Can I do this? BY Beck Harrison.
Fieldwork Education Final Reflection
Paradise Kids, Gold Coast.
// BY Beck Harrison.
The final placement for my Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) has concluded and I am grateful for the experiences, challenges and people that I have had the pleasure of meeting along the way. This final piece will reflect upon how and when I started to study social work, the importance of linking theory to my daily and future practice, my developing appreciation for peer and professional supervision and other major turning points. I am graduating with a strong and realistic view of my professional self and the social work field because my student journey thus far has included liberating experiences and challenging situations that have caused me to look at myself critically and question, “Can I do this?”
Paradise Kids provides psycho-educational groups to children of different ages where each child has individual time with their ‘buddy’ in a group setting. Services are targeted at children, young people and families who are experiencing some degree of grief and loss. Paradise Kids therefore supports the target audience through this process with individual counselling, child centred play therapy (individual and group), group work and parent support groups. Working with children is a fairly comfortable space for me and I particularly enjoy working in and with both child and adult groups as well. The challenge for this placement was learning therapeutic approaches to grief and loss and adapting my previous knowledge and language to that of Paradise Kids.
My education started in 2006 as a 20-year-old woman with a keen desire to provide the space for broken relationships to be repaired through therapy. There was something in me that wanted more than to just talk about ‘making a change’ and ‘being the change you want to see in the world’ so committing to this degree was primarily putting legs to this dream. Concluding with a Bachelor of Community Welfare (BCW) and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) as a 25-year-old woman with experience in Queensland Health, case management, residential care and therapeutic work, the question remained close in my mind all along. On this journey I have built my own network of close professional and personal relationships that have contributed to the construction and reflection of my framework. Through the love and inspiration of the narrative therapeutic approach (Payne, 2005) I additionally made a personal website. This website is essentially an online website that collaborates with other people in publishing their stories. All of this deepens and widens my framework, which was initially inspired through watching my own mother’s development as a Social Worker.
Linking theory to practice is important for me to remain grounded and forever learning and adapting as a professional social worker (Payne, 2005). Engaging in peer and professional supervision was an essential aspect of this placement. Peer supervision provided the opportunity to informally debrief and critically discuss my own thoughts regarding social work theories and approaches to grief and loss. Professional supervision provided the most beneficial opportunity to genuinely learn more information around family therapies (Lowe, 2004). This was both a fantastic and confronting space because it highlighted my own areas of grief and loss and the need to address these. To effectively and appropriately work alongside children and families free of my own preconceived ideas regarding family and expression of emotions, it was vital to spend time addressing these by personal and professional means. Both forms of supervision were ethically appropriate spaces for me to digest information to reflect on in my own personal time.
Over the past two years I have unfortunately met some social workers that seemingly lost touch of basic interpersonal skills and theories without any sense of advocacy, justice or professional integrity (AASW, 2012). The AASW Code of Ethics (2010) is the baseline of all social work practice and is primarily there to guide and provide a standard for ethical social work conduct and accountability for service delivery (AASW, 2010). Contrarily, working with social workers who were educated and constantly linking theory to their daily practice exemplified a true social worker that remained in line with the definition of social work which according to the AASW (2010) promotes social changes, engages in problem solving in human relationships and empowers and liberates human beings to enhance their wellbeing. I have found these experiences to contribute greatly to my development and have appreciated the conversations that I have had with them along the way. Payne (2005) says linking theory to the politics of daily practice provides accountability to managers, colleagues and students to ensure that the approach is sufficiently appropriate. These rigorous conversations keep me humble, accountable and open to relationships and other discourses in the social work field.
Overall, this placement has been a challenging and equally inspiring space to develop as a student social worker. I learned to value and take a curious, supportive, non-directive approach to practice and as Geldard and Geldard (2001) explain an important aspect of counselling approaches is to come from a place of ‘not knowing’. I now aim to approach every person and every situation with this same attitude. This coincides with the person-in-environment approach where the individual may still be included in the family/group but are separated by their individual needs and processes (Payne, 2005).
The major turning points for me were the grief and loss groups (6-11yo), individual child centred play therapy sessions, peer and professional supervision and commencing my personal website that reflects a personal side to my professional practice. Building and maintaining simple and ethical relationships within the workplace is essential for me to sustain a long life in a career that is notoriously unglamorous and hard on the emotional self. As I learned in a previous placement, surrounding myself with good people both personal and academic who care, practicing self care strategies daily and regularly; and engaging in conversations that keep me afloat will sustain me in any situation. These very things reassure me that yes, I can do this.
GOT A STORY? SURE YOU DO.
DO SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER DONE BEFORE.
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AASW, 2010, ‘Australian Association of Social Workers: Code of Ethics’, Australian Association of Social Work, Australia
Lowe, R., 2004, ‘Family Therapy: A Constructive Framework’, Sage, London
Payne, M., 2005, ‘Modern Social Work Theory’, Palgrave Macmillan, New York