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Re(Integrating) Self in Social Work Education through Experiential Learning & Reflection Roxana Anghel, Judy Hicks & Debbie Amas Anglia Ruskin University.

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Presentation on theme: "Re(Integrating) Self in Social Work Education through Experiential Learning & Reflection Roxana Anghel, Judy Hicks & Debbie Amas Anglia Ruskin University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Re(Integrating) Self in Social Work Education through Experiential Learning & Reflection Roxana Anghel, Judy Hicks & Debbie Amas Anglia Ruskin University 4th National Social Work CPD Conference 14 th September 2010, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London

2 We belong to the group of commentators who advocate renewed attention to the critical importance of the social workers use of self within their professional role in the context of the damage created by excessive managerialism and technocratisation of the social work profession. We believe that adequate awareness of professional role begins with self- awareness However, self is an abstract concept which, although in appearance common sense and common place, within the complexity of the social work role and practice it needs extensive reflection on and exploration for its adequate use to be understood and mastered We thus also advocate that the role played by the self in social work should be acknowledged early, during preparation for practice, and the students should be supported to become self-aware and to enhance their emotional intelligence and ability to reflect on what they experience

3 Pilot programme embedded in the first year of the BA (Hons) Social Work course Offering students a safe space to explore inner feelings related to self and to their relationship with social work Exploring through experiential learning techniques, reflection and creative mediums three sets of abstract concepts, key to social work practice: Uncertainty / risk / fear Empathy / self-awareness Resilience / strengths

4 15 min – experiential activity The body – self-awareness – awareness of others and of the environment 20 min – presentation The case for using creative experiential techniques and reflection towards fostering social work students self-awareness and understanding of abstract social work concepts 20 min – experiential activity Reflection – verbalisation in dialogue – self-awareness – balance risk/strengths – empathy 20 min – conclusion and group discussion WORKSHOP OUTLINE

5 The current problem (Ruch, 2000; Parton, 2004; Ferguson, 2005; Balen & Masson, 2008) – Current philosophy and framework of SW practice: managerialism (outcomes and targets not process); technocratisation; prescriptive, linear, competence-based practice; departure from relationship-based practice; culture of blame THE CONTEXT OF OUR WORK

6 … This in time has generated a large number of negative effects damaging the users service experience and the profession: deprofessionalisation; decreased practitioner confidence; crises of confidence in the profession; increased uncertainty and fear of liability; bureaucratisation; vast gaps in communication; tragic cases such as Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter high burnout and turnover; overload

7 … Much of the problem is generated by practitioners accumulating fears derived from their interactions with clients, (especially in child welfare and MH) and from their statutory obligations without the space to acknowledge them and to deal with them effectively psychodynamic issues inherent in the social workers interaction with clients, especially aspects related to countertransference, are unacknowledged

8 In this context there is a fresh demand for change in both SW practice and education (Ruch, 2000; Parton, 2004; Ferguson, 2005; Balen & Masson, 2008; Howe, 2008; Collins, 2008; Laming, 2009) and, as part of that, for a reconsideration of old concepts such as: – The social workers professional use of self – Relationship-based practice – Psycho-dynamically aware practice and supervision – Emotional resilience – Reflexivity The social workers reflective and self-aware use of self is seen as a strength and connected to the healthy development and use of the professional self (Mandell, 2008; Reupert, 2009; Urdang, 2010)

9 SELF IN SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE Self – ones own personhood – self image, perceived needs, valued goals, and abilities (Shaw, 1974) Use of self – central dimension of social work in the 70s, early 80s – rooted in clinical therapy, particularly literature on countertransference – Social workers bring to their profession not only their skills and knowledge but also their emotional history, values, commitment to social justice, biases, attitudes, anxieties, self concept, protective instincts, cultural background and social identity (Mandell, 2008: 244) – Operating at an unconscious level, these result in client-practitioner relationship mirroring other significant earlier relationships (Balen & Masson, 2008) and influencing the behaviour and responses of the social worker

10 Criticised by the critical social work school for: – Failing to address the power relationship inherent in the social work encounter where the social worker has a mandate of social control – Splitting individual / social - individual deficits, maladjustment However, the anti-oppressive approach criticised for: – Reducing self to use within an oppressed/oppressor identity – Deliberately ignoring the workers idiosyncratic dimensions which however inevitably enter their practice Now gap – visible in the practice of social workers and in their experience of their profession

11 ... The bridge – expanded use of self (Mandell, 2008) Reflection towards awareness of self and of the social location of the social worker interrogating unconscious processes underlying the social workers responses to the client, and using cultural sensitivity and recognising and addressing power imbalances. Self- reflection supports insight into (Ruch, 2000) : how personal background affects learning and practice; the unavoidable impact of the emotional content of the interactions between social worker and client; the experiences of the client. … it strengthens the worker towards maintaining professional boundaries and integrity, and towards protection against aggression, misleading or intimidation … it equips the worker with skills to contain anxiety, and a tool against burnout

12 WHY IS THE RE(INTEGRATION) OF SELF IN SW EDUCATION IMPORTANT? The development of the professional self – the most important component of SW education (Urdang, 2010) Students are idealistic about helping people (omnipotence, benevolence, omniscience) without grasping the obstacles to overcome – they need space for and guidance to recognise, understand and utilize their feelings, attitudes and insights during practice The use of self – not only unconscious or incidental – also intentional and purposeful ( Reupert, 2009 ) In this context, self-reflectiveness is the foundation for future professional maturation and needs to be cultivated in SW education (Urdang, 2010)

