Sunday, October 26, 2014

Professional Development: A Child’s Song Adoption Conference - Surrey, BC


Date: Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Location: Sunrise Banquet & Conference Centre - 5640 188th St., Surrey, BC

A Child's Song is presenting its first annual Adoption Conference in Surrey, BC. This conference is suited to all members of the adoption process: adoptive families, prospective adoptive parents, foster parents, adoption professionals, child welfare professionals, kinship providers, child/youth therapists, and many more! The team of experts at A Child's Song have collaborated with other professionals in the field of adoption to present you with the new and exciting information.

Registration now open. Click HERE for registration details. 

For any questions please E-mail

Professional Development: Radically Open Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Radically Open Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (RO-DBT) 

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Tom Lynch to Vancouver to present a two day workshop on Radically Open Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (RO-DBT). 

Dates: Monday, January 26th to Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 

Location: Italian Cultural Centre - 3075 Slocan St, Vancouver, BC

Based on 19 years of research, including two NIMH funded trials, Radically Open Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (RO-DBT) is a new treatment targeting over-controlled behaviour (OC). It has been used to treat some of the rigid responses and emotional inhibition thought to underlie many treatment-resistant conditions. RO-DBT is used with patients who have a diagnosis of Chronic Depression, Treatment-Resistant Anxiety Disorders, Anorexia Nervosa, Avoidant, Paranoid and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

For more information on RO-DBT, visit

For more information on the workshop see attached document and to register, please visit:

DBT Centre of Vancouver, Inc.
1040 – 1200 Burrard St
Vancouver BC V6Z 2C7
P: 604-569-1156
F: 604-569-1230

Macro: Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork

Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork

Hooper, D. (2014). Social Work Helper. Retrieved from:

Recently, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing, which has become one of the most read and searched for articles on Social Work Helper since its inception. Whether you agree or disagree with my reasons, we all can agree that social work has some serious issues that must be addressed in order to improve outcomes for social workers as well as the perceptions of our profession with the public.

Social work institutions are not providing adequate resources or responses to assist social work students and practitioners engaging or who want to engage in grassroots organizing, social justice advocacy, and public policy reforms.

Part of the job of a social worker is to assess and define the problem, but the other part of our job is to look for interventions to implement in order to limit the effects of the problem while adding protective factors to help increase outcomes. In an effort to be solution focused, I went on search to find actionable interventions that we could implement without needing an “Act of Congress” to get the ball moving. Social workers are the first responders to society’s social problems because we engage people from birth to death in all aspects of their life.

As a social worker, I have counseled an oil executive whose life was failing apart, an engineer after an all night drinking bender, a school teacher contemplating suicide, a man who has taken his family hostage at gun point, and a woman who was shot by her partner to name a few. Pain is universal, and it is not limited by socioeconomic boundaries which is why its imperative for social workers to be apart of the conversations developing public policy.

For Students 

As a future practitioner, you will not be able to work in a vacuum which means you will have to interact with other disciplines in order to be effective in practice. However, social work students rarely interact with disciplines outside of their programs or with social work students from other schools. By working in concert with other disciplines at the higher learning level, we are our best examples of how social work skills translate into other areas.
RICN 300x90 Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork
Due to our isolative nature, what opportunities are we not taking advantage of that will serve us later in the workforce? It’s great to have social work clubs and organizations to increase collaborations within our profession, but it is also equally important to form partnerships and collaborations outside of the profession.
For students, I recommend seeking out the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at your university, or starting a chapter if your university does not have one.

According the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Website,
Campus Network develops local laboratories of democracy and policy experimentation where young people can work with community members to innovate, scale, and replicate the best ideas and policy initiatives emerging from our generation.Students have changed policies around predatory lending; established a tax fund in New Haven capable of sending every high-school graduate to college tuition free; and even included an automatic healthcare enrollment policy in the Affordable Care Act. Read More
Don’t miss out on available workshops, fellowships, and connections with community partners because you are afraid to step outside of our social work bubble.

For Practitioners

In school, most of the time, you have access to a support system through your professors, peers, and other services. However, once you enter the profession, it feels like your professional support system diminishes. Many schools don’t dump a lot of resources into developing strong and thriving alumni networks in order to maintain connections to former students that will allow us to interact with each other. Many social workers, especially those on the lower end pay spectrum, may not be able to afford access to a professional association membership or costs for conferences to gain those connections.

