Fostering a Sense of Professional Resilience: Six Simple Strategies

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Agency and government responsibility

I enjoyed reading this article. As a social worker in BC who has worked in both non-profit and for-profit (private practice) settings, I have experienced an interesting array of self care situations including a couple of serious burnouts. I completely agree that we as individual social workers must take care of ourselves; however, what sometimes bugs me is the lack of responsibility placed on agencies and funding sources to support this self care. I teach social work students now and during a class focused on self-care, I realized I felt guilty and couldn't quite place why. Upon reflexion, it occurred to me that we so often put the onus on individuals to maintain self care, essentially saying "if a social worker burns out, it is her own fault for not taking better care of herself." Unfortunately, this is the attitude often portrayed when people do burn out. Yet, time and again, social workers are dealing with terrible funding shortages, an overload of clients with complex and secondary-traumatic-stress-inducing life stories. There needs to be some responsibility placed on government (as funders) and agencies to create workplace environments and roles that do not set us up for burnout. There are some positions that essentially guarantee worker burnout. This is unacceptable and should not place blame on individual workers when it does occur. We need to advocate for more realistic caseloads, increased funding, and better supports for those of us wading through the emotional turmoil of others. Just as we help clients understand their challenges by examining the context of their lives, we must do the same for our jobs!

Olivia more than 9 years ago

In agreement with agency and government responsibility

How can we take care of our needs as workers without support from NASW? As a LISW-S, I have witnessed not just apathy for helpers needs, but actual mental abuse incurred as a result of productivity requirements, along with less educated staff disrespect. How can we advocate for others if we are unable to advocate for us and our profession?

Molly Faulk MSW,LISW, LCDCIII more than 9 years ago

agency and government responsibility

I have to agree, as someone who is currently working in the field and in final year of studying I am experiencing a level of burnout. The emphasis is on me failing to undertake appropriate self care. Only upon discussion with my gp did I realise that the catalyst that started the downhill slide was after an incident at work with a verbally abusive client, that left me feeling threatened physically. The client proceeded to make a complaint requirering investigation, but was found not needing further action. Add to that the vicarious trauma, and stress of refunding and unknown long-term job security. I suddenly have realized no wonder I'm apathetic and cautious in my work. I discovered I could be assumed for wrong doings on the word of an abusive manipulative and vindictive individual. When found having acted appropriately, it's just treated like nothing happened all forgotten.
The pressures on self care are squarely placed on the individual, no responsibility is accepted by the organization. The assumption is it's your responsibility. No acceptance that how they handle incidents or level of traumatic information involved your job is involved; let alone related to how they handle it. I have discovered that my workplace is not always safe, that whatever a client says is believed over that of a worker, that one must be able to justify how they work constantly, and I'm expected to listen and deal with hearing the details of abuse and trauma my clients have suffered over time. increased workloads, with increased severity of issues involved.
Sadly we are not taught how to look after ourselves in relation to all of this. I am just coming to realise that I am not totally to blame for my burnout, responsibility is also with my employer; even if they don't acknowledge it, I have.

louise more than 8 years ago

Agree with this comment!

I completely agree with this comment and Molly's as well. Difficult for social workers to "take a spa day" on a social worker's salary. Agencies should share some of the responsibility of caring for its workers. That is just not going to happen until Social Workers can organize and advocate for themselves. We are just now beginning to seem to realize that this is not only ok, but necessary to be an effective social worker.

Chandra Malamud, MSW, Registered Clinical Social Work Intern more than 8 years ago

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