13 THE NATURE OF SW EDUCATION TODAY Lost emphasis on building the professional self and on process Oriented towards outcomes, cognitive-behavioural theories, solution-oriented time-limited and evidence-based interventions Little space for reflection Skills-based and competency-based training focused on behaviour not on the person behaving …however students need to be encouraged to act creatively not technically (Reupert, 2009)

14 Un-assessed experiential programme Offering a safe and supportive space for exploration of existent strengths, motivations, past responses to situations of uncertainty and risk Via creative mediums (art, movement, role play) (Simons & Hicks, 2006; Amas, 2007) and group and individual reflection (using a personal diary) THE Mirror!Mirror! EXPERIENTIAL PROGRAMME Towards insight into their use of self in relation to three sets of concepts highly relevant to SW practice: Uncertainty / risk / fear Empathy / self-awareness Resilience / strengths Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

15 7 F students; age 18-50; 4 of Black-African and other White ethnic origin Recorded through photography and non-participant observation and evaluated through focus group (end of programme) and interviewing (one year later) 5 three-hour workshops focused on: oExploring the motivation and inner strengths which directed them towards social work – through visualisation, drama and painting oExploring their past responses to fear, risk and uncertainty and how they overcame those odds – through story telling and drama oExploring empathy and self-awareness - through movement oExploring personal journey and resilience – through sand tray oEnabling meaningful learning – through group and individual reflection PARTICIPANTS & CONTENT

16 FINDINGS FROM STUDENT FEEDBACK Combining creative experiential learning techniques + individual and group reflection has the potential to: – In the immediate term (n=5) Create a learning environment conducive to trust and group cohesion, and a sense of empowerment and freedom for self- exploration and expression Generate readiness for learning and holistic learning Generate positive change in self-perception and awareness of personal creative potential and strengths Help students acquire insight into service user experience and the impact of their professional role achieving a more realistic view of the profession Facilitates academic adjustment in the first year

17 I learned to take risks …I have the ability to [involve myself in practice], to take risks, to go through with it all. I got this [awareness] from here. …you can be too trusting [of others] – so its also about trusting yourself …you realise the implications of things because you learn about their impact It was nice to talk about what I was representing through the painting. Because you dont know about your potential strength until you talk about it …in seminar we only sit and talk – here we are able to connect with each other

18 The impact of the programme in the medium term (follow-up one year later, critical incident) (n=4) Transferred into practice – facilitators modelling – own learning – awareness of personal transferable strengths – methodology (e.g. listening, pace, awareness of strengths, enabling service users to cope with uncertainty and to take calculated risks) Adopting tools against burnout: relaxation, breathing Less emotionally overwhelmed by their own anxiety or the emotions of the clients and more task-oriented and focused on problem-solving and on resilience – healthy boundaries of empathy Increased ability to open up to experience and to seek support and to network Increased assertiveness without fear – emphasis on voice not on shame Programme clearly complementary to the taught course

19 LIMITATIONS Small number of sessions at large intervals Very small number of participants Only an introduction to self-awareness and awareness of others – not an in- depth exploration of countertranferenceADVANTAGES The programme – accessed the students prior knowledge – increased the students awareness of their use of self and of their strengths, and helped them build a more realistic view of the profession – by exploring specific concepts, made an attempt to bridge theory and practice via experiential learning – engaged the learner holistically – offered a unique, creative space for reflection and self-exploration The facilitators modelled use of self – value for practice with service users and in professional teams and supervision

20 The future of a programme focused in learning about the use of self in the SW curriculum – challenges – increasing use of virtual learning – public funding cuts – transfer to the Health Professions Council – format of incorporating the exploration of self into the social work curriculum: opt-in additional programme, module, or integration in the teaching model? – assessment CONCLUSION

21 CONTACTS Roxana Anghel Researcher Judy Hicks SW Senior Lecturer Deborah Amas SW Senior Lecturer Mirror! Mirror! Experiential Workshops. Oct 2008 – June 2009 Social Work & Social Policy Department, Anglia Ruskin University Programme funded by INSPIRE

22 REFERENCES Amas, D., We all love playing in the sand! Using sand play therapy in critical reflection with students in practice placement. Journal of Practice Teaching & Learning, 7(2), pp Balen, R. & Masson, H., The Victoria Climbie case: social work education for practice in children and families work before and since. Child and Family Social Work, 13, pp Collins, S., Statutory social workers: stress, job satisfaction, coping, social support and individual differences. British Journal of Social Work, 38, pp Ferguson, H., Working with violence, the emotions and the psycho-social dynamics of child protection: reflections on the Victoria Climbie case. Social Work Education, 24(7), pp Laming, The Protection of Children in England: A progress report. Mandell, D., Power, care and vulnerability: considering use of self in child welfare work. Journal of Social Work Practice, 22(2), p Parton, N., From Maria Colwell to Victoria Climbie: reflections on public inquiries into child abuse a generation apart. Child Abuse Review, 13, pp Reupert, A., Students use of self: teaching implications. Social Work Education, 28(7), p Ruch, G., Self and social work: towards an integrated model of learning. Journal of Social Work Practice, 14(2), pp Simons, H. & Hicks, J., Opening doors. Using creative arts in learning and teaching. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 5(1), pp Urdang, E., Awareness of self – a critical tool. Social Work Education, 29(5), p

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