Category Archives: therapeutic relationship

A message from the social work Terminator: I won’t be back.

Termination is not the most agreeable topic among social workers, to say the least.

There are people who despise the term with a passion, people who spend their careers researching and writing about it, therapists and clients who own/embrace it, and social work students who discuss it like it’s an overrated Hollywood Blockbuster.

If my memory serves me correctly, social work students at my particular School of Social Work spent many a break between classes distraught over the unfairness of termination in social work field placements. I think it went something like: What a disservice it is to our clients! How terrible that we should float in and out of their lives with no thought to their well-being! What awful, terrible people must have decided this was an ethical thing to do!

I exaggerate, of course, and I do want to disclose that there were times where I joined my peers in their concerns. Perhaps in some instances it was a disservice, especially to the most vulnerable of our clients (or especially with those social work students who were not as dedicated… or studious… or passionate as others?). I still don’t know.

What I do know is that with hindsight, my perspective on termination at the end of a social work field placement has changed greatly. Although I have not written much about my current social work position (yet?), those of you who follow me on twitter know that it has been a fine but not great experience and that I hope to move on to another position soon. Given that I plan to leave, I have been thinking a lot about termination with my clients and more specifically, the absence of any termination process. Continue reading

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Countertransference the Friendly Ghost

Emotions happen. And at times, they can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage. When emotions about personal matters surface while we are wearing our so-called professional social work hats, we must decide if and when this “countertransference” can be used to help support our clients.

By becoming a direct practice social worker, I made a choice to frequently discuss difficult and/or distressing experiences with clients. Privately, I can cry or become otherwise overwhelmed by emotion when I witness or hear about something particularly sad or terrible. Containing my reaction in public (except in movies where I am that girl) is usually only a challenge when something poignantly reminds me of difficult experiences of my own. In my personal life I know that I can simply choose to leave or “step outside” when necessary, but in the room with a client, their needs come first.

I remember two generalizations my grad school professors frequently made about social work students:
1. We all spend more time caring for our friends/family than ourselves (more on that another day).
2. There was a major event, an experience, or a something in our lives that we identify as directly linked to and possibly as the impetus for our choice to enter this field.
Whether or not either of these things are true for all social workers, I have found that many at least identify with the second. Myself included.

Continue reading

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