Last year, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad. You can still see a clear path of the “blast zone” from the giant 1980’s eruption. While recovery is slow, remarkably the area has shown great resilience in rebounding from the cataclysmic event.
In social work, every day we encounter people that have their own personal version of a cataclysmic event.
In my area of practice, this event is usually a slide into homelessness. Among all the tools we have as social workers to assist each client in their own personal recovery effort, use of the Strength’s Perspective is one of the most effective. With that said, I have created a quick pocket resource guide social workers can use to incorporate strengths into their work.
*Side note: I have also used this pocket guide when I worked in medical social work to educate my medical field coworkers about how to work from the Strength’s Perspective with patients.
Link to the file for download below. Hope you find it useful!
Strength’s Perspective Pocket Guide
Before I became interested in social work, I was a philosophy major. I was drawn to people who thought deeply about the world and themselves.
I was drawn to social work, not only because it was an active way for me to be a part of making the world closer to the full potential I see, but also because social work is a profession (much like philosophy) that has a value of knowing deeply. In the Code of Ethics, we are held to a standard of knowing our work deeply- the value of competence. But just as important, we are called to know ourselves deeply and continue to examine our motives, bias, reactions, and internal states. Cue Socrates (but hold the hemlock)!
I found a lot of insight through working with my own therapist to understand the root of my anxiety issues (see previous post When Helper’s Need Help) but there is a lot of other ways to engage in self-reflection. As simple as it may sound, one of the most helpful exercises for myself in the past year was the Enneagram personality test. I actually completed the test and discussed it within the context of therapy.
It provided many insights about myself and the relationships that surrounded me, but mostly it acted as a catalyst to take time to examine myself.
Each Enneagram type is attached to a basic fear and basic desire that tend to drive that type. In the interest of being vulnerable, my Enneagram Type is 4, which indicates the following:
- Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
- Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an
Upon reflection, I found this to be very true of myself. This wasn’t just helpful for my personal life, but also caused me to reflect how my personality intersects with social work. For example, if my basic desire is to create an identity for myself of significance, am I attempting to do this through my work? If I am attempting to “create” myself through my work, then how could my focus be on where it really should be- on quality service provision? These are all lines of inquiry that opened after taking time to explore my personality through this outlet.
Interested in exploring the Enneagram? The best site I have found is at Enneagram Institute
How do you you continue to know yourself and how has that knowledge changed your work?
Drop me a line.
Having now practiced social work in Chicago and rural Oregon, I have been thinking about the commonalities and differences of those experiences. One of the main differences is what it looks like to maintain professional boundaries.
The community where I currently work is around 30,000. Of course, size is relative. The town in which I grew up is around half that size and is most know for the annual Rodeo (think cowboys, bull riding, etc). There are aspects of working in smaller, rural communities that I really love. But, one of the more challenging aspects was learning how to manage when your personal and professional lives intersect. This happens in urban practice as well, but I found it to be to a much lesser degree.
I found that I had to be cognizant of my role as a social worker within the realms of dating (see the meme I created above), making friends, faith community, living situation, etc. I will give you a couple examples.
- Personally, it was important for me to find a close community to live in. I lived alone in Chicago and didn’t much like the experience. I found a room to rent in an intentional living community house, with 9 other 20 to 30 year olds. As one of the more affordable places to live in an area experiencing a housing crisis (like much of the West Coast), it became clear that someone from my client base moving into one of the rooms as they opened was a real possibility. As a side, I work in the housing/homelessness field. My question then became, if that were to happen would my professional boundaries require me to move out and opt for a more traditional single apartment lifestyle even though living in community was a personal value of mine?
- As a 26 year old, many people in my age/friend group are at a life stage where they are still struggling financially. As a work at a non-profit that offers financial assistance to persons in financial difficulty, this has at times become a boundary concern. There have been times when I imagine a Venn diagram with potential client base and potential friend base being the two circles. In a small rural community, these two circles almost entirely overlap each other. This is especially problematic working in a small non-profit where there is limited ability to simply transfer a case to a colleague.
I would love to hear how you have found balance and kept a meaningful personal life, especially if you practice in a rural community! Two questions to leave you with:
1)What situations have challenged you?
2)Have you ever felt that maintaining professional boundaries has caused you to feel that you must sacrifice something (place that you live, potential friendships, etc) that are important to you personally?