If you are juggling multiple roles or a portfolio career, or simply want better therapeutic boundaries, this is the email program for you.  Installed on your iPad or iPhone, this program allows you to set up automatic filters, so you can sort through junk mail.  But it also allows you to set up folders for patient emails, so that you can have them all in one place.  Then it is up to you to decide when you review your patient communications, rather than have everything coming through one inbox.  Supports multiple email accounts.

3. Flipboard

If you are wanting to add value to your twitter followers or consultees, this is a great app.  It provides a slick intuitive interface on your mobile device that pulls in stories from feeds you set, from you Facebook account to the Harvard Business Review blog.  When you find something you want to share, the app allows seamless sharing on a variety of social media platforms.  In a few minutes you can browse and share selected readings and keep up to date on current interests.

4. Bamboo Paper

This app allows you to write notes on your iPad.  It is great for note-taking during evaluations, and allows you to send these notes to Evernote as a .pdf or email yourself a copy.  NOTE: Doing this is not HIPAA-compliant if you have distinguishing identifying information in the note, so I recommend you refrain from using the cloud-based features if you have any concerns about patient privacy.  If you are using it for workshops or other personal uses, however, no worries.  And if you keep the notes local to your password-protected device, it can be a great tool.

5. Evernote

I was hesitant to add Evernote due to the recent hack they experienced, but their quick and effective response to this have actually made me more confident that this cloud-based note-taking device is still useful.  It is NOT HIPAA-compliant, so I don’t use it for patient notes ever.  That said, it is great for dictating notes about workshops, blog ideas, snapping pictures of things for study aids, and a myriad of other useful tasks.  The notes sync up between every device you have them on, so you’re always up to date.

6. iAnnotate

One of my favorites.  iAnnotate allows you to markup .pdf files on your mobile device.  If you need to sign off on a document someone emails or faxes you, no more scanning, printing, scanning again stuff.  And if you are a student or researcher this is a must-have, as it supports highlighting and annotating research articles.  Syncs with Mendeley and Dropbox so you can store your research library with notes online.

7. 1Password

How can you make your mobile device more secure and use your web-browser more safely? This may be the answer for you.  1Password installs on your mobile or desktop, and allows you to save and generate extremely long and secure passwords.  The level of encryption can be adjusted for the most cautious of password protectors.  This program also syncs over the cloud so that you always have the up-to-date passwords on all of your devices.  Even more convenient, it can bookmark your sign-in pages.  All of this is secured by double-password protection on your iPhone.  Stop using the same lame password for everything and start generating unique hard-to-crack ones for true HIPAA-compliance.

8. Mendeley

One part social network, one part research library,  Mendeley allows you to store research articles and annotations online and on your device.  It allows you to network with other colleagues to see what they are researching, share articles, and store all of your articles in one place.  Often it can even pull up the bibliographic entry from the web just by reading the .pdf meta tag.  Geeky research goodness!

9. PayPal

This is one option for billing patients and paying vendors that is good to have. You can invoice by email, transfer money to your bank account, and keep track of online payments on the website. The app works well in a pinch if you aren’t ready to swipe credit cards in your office.  NOTE, each transaction has a small fee.

10. Prezi

I’d love to see more therapists using this one.  This presentation software allows you to create dynamic visual presentations on your computer or mobile device.  You could use it to convert boring DBT worksheets to a dynamic online presentation.  Prezi supports importation from powerpoint, and provides free online hosting of your prezis as well as tons of templates and tutorials.  If you do public speaking, upload some of your prezis on your LinkedIn profile to give potential clients a vivid sense of your work.  You can see a sample here, but bear in mind that it would make more sense if I was there giving the talk.

11. DCU

I haven’t been to a bank in over 2 years, and this app is the reason why. Digital Credit Union’s Mobile Branch PC, allows me to deposit checks from patients via my iphone.  Just login, scan the checks, and in 10 minutes you’ve done your deposits for the week.  Meanwhile, the online interface allows you to keep track of your spending easily and export to Excel or accounting software if you need to.  Great for tax season!

12. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great and free way to store non-private information on the cloud.  The app allows you to email items easily, so I use it to email intake instructions to patients, press kits to people inquiring about keynotes, and a number of other items.  I also keep all my DBT worksheets on it so that they can be sent quickly and easily to patients should they be feeling in need of extra support between sessions but not acute enough to warrant hospitalization.

13. TED

This app allows you to stay inspired and experience innovation daily, by beaming TED talks to your mobile device from the offical TED site.  You can favorite, search, and share your favorite ones, or hit “Inspire me” for random ideas.  As I wrote this, I was listening to Amanda Palmer speak on “The art of asking.”  This app can allow you access to ideas outside of the filtered professional bubble with therapists often get ourselves stuck in.

14. Line2

Want a second phone line on your iPhone? This app allows you to have one. You can port your practice number to it, and stop carrying two cell phones. At $9.95 a month you can have unlimited US/Canada calling, at $14.95 a month you get a toll-free number and virtual fax.

15. Micromedex

Keeping up-to-date on medications is pretty daunting, but this app, with frequent updates, helps you keep track od a medication, its Black Box warnings, contraindications, drug interactions, adverse effects, alternate names, standard dosages and more. And now for some games!

16. Plants Vs. Zombies

This game is great for helping patients who want to learn about strategy and pacing.  Choose a certain number of plant types to plant in order to stop the zombies from overrunning your backyard.

17. Zombies, Run!

Continuing my zombie kick, this game is better than any pedometer I’ve ever used.  The more you walk or run, the further you progress in this game of fleeing zombies.  Go on multiple missions, play with friends, and even train for a 5K.

