Ylenia and Rosita
Ylenia (left) and her advisor, Rosita (right)
by Rosita Mazzi and Ylenia Catellani
This conversation took place at the end of an experience of six months of internship between Rosita Mazzi, a social worker with 30 years of experience, and Ylenia Catellani, a student in her third year of social work school in Parma (Italy). The university program includes 300 hours of apprenticeship in the social services during the second and third years. This fieldwork is evaluated by the social worker advisor and the university professor. It is required in the evaluation for the final degree.
Scandiano, January 22, 2016
This is a conversation between an advisor and her student about social work. We wanted to show different points of view at the beginning and in the middle of a career.
R: Rosita, the advisor
Y: Ylenia, the student
R: What were your expectations before starting this experience at the drug addiction outpatient service?
Y: At first, I wanted to feel really involved in the job without being considered a “greenhorn” for all the time, like mostly happened in my other experience of internship last year. Another expectation was to build a good professional relationship with you, my tutor. I wanted to have an opportunity to compare the theory that I learned at the University with something pragmatic. I wanted also to find a little space to express my own personal opinions and ideas. I found everything that I had anticipated, so I feel happy and satisfied.
R: Was this experience you had at Drug Addiction Service (Ser.T) consistent or inconsistent with your idea of a social worker dealing with addiction problems?
Y: Oh, yes. My idea of a social worker was a professional who is mostly dedicated to advise the client in a path of change. But my experience in the drug addiction service gave me some extra ideas—the social worker is a professional who gives the client a way to change both individual and social horizons. I wondered a lot and now I am sure that the change in the individual is hard without the synergistic change of the closest environmental relationships.
I observed you during many interviews with clients' parents, relatives, or friends. I saw you try to figure out what is the best intervention for each patient. I learned the importance of a good assessment. Without it, a social worker cannot really help the client to rebuild self-confidence in the relationships, in the job, or in the use of their free time.
I noticed you doing everything in a coordinated way with other professionals of the team. I also began to understand the meaning of drug addiction like a bio-psycho-social disease.
R: What can you tell me about the relationship between theory and the practice?
Y: This question is not easy to answer. Anyway, I think that the most important concept that I learned is “compassion.” That is one of the basic skills of social workers since the beginning of their careers. The other thing that I learned is the difficulty of providing real professional help. So I can answer that theory is basic, and practice can refine the theory, in a continued process of change.
Y: What did you expect from me as a student?
R: I want to specify first that I like to teach students. I love basically to share with them what I do.
I think that knowledge belongs to the scientific community, not to the single researcher or professional. What I wanted from you was that you come across to a good receptive ability and a good disposition for the dialectic process. You showed me the capability to observe and provide me with your ideas in return.
But, actually, one of most important messages that I wanted to give you was about the magnificence of our job. However, this magnificence also has a dark side. We often have to touch the hardest side of humankind. This dual process is important to be able to do a better evaluation of the problems, in order to give your client a personal “way out.”
I wanted also to refresh my own theoretical skills, being obligated to explain to you aloud what I was doing. Your presence forced me to come out again from the automatic process of daily regiment to the service of the public. It was like going back to school myself!
Y: What did you want basically to tell me?
R: I wanted to make you learn the joy and the difficulty of our special job. Did I do it?
Y: Yes, you made me understand that social work is a demanding job, but when you reach the change with the client, you experience great satisfaction yourself. Thank you so much!
At the end of this little interview, we played to find keywords for social workers:
Help, knowledge, emotional involvement, compassion, empathy, creativity, process, change, empowerment, emotional intelligence, having a meaningful life out of the office, leaving work in the office until tomorrow…growing in the experience, sharing and comparing everyday…accept the differences.
Rosita Mazzi is a social worker specializing in family treatment and drug addiction treatment. She received her first degree in social work from Pisa University in 1984 and her second degree in sociology from Bologna University in 1991. She practices social work in the public health service called Ser.t in Ausl of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Yelenia Catellani took a diploma of high school in social service. She finished the third year of social work at Parma University and is working on her dissertation, “The treatment of families at Ser.T.” She had two internships, one at the social basic service and the other in the drug addiction service. She lIves in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and loves rock music and singing.