Many social workers have turned to social media in attempt to forge those connections, but most would prefer an option for these connections to be an extension of their university community. Social media constructs like Linkedin are not designed for you to connect with each other within a Linkedin Group. How do you find alumni in your area when you are looking for a mentor or trying to expand your network for possible employment opportunities?

For practitioners, I recommend to request that your School of Social Work add an Alumnify Network for its graduates. According to the Alumnify Website:
Alumnify will give alumni the ability to sign in with LinkedIn and receive data on their professional career and interests. It will allow graduates to find each other in their immediate area, making it as easy as possible to grab coffee and network. Alumnify also provides interactive and modern data that helps universities reach your alumni and understand them like never before. Read More
Currently, Schools of Social Work are making important school policies based on a couple of  hundred surveys they can get people to answer. Alumni get tired of the robocalls and email requests only they want something, and we begin to tune them after the second year we leave school. Why wouldn’t they implement a mutually beneficial system which could be free to users or for a modest fee to offset cost?

For Schools of Social Work

If we are going to advance our profession, we need to be engaging in the national conversations and social issues of our day. Social Workers are attempting to find ways to do this on their own, but utilizing social media improperly can have the opposite intended effect. Earlier this month, I wrote another article on how to reduce risks to employment when using social media where I stated,
As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training. 
Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet your social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels. Read More
Social Workers should be engaging in national awareness campaigns which can provide many opportunities to showcase our areas of practice and engagement on social policy issues.  Schools of Social Work should be leading the charge, and when used properly, these could become valuable marketing tools for your university while engaging community stakeholders.

If anyone is interested, take a photo or do a vine using the hashtags #TurnOutForWhat and #SocialWork telling why you are turning out to vote on November 4th. Then, tweet to @swhelpercom, share on SWH Facebook Fan Page, or tag me on instagram. I will be happy to share and promote the issues that you care about.

Learn How to Use Twitter Effectively

When I first started blogging, twitter was the number one tool I used to connect with people. In turn, I credit Twitter as the number factor helping Social Work Helper grow into the readership it has today within a relatively short period of time. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not place limits on who you can follow, who can follow you or who you can tweet to.

If you decide to tweet a member of Congress or parliament, you may actually get a tweet back. Some of my twitter highlights include a tweet from the Oprah Winfrey Network and being retweeted by the US Department of Labor and Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union.

As an individual, you don’t have to wait until #socialwork get its act together and do a better job at promoting the profession. This is something that we can start doing today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Professional Development: Sexual Assault Training

"Using the Latest Science to Hone the Criminal Justice Response in Non-Stranger Sexual Assault Cases" with  Dr. David Lisak

The Sexual Assault Service, BC Women's Hospital and Health Care Centre, is excited to host renowned forensic consultant and researcher Dr. David Lisak for a training on "Using the Latest Science to Hone the Criminal Justice Response in Non-Stranger Sexual Assault Cases".

Date: Monday November 17th 2014

Location: Chan Centre and Chieng Family Atrium at the BC Women's Hospital in Vancouver BC.

Non-stranger sexual assault is one of the most difficult crimes to investigate and prosecute successfully. Low reporting rates, delayed reports, alcohol-induced memory gaps, and paradoxical victim behaviors are some of the factors that contribute to the fact that only a tiny percentage of non-stranger rapists are held accountable for their crimes. This lack of accountability is particularly galling given what we now know about non-stranger rapists:

· a majority of them are serial offenders;

· they deliberately target vulnerable individuals;

· they average six rapes each by their early twenties;

· they are likely to commit other types of violent crime, including child abuse.

This training will provide participants with the latest forensic, social, and biological science on offender behavior and victim dynamics, with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the system's response in non-stranger cases.


Dr. David Lisak is a researcher and forensic consultant who for 25 years has studied the causes and consequences of interpersonal violence. His work has focused on the long term effects of sexual abuse in men, the relationship between child abuse and violence, and the motives and characteristics of rapists. Dr. Lisak has served as a consultant to judicial, prosecutor and law enforcement education programs across the country, and has conducted workshops in all fifty states. He consults widely with universities, the four services of the U.S. Military, the Department of Defense, and other institutions regarding sexual assault prevention and policies, and frequently serves as an expert witness in homicide and sexual assault cases. Dr. Lisak is a founding member of 1in6, a non-profit agency that serves men who were sexually abused as children.

Please register as soon as possible as space is limited. Please see the attached registration form, agenda, and bio for more information. The cost for the training is $100.00 per person.