18. Kingdom Rush

This game is a classic tower defense game, which helps patients learn to make choices, control impulse spending as part of a winning strategy, and work on pacing, problem-solving and a host of other cognitive abilities.

19. Minecraft Pocket Edition

This mobile app version of Minecraft is a great way to connect with a patient’s gaming, and the app allows you to play together on a wireless LAN, so you can fight for survival or create an amazing construction right from your office together.

20. Flower Chain

This is a completely nonviolent game that focuses on setting up a chain reaction of flower blooms in order to complete each level.  Great eye candy, and a fun game for clearing the mind after a difficult session.

21. Trainyard

This puzzle game requires you to plan out and design multiple railroad tracks.  The trick is to set them up and pace them so that they all meet their goals without running into each other.  Great prompt for talking with adolescents about how they can learn to negotiate peer relationships in the same way, or learn to compromise with adults in order to get along with them.

22. Lavalanche

This puzzle game is reminiscent of Jenga, in that you have to dismantle a tower without letting the Tiki Idol fall into lava.  Another great one for executive function capacity-building around sequencing, planning and problem-solving.

So there you go, give some of these a try and let me know what you think.  Have a favorite app that you want to share?  Please feel free to comment and include the link.

The Savvy Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media and the Internet

Social media is ever-present and will only continue to grow. As such, social workers need to know how to ethically and successfully navigate the many paths of the online world to protect themselves and more importantly, their clients. Social media in particular can be used in a myriad of ways from networking with other professionals to marketing your practice.

How Social Media Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Network with other providers. In addition to networking in person with local social workers, social media platforms give you connections ranging from your own neighborhood to all over the world. While there’s no shortage of social media platforms to choose from, Facebook is clearly the front-runner based on audience engagement according to Tech Times’ analysis of comScore’s data. Below is a chart comparing audience engagement across the top social media platforms.

Due to Facebook’s popularity, there’s a good chance you’ll find a group pertaining to an area of social work that interests you.

Do you want to connect with private practice therapists? There are groups for that.

Are you interested in networking with child welfare or geriatric workers? There are groups for that.

Are you interested social work pertaining to social justice or advocacy? You guessed it – there are groups for that, too!

Your best bet is to get into a secret or closed group. A closed group can be searched for and anyone can find it, but you have to be approved to join and your posts are only seen by members. A secret group is a group you are invited to join so it’s not searchable.

  • Build reputation and showcase expertise. People look up their providers on the web all the time and clients will search for you. If you have professional blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest accounts that are public – you control the story you let others see. You choose content that allows clients to get to know you, the practitioner.
  • Use social media to enhance your motivation for your career. Create and develop Pinterest boards with your social work interests. And while you’re at it, blog about social justice issues that are important to you. Exploring your area of interests can remind you why you love what you do!
  • Use discussion boards to connect with other social workers. Engage in conversations about policy and procedures, or concerns with other professionals. You might join a listserv, a therapy site, or even LinkedIn – interact with other professionals, gain knowledge, and share your own thoughts.

How the Internet Can Be Useful for Social Workers

  • Take advantage of online educational opportunities. There are plenty of options online for Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in social work and related fields. There are also certificates you can earn online to hone your skills and increase credibility. You are no longer confined to your community to find preferred training classes. Online courses are offered for virtually any aspect or specialty of social work.
  • Tele-social work is an option. Online platforms allow social workers to see and talk to their clients, and provide services like therapy, without ever having to step into an office! This can be ideal for clients who live in rural areas, lack the means for proper transportation, or are just having difficulty getting to a traditional office. Using telehealth to reach clients is becoming steadily more popular among doctors and other health providers.

Ethical Considerations

  • Get educated about on-line rules and regulations. Look into classes and certification courses you can take regarding online etiquette. Know that most email is not confidential, and that a telehealth platform has to be HIPAA compliant. With all of the rules governing social work and social media, it’s essential for you to be informed so you don’t make an inadvertent mistake. You can use the following infographic by Scrypt as a quick reference for using social media without violating any HIPAA regulations.
  • Don’t talk about clients online. If you must – keep it in the broadest sense possible. Don’t include any identifying information about your client, not even gender. Social workers often want to share cases and funny stories with their colleagues, or ask for advice from others in the field. Be aware that what you write could get out for anyone to see. Even in a private Facebook group, you’re not going to know all the people who can see the posts.

Before writing anything about a client, consider how they would feel if they knew what you were writing about them. If you are looking for feedback, ask broader questions instead of focusing on a specific client. Instead of saying “I have a client with PTSD and am wondering…?” Try asking “What interventions can people use to help alleviate someone’s symptoms of PTSD?”

  • Avoid looking up your clients online. It is human nature to want to find out more, but doing so can harm the therapeutic relationship. A client will tell you only what they are comfortable sharing. If they ask you to read a blog post they wrote or look up something they were featured in, then by all means do so. When tempted to look, ask yourself what you’ll do with the information you find, and what’s your purpose for searching it out? If it’s simply for the sake of curiosity – stop.
  • Whether you work for a private practice or in an agency, it is vital to have a social media policy in place. Let your clients know you won’t friend them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Set that boundary. You can like, respect, and have an excellent therapeutic relationship with a client, but you are NOT their friend.
  • Nothing truly disappears on the Internet. Even if you delete a tweet or blog post – it’s still findable. It is a good rule to not put anything on the Internet you wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone you know – including grandma and your boss – seeing. If you have a personal Facebook page, blog, or other social media account – keep the privacy settings high. Realize even when you post privately, your post isn’t always private. It comes down to not writing or posting anything that you are not willing to be a representation of you to the world.

