Social Worker Attitudes for Effective Practice


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Effective social service practitioners spend a lot of time reflecting and have a great deal of information in their heads, but when they begin work with children and families they know they know nothing. Their first job is to get to know families and what the families want. They do this by being trustworthy and keeping their word. They build working alliances with

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Social Worker Attitudes for Effective Practice

  1. 1. Social Worker Attitudes Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW Professor, School of Social Work University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA October 30, 2012
  2. 2. Topics Not Knowing Framework for not Knowing Alternatives to Not Knowing Sharing with Parents What You do Know Assessment Tools  Knowing Some Things in General  Not Knowing Individuals Relevance of Signs of Safety Framework
  3. 3. Not Knowing Importance of a storehouse of knowledge Social workers know nothing about individuals family members at intake Assessments based on relationships Relationships built on trust Trust based on attunement, sensitive responsiveness, showing up
  4. 4. Framework for Not Knowing Centrality of seeking to understand  Open-ended inquiry  Contextualized inquiry  Be open to correction by children & parents Gentle focus on person’s stories and perspectives Situated stories  Service users’ points of view  Life histories  Belief systems
  5. 5. Framework Not Knowing Reflection as reciprocity  During early parts of assessment, well-timed statements of what you are hearing  Be open to correction  As you learn more, let parents and children know what you are learning about them Sensitive responsiveness & attunement Be a secure, safe base Hold back on showing rage, shock, disgust, and pity
  6. 6. Framework for Not Knowing You could be wrong Reflection  Value base of your work  Know own life history  Know own flaws and biases  Be honest with yourself  Find one other person to be honest with Supervision  Be open-minded On-going study
  7. 7. Framework for Not Knowing More on Building Relationships  Relationships of trust with other professionals  Return phone calls  Show up  Listen  Know systems and referral sources  Safety first  Advocate for service users based upon values of justice, care, dignity, worth, autonomy
  8. 8. Alternatives to Not Knowing Paternalism (Dismissive of parents’/children’s pov) Child saving (Preoccupied & Paternalistic) Rigid Thinking (Dismissive) Confusions of Perspectives & View Points at Individual & Systems Levels (Disorganized)
  9. 9. Share with Parents & Children What you Do Know Bit by bit Toward end of assessment Examples?
  10. 10. Assessment Tools As crib notes and cheat sheets Most important is what is in your head Keep adding to what is in your head Revise what is in your head Connect head and heart Be authoritative  Secure base  Some behaviors are harmful  Parents who harm require clarity & direction
  11. 11. Assessment Tools Lessons From Common Factors Model  Most change occurs outside of sw/su relationship  Relationships single most important factor after outside influences  SW and SU (Service User) variables important: motivation, desire for change  Specific technical framework, such as CBT, competency-based, solution focused, narrative therapy are equally effective when looked at in the context of the other three factors
  12. 12. Discussion Relationships central Trust takes time Breakdown & repair part of trust-building Have lots of info in your head Know you know nothing about families before you do assessments Test what you know for fit with families & children Revise your understandings as you gain knowledge Reflection is central
  13. 13. References Drisko, James (2004). Common factors in psychotherapy outcome: Meta-analytic findings and their implications for practice and research. Families in Society, 85(1), 81-90. Lambert, M. (1992). Implications of outcome research for psychotherapy integration. In J. Norcross & J. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 94-129) NY: Basic. The Signs of Safety Child Protection Practice Framework (2nd ed.) (2011). Government of Western Australia, Department of Child Protection. d%20Frameworks/SignsOfSafetyFramework2011.pdf Tunnell, Andrew (2009). Introduction to the Signs of Safety (DVD & Workbook). Resolutions Consultancy. Perth: Western Australia. Available at