To register, visit the website and download the registration form here
Please complete the registration form and send it to Michele Christensen via email at<

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Wendy Potter at 604-875-3225 or<, or Lianne Ritch at 604-875-3284 or<

Agenda for the Training: 

8:15-8:30                  Welcome
8:30-10:15               Offender Behavior and Characteristics
10:15-10:45             Break (refreshments provided)
10:45-12:15             Offender Behavior and Characteristics
12:15-1:00               Lunch (provided)
1:00-2:45                  Neurobiology of Trauma and Its Implications
2:45-3:10                  Break (refreshments provided)
3:10-4:45                  Neurobiology of Trauma and Its Implications

4:45-5:00                  Closing Remarks

Training Objectives

This training will provide participants with the latest forensic, social, and biological science on offender behavior and victim dynamics, with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the justice system’s response in non-stranger cases.  This training will address the following topics:

                1. Summary and analysis of the research on non-stranger rapists
a.     Data on serial offending
b.     The behavior and characteristics of non-stranger rapists
c.      An analysis of sexually predatory behavior
d.     How non-stranger rapists pick their victims

2. Implications of offender research for case investigations
a.     Avenues of investigation that target past and present behaviors of offenders
b.     Capitalizing on offender narcissism

3. Understanding victim behavior
a.     Neurobiological underpinnings of paradoxical victim behaviors
b.     The neurobiology of trauma and memory
c.      Effective techniques for interviewing victims and increasing the yield of actionable information and evidence

4. Collecting evidence to fight the consent defense
a.     Micro-corroboration
b.     Avenues of investigation for producing post-rape evidence
c.      Corroborating witnesses

Media: Social Work Jobs in the Private Sector

Why private companies are taking on social workers

Social workers in the private sector can help businesses build good relationships with their local communities

The demand for social workers has never been greater. In fact, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics projects a 19% faster-than-average growth in social work jobs until 2022.
But the need for social workers in business and non-profit administrative settings is just being recognised. Companies around the world are starting to realise the value of social workers and the transferable skills they can bring to the workplace.
Increasingly, organisations are looking for professionals who can help address a range of issues; from the safety, health and wellbeing of employees to improving a company’s financial, social and environmental performance.
Social workers with master’s degrees have a significant amount of clinical experience, and when coupled with stringent licensing requirements, they have never been better positioned to thrive and contribute in a non-traditional, private sector setting.
Social workers are good at understanding human behaviour, motivation and interpersonal relationships, as well as workforce challenges. Corporate social workers take on many roles, from helping employees manage the demands of work, life and mental health issues to helping companies build positive relationships with their communities. That might mean helping employees deal with substance abuse, domestic violence, divorce or military deployments. It could also include coaching work teams on how to be more productive, resolve conflicts and manage change. Or, it might involve liaising with government agencies or conducting community needs assessments.
Recognising this need for business and administratively focused social workers, the University of Southern California school of social work has created a non-traditional social work programme. This is aimed at master’s level students interested in applying their social work skills and training in organisations that do not typically hire social work graduates. Students can select one of two concentrations: social work and business in a global society or community organisation, planning and administration, both of which lend themselves to “non-traditional” settings.
The social work and business focus encourages students to think globally and to reflect on the impact of influential corporations. Its curriculum emphasises bringing a humane approach and social work values into the workplace, helping students learn strategies for creating positive business environments, healthy employees and strong communities. These students also choose whether to focus on the micro level (individual and family) of intervention, or the mezzo and macro levels (organisational change and programme development.)
Similarly, community organisation teaches students to apply their emerging leadership skills in planning, management and administration in both non-profit and private industry settings. Given global challenges like natural and manmade disasters, health epidemics and the difficulties of sustainable development, students are also taught how to be innovative and interdisciplinary.
The university’s “non-traditional” master of social work internships provide an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned to real-life situations under the supervision of a professional. Students are able to work alongside company managers to assess their departments, operationalise performance indicators, help set related goals and objectives and assist them in implementing change and performance management strategies.
For instance, interns at a multinational corporation helped make recommendations to improve its assessment form for high net-worth trust management clients. They were also tasked with conducting a national needs assessment to help improve services, as well as creating a presentation to help bankers better understand older adults.
At another company, interns designed and implemented training for supervisors and employees to improve communication and productivity.
Those who succeed in business social work must demonstrate skills ranging from leadership and management to decision-making. The more proactive students are within their allotted organisation, the more prepared they will be to work alongside management teams in corporate environments.
The programme is seeing great results, having already successfully placed social workers in positions at banks, the world’s largest film and television studio and the second largest multinational professional services firm in the US. Job titles range from director of employee relations to senior business partner in government and community partnerships.
When asked why they chose social work as their profession, most social work students say it’s about giving back and making a difference. So why does social work in the private sector make sense?
Because their goals and missions often overlap. US and multinational businesses are increasingly realising the importance of a holistic focus on people, planet and profit. They are beginning to understand the significance of contributing to the community that supports them, and how this can affect their long-term growth and success. In fact, most corporate social responsibility efforts are in areas traditionally supported by social work, including community development, public safety, education, public health and diversity.
Social workers can be the catalyst for companies’ efforts to give back in their communities and workforces. As more companies and non-profits hire social workers, it’s beneficial for all involved.
J Juan Macias, is the assistant director of professional development for the University of Southern California school of social work.
The international social work hub is funded by Cafcass. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Global Definition of Social Work, Core Mandates and Principles