Like many professions in the 21st century, the Internet has been an amazing asset to social workers. This technology allows us to connect with peers, colleagues, and clients from all over the world, but it can also land you in hot water if you’re not careful. Luckily there’s a vast supply of online resources and courses you can take to help you have a successful and secure virtual presence.

Love Wins in the Wake of the Orlando Shootings

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During the weekend, yet another hate crime occurred in the LGBTQ community when a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida left 49 dead and 53 injured. Families and friends of LGBTQ communities across the world are still recovering from the initial shock of the news. Among the victims was Enrique Rios, a New York social worker, on vacation visiting friends when his life ended in tragedy.

As I write this article, I am not only writing as a social work professional, but as an individual all too familiar with the sight, smell, taste, and fear hate crimes create. I am feeling shattered, upset, angry, and confused.

Words do not come easily to describe the cruelty and madness in this news. It is painful, but it should not leave us without reflection, and the message of Love Wins. How can we as social workers take this message and make it a model, an approach, a perspective, a theory, and apply it in our practice?

How can we take the pain and trauma that people experience and transform it into universal love and support? How can we open our eyes and explore the power resonating within us with such rich emotions? How can we recall such emotions and integrate them in the way we support individuals?

An immense number of supporters across the world have gathered together and paid respects to the people who lost their lives and the bereaved in this act of senseless violence. People across the world united to show what love can do, and how love can be used.

“When big events happen that touch the gay community, people immediately come here,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

“There’s been no significant development in the gay rights movement that hasn’t had a presence in the Village,” he added. – New York Times

More than 5,000 people gathered in Soho, London UK, and became silent within seconds altogether and maintained their silence for an extended period to show their respect for the deceased and their families and friends. More than 1,000 people in Athens, Greece came together to light candles and have a peaceful walk to show their empathy and willingness to accompany the bereaved in their journey of grief. People in France, across the US, in Korea, in the Pacific, in South America, all gathered to say one thing… LoveWins.

If love is so powerful, why do we as social workers not make this part of our everyday professional life? Social work, among other things, is an act of advocacy for human and civil rights. Our role stresses to influence policy makers, to influence localities, and to explore support systems in the community.

Love may be the one tool that may bring all these together and facilitate our work to a larger extent. Love may be an answer to the service user’s life. Love might bring different people together and teach them how to BE together and inspire us to help educate and learn from each other. Love may be the tool that will teach people to become more tolerant and eliminate discrimination, prejudice, oppression, microaggressions.

Love may be the tool that will forge strong relationships between community partners to provide holistic social services. Love may be the tool that will enable all people to stop hating each other.

Do we as social workers not pledge to promote the well-being of individuals, families, groups, and communities? Let’s teach people how to love and show them that difference is not a scary thing.

An Easy-to-Use Guide to Incidental Mindfulness: A Mini Rest for the Busy Brain

busymind
Artwork created by Author Felicity Mary Cross

Do you constantly live in the future, or in the past? Are you constantly planning ahead or thinking over and over about past events?  Do you experience a million racing thoughts, like what groceries to buy, did you put the washing on, have you paid bills, when to pick up the kids and who’s going to what sports and when?

We live in an era of business. We are constantly on the move, juggling multiple jobs, roles and responsibilities. No previous generation has been as time poor, or had as many competing concerns as we have, it is a chaotic affair just to juggle work and children and life. And all those constant and intrusive thoughts make for busy heads. Being busy by definition means we have little time to counteract this with relaxation or rest, let alone any great mental health relaxation training techniques. Who has the time for meditation, not I and I bet not you!

Mindfulness is a buzz word we hear a lot these days, but the positive effects of Mindfulness training are not disputed because it works. Mindfulness is literally a practice that involves pulling our thoughts back from that chaotic level of everyday thought, and thinking purely in the moment.

Focusing on what’s being experienced right now. In Mindfulness practice, we are promoting a certain quieting of the busy mind. Unlike meditation where you are required to empty your mind of thoughts which can be quite difficult without extensive practice, mindfulness practice allows you to still let your mind work and let thoughts occur. The point is to make these thoughts moment specific and simple.

The theory is that by doing this simple exercise you can reduce stress and increase your well-being. But again who has time to follow a mindfulness regime?

The answer is all of us. We don’t have to make mindfulness a long drawn out affair; we can practice a simplified form called Incidental Mindfulness. Incidental Mindfulness is literally taking a small moment in your day to practice Mindfulness; this moment can literally be 30 seconds to a few minutes, for example:

  • When you are washing up, try to stop your busy thoughts and really focus on being in the moment, making your thoughts specific to that very moment: how does the warm water feel on your hands, how the soap feels against your skin, slippery against the dishes. Try to quiet your thoughts by just focusing on what you are feeling and being fully present and planted in that moment.
  • Or, sit wherever you happen to be and focus on your surroundings. Again try to quiet your mind and let go of the chaotic everyday thoughts and think about how your body feels sitting in the chair, be aware of your surroundings, smells, sounds, and sights, let the thoughts flow in and out of your mind i.e. I hear a bird chirping, a car driving by, my legs are relaxed or sore. Noticing immediate feelings and thoughts, being fully present in that moment and in that place.
  • When you are eating or drinking, for example having a cup of tea. Take a moment to stop and think about how the cup feels warm in your hands, how the tea tastes, the sensation of the warm tea down your throat, if you can smell your tea. Noticing all the physical sensations of drinking your tea, and how that makes you feel, again being fully present and pulling your thoughts right back to the immediate sensations and thoughts.
  • When you are in the shower focusing on washing your body, try using your non-dominate hand (if you are right handed or try using your left hand). Fully noticing your motions/actions and how that feels, if it is awkward or uncomfortable; how your skin feels and the sensation of the wash cloth on your skin, the sound of the running water. Looking intently at your hands, your legs, noticing all your limbs, how they look and how they feeling. Again fully noticing all your physical sensations, using your senses, touch, smell, sight and hearing.

As you can see anyone can practice Incidental Mindfulness, at any time, in any place! Find an activity that works for you, and one that is easy and non-disruptive to your busy life. This practice is meant to reduce stress, not add stress, so please remember the one and only rule: keep it simple. We wish you improved health and well-being through helpful, easy-to-use Incidental Mindfulness to begin de-cluttering your busy brains.

Geotagging Memories? A Brief Exploration of Social Work Implications

panoramio-geotagging
Photo Courtesy Panoramio.com

Sometimes social workers ask me how they can connect Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial analysis to their work. For macro social work, the connections are easy. We can visualize community assets, identify crime hotspots, look at the ways in which environmental hazards cluster in certain communities…the possibilities are endless. But, for clinical and micro focused social work, the connections are not as easy to draw. In this article, I want to open up this discussion in order to consider the ways place and space shape our memories and how they may hold broader implications for the use of spatially oriented technologies in social work practice.

When I reviewed an article suggested by Nancy Smyth, the dean at the School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo SUNY, I was drawn to the potential implications for social work. The article was on a recent study conducted by Michael Kahana and his colleagues at Penn State University where the participants used a game-based simulation in which they walked around a virtual town dropping off packages. The researchers then measured participants’ brain response when asked to recall where they had dropped off packages. They determined that neurons in the hippocampus act as a “brain GPS device” that stores and “geotags” memories. Put simply, their tests and brain images revealed that during the recall process, these memory geotags activate just before the participant recalls a memory.

Their interest is in the role of the hippocampus in cognition; I’m interested in some of the practical implications of these findings for social workers. Micro social workers might be able to use these types of findings to better understand how the macro environment and the notion of “place” can shape their clients’ well being. How do we work with a client who experiences a traumatic event in their home or community? If memories contain geotags, these place-based triggers could be an important area for intervention especially if they are places the client cannot avoid.

From a macro perspective, could community locations trigger collective trauma? In my work in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I’ve observed how places can shape and inform collective memories. In the middle of the once thriving neighborhood business district lies a vacant building bearing the telltale shape of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Years ago, a teenager was shot and killed there while in the drive through with his mother. The restaurant closed but the building remains a scar on the landscape; a geotagged community trauma yet to be healed.

What other social work implications might the concept of memory geotags lend itself to?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5TRU9A1t9k[/youtube]

Rothman Report Inspires a Student Led Movement

In 2012, Dr. Jack Rothman, a prominent author and academic, issued a report on the current state of social work macro practice. The study identified barriers in schools of social work which have shown a steady decline in social work engagement with community organizing, policy making, and political activism.

Macro Social Work Student Network (MSWSN) received the Student Recognition award from the Association for Social Administration and Community Organization (ACOSA), and I was chosen to lead the expedition to see how we can reinvigorate and shift social workers back into policy makers. I left New York City to go on a fact finding mission in the mid-west in order to collect data and identify concerns from students and academics on the state of macro practice curricula within their universities. I visited four schools of social work which was the University of Texas at Austin, University of Utah, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University.

MSWSN
Macro Social Work Student Network

This humbling honor reflects not just the potential of students to affect macro education, but the need for us to be advocates. Anxious to hit the road and meet my colleagues at other schools, I took another look at the Rothman Report which is essential reading for any social worker and especially the macro social worker.  The following findings of the Report manifested themselves during my trip:

  • There is limited integration of macro with micro in the curriculum
  • Macro courses are neglected or marginalized
  • Students are not encouraged to choose a macro program or are deflected to clinical practice
  • There is lack of student interest in or knowledge of macro 
  • Field placements are lacking or problematic
  • Licensure requires many micro courses and leads to little macrocontent

The Macro Social Work Student Network (MSWSN) is a student-driven organization that has been forming campus chapters for macro education advocacy. In turn, this leads to better macro practitioners and healthier communities because social worker are trained to influence policy shifts in order to help improve outcomes for children and families.

Micro level social work is primarily dedicated to clinicians who provide treatment to the individual and/or family. In recent years, social work has shifted from its social justice roots, and it has moved towards the perception of a mental health provider or a child welfare worker.

In my opinion, the profession is dangerously incomplete without macro practitioners organizing in communities, leading and administrating vital agencies, drafting policies, constructing programs for healthier society, and more. Galvanized by the barriers facing macro education, student are working together across the country and in their schools to enhance macro education. On my journey, I met with students and professors to learn more about why they think enhanced macro education is imperative to the social welfare.

Perhaps, it was in the 1980s when the decline in macro education begin to shift. By the 1990’s, a paltry “2.9 to 4.5%” of masters-level students focusing on policy and political involvement according to the Rothman Report. In June, the Network held an event on the current state of macro education with Dr. Loretta Pyles and Dr. Scott Harding presenting on the 2012 Rothman Report.

The Rothman Report added validity to what students were already feeling in their schools which equated to macro education students being underserved. Amazingly, campus chapters have been springing from Massachusetts, Texas to California, and it is reminiscent of “an earlier period [when] grassroots activism and political campaigns were a vibrant aspect of the emerging social work field” (Rothman, 2013).