Global Definition of Social Work

Retrieved from:

The following definition was approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly  in July 2014:

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.

The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels”.

Core Mandates

The social work profession’s core mandates include promoting social change, social development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.

Read more here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Social Media and Social Work

In preparation for a workshop I am giving on Media Advocacy at the BC Association of Social Workers conference today, I am consolidating some posts I have done, as well as other resources, for people to read about the use of all forms of media. 

BC Social Workers (2013). Videos on Social Media for Therapists and Other Social Service Professionals. Retrieved from:

BC Social Workers (2012). Social Work in a Digital Age: Personal & Professional Considerations. Retrieved from:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Media: Social Workers as Interveners in Adult Abuse and Neglect

Court hears about social worker's attempt to save Viola Simonds

BARRIE - A social worker and her team went through hoops to try to rescue an elderly woman from starvation and squalor, but didn’t succeed, a court heard Wednesday.

“We were very frustrated with the system,” said Keri-Ann Brunson, a social worker with the Community Care Access Centre at Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital.

She said she was alarmed when she saw 73-year-old Viola Simonds brought into emergency in 2008, suffering from malnutrition, and tried to get her removed from her daughter’s care.

The woman’s daughter, Diana Davy, and her husband, James Davy, who were power of attorneys, are now on trial before a jury charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.

“She appeared to be a victim of neglect,” said Brunson. “She was dirty, frail, unkempt and she was crying out a lot.”

Immediately she put the wheels in motion to have Simonds moved to a long-term care home, but the Davys refused.

“Diana presented as defensive ... She said she would be calling her lawyer.”

Brunson reported the case to the Ontario Consent Capacity Board and applied to have the Davys removed as powers of attorney. The board rejected the request, but Brunson applied again — this time with the help and support of Simonds’ doctor.

A hearing was held, but for the second time, the request was rejected by the board. However this time the board ordered Brunson could make weekly, unannounced visits to the Davy home.

It was not enough, Brunson said.

“I was still quite concerned,” said Brunson. “In my opinion, Ms. Simonds was a very vulnerable person. She should not have gone back into her daughter’s care.”

Repeated calls and knocks on Davy’s door ended with no answer. Police were called but neither the Davys nor Simonds were located.

The frail, elderly lady and the Davys seemingly disappeared.

Three years later, Simonds showed up in emergency again, this time, near death.

“Her bones were sticking out, she was emaciated, malnourished,” said Brunson. “She was covered in dried vomit, dirty, she had bruises, her hair was matted ... And she was in distress. She was crying out.”

Brunson checked her pharmacy records and noted that under the Ontario drug benefits program for seniors, Viola Simonds had not had any of her prescriptions filled for up to two years.

Simonds was eventually moved to a long-term care facility, which was covered by her various incomes, including her work pension, old age security pension and Canada Pension Plan. But she never recovered and she was too sick to have a fractured hip repaired. She died months later.

The trial continues.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Media and Ethics: UK Social Worker Publically Sanctioned over Facebook Post Speaks

Social worker sanctioned over Facebook posts reflects on feeling abandoned amidst a media storm (UK)
Stevenson, L.  (2014). Community Care. Retrieved from:

Siobhan Condon talks to Community Care about her first mistake in a 15 year career and the media "hate" that forced her to move house.