University of Texas-Austin

At the University of Texas-Austin, I encountered two impassioned MSW students, Elise Fleming and Jessa Glick who led me to Professor Duncan’s classroom. Professor Duncan asserted, “As an educator and social work practitioner I believe robust macro education is critical to fulfilling our profession’s commitment to social justice.  We cannot achieve true social justice one client at a time.” He continued, “To be truly effective social work education must include a strong foundation in macro practice for all students and specific skill development for those students that want to focus on macro practice.  One of the true tenets of macro practice is grassroots organizing and empowerment. I am excited to see the potential of MSWSN to help students learn those skills and strengthen macro practice!”

Ms. Glick made the statement, “I think of macro education as siloed. I don’t see clinical and macro as separate, but curricula enforce a false binary that they are. MSWSN is giving students a chance to collaborate and share experiences.” She continued, “MSWSN allows for sharing of information and innovations/trends within macro social work programs with a space for dialogue. Most importantly, the student voice has a professional platform.”

A few days later I received a message that UT-Austin would start a chapter and focus on assessing the school’s macro curriculum using MSWSN’s assessment survey.

Arizona State University and North Arizona University

The next day, I made my way to the Land of Enchantment at Arizona State University, where I met Judy Krysik’s Program Planning in Social Services class in Phoenix and Nick Taras’ at the Tuscon campus. Assistant Professor David Androff regarded this “as a huge opportunity for ASU social work students.”  ASU’s Policy, Administration, and Community Practice (PAC) students expressed many concerns that would be echoed up north in Dr. Anne Medill’s BSW macro course at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

NAU students, limited by an undergraduate generalist curriculum, threw up their hands with questions such as:

  • Other than what was described, what else is macro social work?
  • What sort of job can I get as a macro practitioner?
  • What about the licensing?
  • Can I actually be a social worker who writes policy?
  • How can we get more macro classes in here?

These are real questions that social work students face across the country and not enough are getting the answers they need. Students are feeling disempowered and misguided by an abundance of myths, misinformation, and mere separation from the facts in order to make intelligent decisions about their social work careers. Ultimately, both the student and our communities suffer.

University of Utah

At the University of Utah, I spoke both with MSW students in Dr. Lindsay Gezinski’s class and in a general information session, each organized by BSW students Carlos Rivera and Rick Reimann. Although Utah only offers a clinical track, students still have macro practice concentration option. One student, Katheryn Dennet stated,

“I see great value in understanding and participating in macro level social work. Systematic change requires many minds – including clinicians – to provide information for our clients. Too often we feel powerless and if we communicate this to our clients we will have done them a great disservice. Learning how to work at the macro level as a clinician is empowering and a crucial part of the social work education. MSWSN’s presentation made me, for the first time, feel excited about a clinician’s role in a large macro setting.”

The Rothman Report

Dr. Rothman started the “Action Recommendations” section of the Report with the following statement:

“There was a strong sentiment for increasing the visibility of the macro area and advocating for its greater status and importance in the field. The major institutions identified as key to attaining this objective are CSWE (in particular), schools and departments, and NASW. These emerge as the core target groups of an action program. Additional targets are the general public, related professions and disciplines, and social work scholarly organizations”

With this statement, I interpret its meaning as stating student involvement in schools and departments of social work is an inherent necessity for the growth of macro practice. While I encourage collaboration with CSWE and the NASW, the development of solutions to barriers to growth in macro education must begin with student action.

As I reflect on my journey, I realized there is more work to be done with MSWSN than before I left, and student sentiments are clear. We want enhanced macro education, and we’re determined to work for it. The development and growth of MSWSN provides an opportunity to facilitate and advocate for the advancement of macro practice. Increased advocacy has the ability to influence schools to produce more and better-skilled macro practitioners which will enhance policy initiative to improve communities.

Simple Ways To Improve Restricted Breathing Habits

How can you make a mistake when you breathe? After all, you’ve been able to survive this far! If you’ve observed your body, breath and posture when you are anxious before a meeting or around a stressful relationship you’ll often find a few characteristics. The shoulders may be raised up high and the breathing may be chest breathing with shallow breaths. Breathing can also be irregular when we are under stress. In yoga teachings they say that many people often take fifteen breaths in a minutes. With practice, one can slow it down to four or five breaths per minute. Breathing is natural and doesn’t seem like something we can improve, but having inner tension can result in shallow and jerky breathing patterns. In yoga and meditation, often breaths such as alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire and segmented breaths are used to help the body and mind relax.

BreathingTry to watch what your breathing pattern is when you have tension around work, school, family, money or other concerns. Don’t judge yourself, but just look at it. If you start criticizing yourself, you are adding in additional thoughts that can result in agitation. Just watch where you hold the tension. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders close to your ears? Do you feel that your breath is incomplete?

One way to check is to make a contrast. If you have a view from your house or are near a natural setting, see what the quality of your breathing is when you look at something beautiful. How does the rest of your body feel? One of my clients who is a teenager told me she never gets headaches when she sleeps at her grandmother’s house. We all have settings where we know our breathing is deeper and more relaxed. Music can also have that effect and that is easy to use in the house or when you can’t get to a natural setting.

Put a Light Pillow On Your Belly To Practice

Years ago, I took a yoga class and the instructor had a place a light pillow on our bellies while we were on our backs. This is a good way to practice diaphragmatic breathing. The belly will rise up, towards the sky with the inhale. That is how a baby breathes. This helps the lungs inflate with oxygen. It is called “paradoxical” breathing when the opposite pattern occurs. Many people inhale and the belly goes in, chest tightens and shoulders go up. Try to practice ten minutes a day with a pillow on your belly and watch feel it rise when you inhale.

Jody’s School Stress

Two years ago I had a 15 year old client who went to a private school and she felt inferior due to her family’s low income situation. She only had a “flip” phone and her clothing was not from well-known designer brands. Though on one level, she knew that status symbols were shallow, she also felt it hurt her social life.

I encouraged her to let others see her creative sides as she made excellent animations and was talented in drawing. She was too shy to do this, but did want to have more inner tranquility. I showed her this breathing (pranayama ) meditation and she found it was quite helpful when she fell into comparisons with others.

A Pranayama Meditation

This is a kundalini yoga meditation taught in a 1971 class by Yogi Bhajan.

In the first part, sit comfortably with hands in the lap and have the tip of the thumb touch the tip of the index finger with relaxed hands. It’s fine to sit in a chair or on the ground cross-legged. Breathe slowly, filling the belly, then ribs and finally upper chest. Hold the breath for ten seconds and then exhale for five seconds. If it is too long to hold it for ten seconds, then reduce the time so it’s comfortable. This can be done for a few minutes and then another minute can be added where the holding period of the breath is increased a few seconds longer. Feel the breath and bring the mind back to the inhalation and exhalation as thoughts arise.

In the second part, close your eyes and look mentally at the third eye point. Close off the right nostril using your thumb and take a nice, slow inhalation through the left nostril. Hold it for fifteen to twenty seconds. Then close off the left nostril and exhale through the right in four sniffs. Do this same pattern for three to four minutes (inhaling through the left side and exhaling in four sniffs through the right side.). After doing this, try to do two more minutes with the same pattern, except you’ll exhale with 8 sniffs rather than four sniffs. This has a calming effect on the mind and body. The thoughts may continue, but the mind has a different relation to them.

Hospice and Palliative Care: Where Are We?

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month and palliative care is still in its infancy. We are still learning and growing, and in many ways, fine tuning who we are and what we do. As social workers and as leaders, we have work to do. It is critical that we continue to hold true to our core values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence, especially as we look at these numbers provided by the Administration on Aging (AoA):

  • PopulationThe older population (65+) numbered 41.4 million in 2011, an increase of 6.3 million or 18% since 2000

  • Older women outnumber older men at 23.4 million older women to 17.9 million older men

  • In 2011, 21.0% of persons 65+ were members of racial or ethnic minority populations

  • About 28% (11.8 million) of non-institutionalized older persons live alone (8.4 million women, 3.5 million men)

  • Almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone

The statistics go on and on and we know that members of our older population will be requiring care of all kinds in ever increasing numbers. Enter…the critical role of the social worker. But, I hate to ask, is the role of the social worker really critical? Let’s take a look: Palliative care is defined in part by the following:

  • Holistic care, utilizing the biopsychosocial/spiritual model

  • Addresses the needs of the patient and her/his family system

  • Assists people to design and achieve their best possible experience

  • Guides, supports and empowers people through the process of understanding what is important to them in their lives

  • Utilizes highly skilled and well-coordinated interdisciplinary teams

  • Assures teams are guided by the patient/family centered plan with the goals they have given to us, and…

  • Aggressively addresses both pain AND suffering

Eric Cassell describes suffering as distress brought about by the actual or perceived impending threat to the integrity or continued existence of the whole person. He states that suffering can include physical pain but is by no means limited to it.¹

But it is not just “pain and suffering” on people’s minds as they live in the light of serious illness. In addition, people struggle with thoughts of letting go of life and as they look for ways to find meaning in their experience. Hospice and palliative care can never have a predominant focus on pain and symptom management with the rest of the team serving in a “by-the-way” capacity. That is not who we are and it is not what we promise. All members of the team are necessary for a person to have a true palliative care experience – and all need to be working in concert around a person-centered plan.

It is now critical for social workers to step up as leaders in palliative care, whether it is raising the bar for more efficient teamwork or at the mezzo level, influencing care nationally and internationally. The goal is to help assure a more consistent approach to care that includes our clinical skill development and best practice approaches.

With this in mind it is exciting to discover that educational opportunities for palliative care and hospice social workers abound. Everything from live intensives to all online programs are available to accommodate diverse learning preferences.  Online programs offer social workers the flexibility to obtain certificates without ever leaving home and completing modules/assignments while working part or full-time.

So here is my challenge for hospice and palliative care social workers this month:

  • Service – work on raising the bar for true inter/transdisciplinary practice

  • Social justice – make a special effort to identify the underserved individuals and populations in your community and reach out

  • Dignity and worth of the person – never forget that “the person” not “the patient” is who we seek to serve

  • Importance of human relationships – “problem focused care plans” are not who we are…nor is our approach “diagnose and treat”. This about assisting people to have THEIR best possible experience which includes “opportunities” they might not have identified on their own

  • Integrity – Our job is to do the best job we can, in every situation, with every person

  • Competence – it is our responsibility to never stop looking for better ways to serve – to never stop seeking ways to improve/complement our skills

In the book “Phantom”, author Ted Bell describes a conversation between a young naval cadet and his boxing instructor. The instructor said:

The ideal fighter has heart, skill, movement, intelligence, but also creativity. You can have everything, but if you can’t make it up while you are in the ring, you can’t be great. A lot of chaps have the mechanics and no heart; lots of guys have heart and no mechanics; the thing that puts it all together, it’s mysterious, it’s like making a work of art, you bring everything to it and you make it up while you are doing it.²

This sounds like social workers. We pack our bags full of skill (mechanics) and life experience (heart) and then…we make it up while we are doing it. During this special month, let’s remember to recognize the importance of all social workers in every area of practice. Stepping up as leaders is truly in our blood and at the heart of who we all are.

For more information on palliative care courses for social workers, visit www.csupalliativecare.org.