“I get this email and I didn’t even need to open it up to know it was about me. I ran and I hid in the toilet.”
Siobhan Condon is retelling the moment she received Community Care’s weekly email which led with the story about her being sanctioned by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) for posting comments about a case on Facebook.
She read the article, eventually. With the story being viewed more than 42,000 times, shared more than 550 times on Facebook and attracting 29 comments, there must be few social workers who did not.
However, Community Care was not the only news outlet to cover the story – the local media and the Daily Mail both gave the case extensive coverage.
And whilst she lost her original agency position because of the comments and the complaint which was subsequently filed, Siobhan says it is the media attention given to the verdict which forced her out of her second job. She has also had to move house after her personal details were published online and she received threats.
The Mail Online story alone attracted 652 comments, many of which, she says, displayed “absolute hate for social workers, and social care, and social work”.
“Maybe I’m na├»ve but I was so shocked at the hatred and the degree of it.”

The Daily Mail's coverage of Siobhan's hearing was commented over 650 times
The Daily Mail’s coverage of Siobhan’s hearing was commented on over 650 times
Why then does she want to speak publicly, despite the advice of several of her close friends telling her to leave it alone?
“I can’t take it back, but if there’s anything from what’s happened over the last 16 months that I can share, to help a social worker ever going through that; ever going before a HCPC panel that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Her first action, whilst sitting on her sofa talking to Community Care, is to apologise for making publicly available comments about a case on her Facebook page.
“To both the family and to social work. It was never my intention, ever. I didn’t think about what I was doing and I didn’t think about the impact of it. I’ve lived with that.”
Whilst the 16 months after the incident have been incredibly difficult, Siobhan says it has also been the first time in a 15 year career in child protection that she’s been able to take stock of the life she was leading as a social worker in the lead-up to her “huge, huge, stupid mistake, absolute mistake”.
It featured in the HCPC verdict of her hearing that Siobhan felt extremely burned out. Expanding on this, she speaks more about her way of living that “really wasn’t quite conducive” to social work.
She acknowledges how she was caught trying to balance a difficult personal life along with a number of extreme cases, allocated to her because of her knowledge and experience.
The day she took on the case she made the comments about, she recalls telling her manager that she had just finished dealing with a very high risk and tough case and she was feeling exhausted.
“But my manager said: “Siobhan I can’t give it to anyone else, this is too high risk.” … “So I said ‘Okay then’ … I really regret saying that now.”
The new case meant inheriting 8 years’ worth of case notes and felt, Siobhan says, like a hurricane.
The comments that followed the case ending were an expression of relief: “Relief that this whole thing was over, exhaustion was thrown in with that and I felt proud.”
She still, however, looks back distastefully on the comments she made, admitting she finds it hard to read them now, especially the use of the phrase ‘monumental moment in my career’ which she has spent 16 months trying to explain to herself: “It was all so big. That job was so big and I think that’s where the monumental came in. Completely in the wrong context, completely.”
However, Siobhan also says she feels she was abandoned at the moment she made her first mistake in 15 years.
“The biggest lesson I learned was when you’re an agency social worker, no-one has a duty of care to you. And I’d never needed to think about that because I never thought I could make such a foolish mistake that would lead to what happened for the whole of the following of that year.”
“No-one has a duty of care to you, so if you make a mistake, you have nowhere to go. I wasn’t a member of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and I didn’t belong to a Union as I had never had that time,” she says, reflecting on being so focused on working and parenting that other areas never became a priority.
Early media attention, and a lot of that which followed both before and after the hearing, described Siobhan’s comments as ‘gloating’, and when addressing the role the media reaction played in her hearing, she states she doesn’t think the sanction would’ve been as severe if the media hadn’t got involved.
“The panel hit on the fact that because of the press interest a sanction was required, because it had attracted so much press attention it was in the public interest that I should have a sanction.”
Siobhan still has questions about her hearing and the outcome. For example,the panel found that she lacked insight into her sole responsibility for the posts, she says hearing that nearly made her fall off of her chair.
There were suggestions that she tried to apportion blame to her managers, but she denies ever bringing that up – those were questions asked by the panel and were misinterpreted, she claims.
The panel also said that it was her responsibility to seek out management support about the comments, yet she points out her direct manager commented on the posts on her Facebook page.
She does, however, admit how the enforced step back has allowed her some perspective. When she rejoined the workforce for a brief period she says she was suddenly struck by “social workers running around… the stresses, and the burden they carry is massive.”
“There’s no self-care. If you don’t look after you, no-one is going to look after you, and that’s what social work is about at the moment.”
The experience, she says, has also helped her see first-hand the terrible relationship between the profession and the media- with its willingness to try and destroy people who do their best to protect children.
Focusing particularly on the comments in the Daily Mail, she says there were some which defended her; said she had done her job to protect children and that she had simply made a mistake. However, she is left questioning why there isn’t a body that does this, not just for her, but for the whole of social work.
“We’re at this point in time where there needs to be a social work revolution. Social work is an excellent career to be in, we get to change people’s lives. We get to change children’s lives, families lives. And that’s really powerful.
“If social work isn’t proud of what it does then that gives a really negative message to the public… What the press are doing, and what social work is doing in itself is just annihilating itself.”
Animated and flamboyant (she knocked the dictaphone out of my hand when showing how she hid from Community Care’s news story), Siobhan is adamant that, despite a mistake which she regrets immensely, she is steadfastly proud of what she has done as a social worker, pointing to a highly complementary audit report about her practice whilst she worked at Essex Council.
Above all else, for the future, Siobhan says she wants to return to the profession that she loves and felt married to. But she concedes that “no-one will touch me with this bubbling in the air, I know that; I respect that.”
But as for now, she’s done hiding away in the toilet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clinical: Reflection on Clinical Practice Skills