References

¹Cassell, Eric J. 2004. The Nature of Suffering, Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y.

²Bell, Ted (2012). Phantom. Harper Collins, New York, N.Y.

Four Ways Online Apps and Other Technologies Can Simplify Your Life

With such a variety of social media sites and a plethora of funny videos that go viral daily, it’s easy to feel like much of our time gets wasted online. However, the internet is also a great way to get your life more organized so you can be more efficient and productive. There are many online apps, many of which are free, that can help you manage your money and your time, plan healthy meals and organize your home.

Money Management

online appsThere are several ways you can use online apps to help you manage your finances. Again, many of these programs are free and some charge a small fee. Do a little research to choose the app that meets your needs for the best price. Consider some of these money management options, which are available in many of the apps currently on the market:

  • Set limits for different categories of expenditures. Receive notifications when you are approaching or surpassing these limits.

  • Set financial goals for savings and see what areas of your budget you need to limit in order to reach your goals.

  • Sync your bank and credit card accounts so you can see where you are spending your money no matter the account from which it is pulled.

There are also apps that help you save money. Some of these help you find coupons or compare prices at different stores. Because you can use the app on a smartphone, you can shop around without even leaving the store.

Time Management

Online calendars are a great way to organize your time. In fact, you can keep your whole family organized using a digital calendar. For example, when you add a dentist appointment to the calendar app on your smartphone, it can automatically update your husband’s calendar. Since he can access the calendar from his phone and computer as well as receive reminder notifications, there is almost no way he can forget that appointment.

There are also great apps to help you organize your to-do lists. You can categorize tasks based on due date or project type such as home, work, social, family, etc. If you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, you can view your errand list based on geographic location. Instead of wasting an hour while you wait for your kid’s soccer practice to end, you can allow the GPS tell you which errands are near the soccer field and get those checked off your list.

Meal Planning

There are a variety of tools available to help you meal plan and organize your grocery list. Some apps are great for those “foodies” who seek to try new recipes with exotic ingredients while others are better for busy moms who need quick ideas using easy-to-find items. Either way, using a meal planning app will help you spend less money eating out. Additionally, homemade meals are usually healthier and can help you stay true to your diet goals. The best part of using a meal planning app is that it can generate a grocery list based on the recipes you choose. It’s much easier to stick to a meal plan when you have all the ingredients you need for your recipes.

De-cluttering Your Space

Going paperless is a great way to organize your space. Most businesses and banks already offer paperless billing and account statements. However, you can take this one step further by using a cloud network to organize all your papers. A cloud network allows you to store documents online, often at no charge up to a certain amount of storage.

Scan important papers into digital files which can be stored on your cloud network. This can include bank statements, user manuals, tax documents, warranty papers, legal documents and more. You can recycle these papers and de-clutter your space. After scanning, use a PDF creator to create PDF files which are easily stored, shared and printed when necessary.

By using these technologies, you will have more time and money to spend on the people and things you love most. You’ll just have to avoid the temptation of using that extra time to watch yet another funny video.

Leaving Room For Change: Beyond Evidence Based Practice

Those of us in the social work profession have spent at least 4 years at university studying the intricacies of human behaviours, and thousands of hours analysing a myriad of models and theories that claim to provide the “solution” to people problems. Every model taught has undergone rigorous testing by suitably qualified professionals in order to prove validity, and to claim its stake in the world of “best practice” or “evidence based practice”.

We exit university feeling well equipped with an abundance of knowledge and an ability to adapt what we have learnt to any given client situation. Ethically, we’re bound to continue our professional development and keep ourselves up to date on the latest findings that add to, question or replace the strategies we were taught, and have started to use with our client groups.

prescriptiveHeading into the “real world”, we soon realize that the organisation (or its funding body) will regulate which models we will use with our particular client group. This may feel “prescriptive” for a while, but soon we’ll either be convinced, or told, that this is the latest and most effective evidence based method of intervention for your particular client group.  We may sprinkle in a portion of our own personality, and if particularly brave, insert a couple of our own ideas throughout the intervention process.  How and when this sort of “insertion of the worker’s own interpretation” occurs does not appear to be of much (if any) concern in overall evaluations.

The assertive among us may even go so far as to suggest CHANGE to some of the old “tried and true” strategies. But we’ll soon realize that we need a team of researchers and multitudes of clients willing to be guinea pigs, to provide that much-needed “evidence”. Time consuming. Probably cost prohibitive.  We’re probably already overworked and underpaid.  Perhaps it’s best to just stick to the existing  prescription.  After all, the “experts” have stated that all the research points to evidence that this works. Furthermore, organisational managers who have a management perspective (as opposed to a client perspective) start to adapt these models as “evidence”  to show they are following procedures which have a “proven” methodology. Models have measurements to gauge outcomes, and outcomes justify organisational spending.

Here comes the irony. Interestingly, we encourage our clients to embrace change. As social workers, we are often called “change agents”.  How then, can we justify a profession that is becoming “prescriptive” by the very nature of insistence on “evidence based practice”?

Now before I am bombarded by those proponents of evidence based practice who only read part way through a document – I urge you to read on.

changeBy no means am I inferring we do away with tried and tested models of intervention. Nor would the removal of “evidence” of effective practice achieve anything bar chaos. What I am suggesting is that “prescription intervention” has an inherent risk of the helping professional becoming complacent in his/her  practice. Take that complacency to its limits and we may well end up with workers who  place expectations on client responses. After all, if there is a generic “correct” model of intervention, then there must a generic “correct” client response.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth – we all know that client responses are as diverse as client circumstances.

So wherein lies the balance? The balance lies in perspective. It’s about how we view a particular model. The key is this – models are not meant to be prescriptive, they are a guide.  We value individual differences, so leave room in your practice to adapt, to be innovative, to be flexible according to your particular client needs and circumstances. Look beyond the prescription. Best practice is about best outcomes for clients.

Most of all, focus less on the need to be rigidly mindful on a model and start to use creativity, flexibility, authenticity, innovation and adaptability to ensure that any model of intervention remains relevant to client needs.  And if you think perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of complacency, consider the need for some time out to regain that sense of wonder, intrigue and sense of justice you once had in your early practice years. Why? It is important for social workers to retain the ability to function effectively as a “change agent”.

Let’s just look at those words again – creativity, flexibility, authenticity, innovation, adaptability. A little outside your comfort zone? Not quite sure where these things fit into social work?   Let me remind you of Einstein’s quote “the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  If you are not creative, flexible, innovative, authentic and adaptable in your own practice, then how can you empower your clients to make change?  If you adopt one particular “modus operandi” in your practice, relying solely on what has been presented to you as “evidence based practice”, then where will new ideas come from?  If you view one particular model as the generic answer to your client group’s issues, how will innovative new practices ever evolve?

It isn’t simply a case of sitting in the status quo of a current model and insisting on its merits because it has “proven results”, or because the company that pays your salary insists that you utilize a particular method. If you see a need for change, then speak out. Act on it. Find others in the helping professions and discuss their experiences.  After all, isn’t that what we encourage our clients to do?

Social Work and Mahatma Gandhi: Part II of IV

inspirational-quote-belief-capacity-mahatma-gandhi

Social Work is the professional activity of helping individuals, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating societal conditions favorable to this goal. Social Work practice consists of the professional application of Social Work values, principles, and techniques to one or more of the following ends: helping people obtain tangible services; counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups; helping communities or groups provide or improve processes.

The practice of Social Work requires knowledge of human development and behavior; of social, economic, and cultural institutions; and of the interactions of all these factors. Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I understood from another visitor this afternoon that you are without any organization here for doing this class of social work or political work of any nature whatsoever, and indeed nothing would please me better than to find that as one of the results of this meeting, you had such a working organization manned by selfless workers.”5

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Mr. Diwan A. Mehta brought a collection (Rs. 270) made from among the Indian passengers on board s.s. Pilsna to be handed to me on the condition that if the Bardoli struggle was over the money should be utilized for some social work of my choice. I have earmarked the donation for untouchability work, and I thankfully make this acknowledgment here as it could not very well appear in the Bardoli fund collection list that is printed from week to week as supplement to Young India.”6

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “He, who lives in the social group, must have no aversion to social work, that is, collective prayer. He who loses himself in God, sees the whole world as God. It may be said that collective prayer is the first step in social work for attaining such a state of mind. From the Negroes to the Christians of Europe, from the Muslims of Arabia to the Hindus of Bharatavarsha, none of them has been able to do without prayer.

If the churches, the mosques and the temples were to be demolished, the society, too, would go down with them. Divine music is going on all the time where God is and we can only imagine what it is like. Collective prayer is a rationally inexplicable attempt to join in that music, and he who joins in that music is for ever in a state of bliss. I take it that you will be able to deduce the rest from this. If you cannot do so and doubts remain, go on asking me again and again.”7

Social Work is concerned and involved with the interactions between people and the institutions of society that affect the ability of people to accomplish life tasks, realize aspirations and values, and alleviate distress. These interactions between people and social institutions occur within the context of the larger societal good.

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “We in Gujarat have a unique Vidyapith. I am not exaggerating if I say that it is a centre of Gujarat’s public life and social work.”8 Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “Not much work could be done for long years.

Meanwhile the Calcutta Congress passed a resolution appointing the Anti- untouchability Committee and the work was entrusted to Jamnalalji who was able to achieve some result and the credit for it went to the Congress.

It is not the main work of the Congress to take full responsibility for social work. It should at the same time promote it. The Congress is a political body in which there are bound to be frequent differences of opinion. I would urge to have a far-sighted vision and to create these Committees and to let them do good work by organizations which are of their own making and with money which they collect.”9

Mahatma Gandhi Wrote, “I had explained this even at the time I asked for donations from you. You had remarked that my work was of a political and social nature. After this was made clear, you gave me this money for social work. Likewise you accepted my views generously. It is not proper that you should now demand a hand in the management. I ask you to have a committee of inspection. If you feel that the work is not being carried on properly, you may stop your donations.

Even the Government does not participate in the management though it does supervise. You too can do what you like as inspectors. Even then if you do not like to donate funds, I shall make another suggestion. The people are filled with admiration for the school that is being run there, the Montessori school. Donate money to him to Prof. Miller. The labourers need that money. You talk of the increase in the wages of labourers. I must tell you that even sons of big men study there and do not pay full fees. You seem to desire that this school should be run on the small sum that the labourers save. Do the labourers collect money for the purpose of fighting? You should be thankful to me because they do not collect funds to launch a fight.”10

References:

  • 5-VOL. 40 : 2 SEPTEMBER, 1927 – 1 DECEMBER, 1927, Page-  398
  • 6-Young India, 30-8-1928
  • 7-VOL.45 : 4 FEBRUARY, 1929 – 11 MAY, 1929, Page-  175
  • 8-VOL.45 : 4 FEBRUARY, 1929 – 11 MAY, 1929, Page-  224
  • 9-VOL. 48 : 21 NOVEMBER, 1929 – 2 APRIL, 1930, Page-  155
  • 10-TALK TO MILL-OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION MEMBERS; March 8, 1930
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