Self Doubt in Your Clinical Practice Skills
Erreger, S. (2014). Social Work Helper.Retrieved from:

Self Awareness is critical to the therapeutic process. By being aware of your self-doubt, you are already heading into the right direction. In graduate school, we talked about  the importance  of “use of self” and “self disclosure”.  It is certainly important to talk about how your words and actions will have an impact on the service user, but it’s also important to evaluate how the service user’s responses will affect you.

This is certainly not a new concept in which Freud coined as counter-transference. Not only will the client have feelings towards their therapist, but the therapist will feel both their strengths and inadequacies through the client. A new practitioner starting out in her practice was feeling overwhelm with self-doubt, and she asked the following question:
Hi, I was wondering if you could make a post for me to help my practice? I’m wanting advice on how to portray as a confident practitioner when you may have self doubts, but letting these doubts show may result in the service user ‘walking all over you’. I’m not sure how to word it!
On the surface level, the easy answer would be as Socrates said “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing”. Simply stating, “I am not sure about that, but I might know someone who is” certainly is better than making something up on the fly which will most likely come back to haunt you.  As we peel the layers of the onion, what this interaction really reveals is more about your desire to have the answer.

You are probably responding to the fact that you are their therapist and you are supposed to have “the answer”. We have to remind ourselves and the client that social workers are human beings too. We don’t always have the answer. In our clinical work we make mistakes, we feel things, and don’t know everything. This is why supervision and having a good team behind you is vital, and it is imperative for you check with the team, check with your supervisor, or do more research to expand your knowledge.

Thinking back to working on a psychiatric inpatient unit for adults, I really struggled with the complete lack of insight that comes with psychosis and delusions. I remember meeting with a client who was begging for a discharge due to having an active delusion, and  it was the first time I felt terrible, powerless and even guilty. At the same time, I remembered thinking, you really have no idea why we are keeping you here, and also I remember the feeling of the client was “walking all over me”.

It froze me like a deer in headlights because I had no answer. Then, the client stormed out the room. What I learned to say is that I can’t make these decisions on my own, it is a team decision.  I also discussed my feelings about psychosis and delusions with my supervisor, and I actually utilized a couple of supervision sessions to wrap my head around it.

However, in private practice situation where you are “on your own’, you may need to develop a different strategy. First, I would recommend finding some sort of supervision whether it be with paid professional or a peer.  There is no real computer that you can enter a scenario like this and get a neat answer. The therapeutic process is about assisting people who are in pain or distress in order to help them improve their outcomes. The level of pain and distress can vary greatly and so can your response.

Tackling self-doubt and self-awareness should be an ongoing process for any practitioner. My take home message is that it is normal to feel self-doubt in your practice just as it is to feel confident about a practice method you have may have perfected. Continue to self-reflect and be self-aware of your strengthens and weakness in order to develop a plan to address them. Most importantly, you owe it to yourself to develop and maintain a professional support system that will help you build and grow your practice. I hope this helps, and please feel free to comment below.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Media: Social Media and Social Work

How to Reduce Risks to Employment When Using Social Media
Hooper, D. (2014). Social Work Helper. Retrieved from:

A recent decision sanctioning a social worker for a comment on Facebook by the Health Care Professionals Council (HCPC), a United Kingdom regulatory body, sparked an international social work debate on the use of social media in the workplace. Since the decision, I have engaged in multiple conversations via social media with social workers around the globe on this very topic, and I will admit that I have often found myself in the minority arguing against the HCPC’s decision.

Despite the social worker’s comment failing to meet the test for breach of confidentiality, the majority of social workers favoring the HCPC’s decision believe that any comments related to work or a case posted on social media is grounds for termination or discipline even in the absence of identifiers.

The social worker was not disciplined for Breach of Confidentiality, but it was found that her Facebook post “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” despite not giving any personal information or descriptors about the client.

I am concerned the HCPC decision will set a dangerous precedent by expanding the scope of breaching confidentiality. The term “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” is so broad it could open up liability for social workers outside of the internet sphere.

From the HCPC’s press release on the social worker’s disciplinary action, we actually learn more about the client than we learned from the social worker’s actual comment. The HCPC press release states, “Mrs A, the mother of the children in the case, made a complaint after she searched for the social worker on Google and found the posts, which she said she was “disgusted” by.”, which tells us the complaint was a married woman and parent of the children. Now, these identifier within itself  “could lead to a breach of confidentiality”.

The social worker’s comments only described that she was working on a “domestic violence case among other things”. The client assumed the social worker was referring to her case because it was domestic violence case on the same day as the social workers check-in on Facebook. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had three to five cases go to court on the same day and all of them had a domestic violence element. In the absence of identifiers and a decision from HCPC, the client had no evidence to prove the social worker’s comment was about her case. Sanctions and disciplinary actions in your employment should be based on evidence and not assumptions.

In retrospect, I do believe the social worker’s comments were ill-advised, but it’s not for the reasons you may think. I am definitely against and don’t recommend anyone to commingle your professional life with your personal Facebook account no matter your profession. As matter of fact, some of the comments I see from social workers on Facebook make me afraid for the client’s they are serving. I do and must believe that social workers have the ability to separate their personal beliefs from practice, but you may not be able to “unring that bell” with clients or potential clients after review of your online persona.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have provided me with one of the best social media policy guidelines to help social workers be aware of the pitfalls when using social media personally as well as using social media to obtain information on clients. However, I have yet to see any real solutions that equally address social workers safety with client centered policies. Also, it’s important for us to acknowledge that clients can’t breach confidentiality in their own case. If a client wants to publish online every document you send them, it’s their prerogative, and you should keep this in mind when providing written documents as well as having oral communications with your clients.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are the three primary areas that cause the greatest concerns for professionals and students. Here are few recommendations that may help you move one step closer to having some peace of mind and keeping your job out of jeopardy.

To Google or Not To Google

As practitioners, we should not be asking whether to Google or Not Google instead we should be giving you the information on how to Google clients and potential clients ethically. According to a recent study by American Psychological Association, 98 percent of clinical, counseling, and school doctoral students reported Googling their clients. It’s time for this profession to readjust our reality for the digital world we are living in.

When Googling a client or anyone for that matter, one must keep in mind that everything on the internet is not true, and it should not be used to penalize without giving the individual a chance to respond. However, for potential clients at a private practice or when making home visits to new clients, a Google search may be a vital tool in assessing social worker safety. 

Dr. Ofur Zur provides one of the most comprehensive resources on whether to “Google or not”, and its complete with scenarios and varying categories to help practitioners decide which category is best for your practice and needs. It also covers how to use informed consent for conducting Google searches at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship.

Tips for Using Facebook

10434000 311155715719496 3315011175902307129 n How to Reduce Risks to Employment When Using Social MediaFacebook is a double-edged sword. When used correctly, Facebook can expand your reach as an expert, increase traffic to your website, and allow you to provide support to others on their professional development journey. Where people get into trouble is when they try to occupy their professional and personal life in the same virtual space. This is not limited to commenting, but it also includes likes, shares, who your friends are, photos, and etc.

I recommend changing your personal Facebook page to a pseudonym with an avatar or baby picture for your profile and cover photos. True friends and family members will know who you are, and Facebook will automatically update your post search history with your pseudonym or nickname. You should also take precautions to enhance the security of your Facebook account.

This will help protect you when clients are actively seeking out content generated by your social media accounts. Secondly, don’t post case related items on your personal Facebook account. If you need advice or an opinion related to a case, message the Social Work Helper Fan Page. I frequently post #SWHelper Team Questions as case study questions to minimize risks to you, and I hope other social work entities will offer similar support for social workers.

If you chose to anonymize your personal Facebook account, I recommend creating a Facebook Fan Page in your professional name which can also help with establishing your professional identity.
  • You can post information and resources for your clients
  • You will no longer need to have embarrassing conversations with clients or coworkers about why you can’t friend them
  • Clients can follow your Fan Page without exposing client’s to each other
  • You can like other Fan Pages your clients may find useful while organizing resources in a central location
  • FB feature allows you to seamlessly switch between your FB account and Fan Page without having to log out
  • You can also make comments, like, share photos, and share posts choosing from either profile
To prevent Facebook from locking your account due to the name change, you should use a shortened or variation of your real and last name, a common name with a long search results history, your maiden name, or your middle name. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose to prevent Facebook from blocking your account. So, if you don’t want to explain to a client or an ethics committee about how your personal beliefs did not affect your decision-making due to memes and content found on your social media account, please take my advice above.

Making the Most of Twitter

Twitter is one of the best social media platforms for making connections and expanding your professional network while enhancing your ability to advocate for the causes you care about. However, there are times when you do need anonymity to protect your employment especially if actively engaging in conversations you don’t want public. Due to my personal philosophy, I don’t post comments or materials that require me to distinguish between my professional and personal identity with the exception of the occasional tweet when I am watching Scandal.

If you are using your professional name, potential networkers and possible opportunities are not going to sort out your professional tweets from your personal tweets. They will all be considered a reflection of you as an individual. “RT does not = endorsement” is not going to cut it. It’s safer to not tweet and/or not retweet something you don’t want to defend, but you could always phrase it a question to ask other’s opinions. Also, I recommend adding the disclaimer “my opinions are my own not my employers” on accounts using your professional name. As a rule of thumb, if your account is going to be opinion filled, use an avatar with pseudonym for anonymity. It’s better to be safe than sorry later.

When using your professional name, it should consist of useful information, advice, inspirational quotes, resources, and/or projects that make you look good professionally. If you are only on twitter anonymously, you are missing opportunities to enhance your professional development. If you are using twitter with your professional name and it’s a private account, you are still doing yourself a disservice. What’s the point of being on Twitter with a private account because it’s difficult for someone to connect with you and no one can retweet your profound 140 characters.

How Do We Move Forward?

Unfortunately, many people have been introduced to social media and online technology as entertainment or to be used as a personal diary. Even if your account is marked private, using instant messaging, email, online technology and/or social media should never be used with an expectation of privacy. You should always assume any information you post online can be privy to public consumption via screen capturing or other measures from anyone who is intent on hurting or exposing you.

In my opinion, the social worker in the above case was condemned because her comment was posted on Facebook. I argue that if said social worker made the same comment in a restaurant, classroom, or other public place would the disciplinary action have been the same? The counter-argument was that Facebook is public and archived by Google which makes it different. I assert we all need to be more careful and aware because we live in a digital age where you can be video tapped or audio recorder via camera phone, vined, viddyed, snapchat, etc. The individual in possession of such digital data can make your actions and comments public without your consent. The medium in which words and actions are transported is irrelevant, and it stifles our ability to move the conversation forward instead of focusing on best practices.

Most importantly, one of the biggest issues in the above case not being addressed is that fact the client went onto Google searching for the social worker in question. Community Care UK reported that 85% of social workers reported being harassed or verbally abused on the job. Whether the client was acting with nefarious intent or in preparation for a pending court case, we simply don’t know. However, social worker safety should be just as important as client confidentiality. The biggest mistake made by the disciplined social worker was her checking in on Facebook thereby giving the time and location for when she would be in court. Why are we not being programmed to think about social worker safety as much as client confidentiality is drilled in our heads?

As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training. Agencies, associations, and social work faculty cannot adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels.

We must develop continuing education credits, foundational course work, and in-service trainings to properly prepare current and future social workers for practice in the digital age. Social Work education is expensive and students should be demanding that they get the best resources and training during their education especially when they can be fired or disciplined for it later.

Most importantly, we have a duty to our students and professionals to assist them in harnessing all the advantages that social media and technology can provide. To learn more about available social media workshops and consultations, visit here, and I look forward to your comments and questions.

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